13 Thrillers That Should Be Movies (If Not Just So We Can Claim the Book Was Better)
As an avid reader, I sometimes get to the end of a particularly cinematic book and think, "So, when is the movie coming out?" I've made up plenty a dream cast in my head, only to find out that the movie rights have yet to even be snatched up. Of all the mystery books I've read — my favorite genre, naturally — there are a few that stand out as being practically written for the screen. While the book is (almost) always better than the movie, I would still pay cold hard cash to see the following adaptations in theaters. Fair warning that a handful of these did have movies in motion at one point, but those deals appear to be in limbo now.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
When No One Is Watching introduces Brooklyn native Sydney Green, who is tired of seeing the neighborhood she loves being constantly changed. New buildings are popping up, her beloved neighbors are moving away, and there's a For Sale sign everywhere she looks. As an attempt to grasp onto what is left of her treasured community, she attends a walking tour and finds an unlikely ally in her neighbor, Theo. When Sydney and Theo begin researching the history of their stomping grounds, they discover the changes being made might be more sinister than they thought.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Travel journalist Lo Blacklock has just gotten the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise to see the northern lights in Norway's fjords. The guests are fancy, the parties are full of booze and laughter, and the cabins are so nice. As they cruise on, Lo witnesses someone being thrown overboard. But when all the guests are still accounted for, the mystery truly begins. Lo won't let go what she saw, and is determined to solve what happened.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Baby Teeth bounces between two points of view: those of Hanna and her mom, Suzette. Hanna is a nonverbal little girl who has eyes only for her daddy — but Hanna's stupid mommy is always in the way, so Hanna tries every trick in the book to get rid of her. Suzette loves her daughter dearly, but they just never quite get along.
After Hanna is expelled from several schools, Suzette leaves her job to homeschool her daughter. The more that Hanna resents her mommy, the more sophisticated her antics become. All the while, Suzette's husband remains completely oblivious to the intentional harm that Hanna tries to cause.
This captivating, creepy story would make for an ideal horror film. In fact, it was optioned for a movie in 2019, but there doesn't appear to be any movement on the project.
The Ancient Nine by Ian K. Smith
Ian K. Smith's debut novel The Ancient Nine is set in the fall of 1988 at Harvard University. Spenser Collins is a sophomore, and working hard to achieve his goals. Poor, Black, and raised by a single mother, he's an unlikely candidate for the Ivy League, and he's looking to prove to himself and his classmates that he does belong.
One fateful day, Spenser is "punched" to an exclusive secret society, along with his friend, Harvard legacy student Dalton Winthrop. The Delphic Club is an all-male club founded in the 19th century, but there's an even more exclusive club within the club. When Dalton mentions "The Ancient Nine," Spenser begins to unravel some of Delphic's darkest and oldest secrets.
If The Skulls can be a movie, let us revel in a far more sophisticated adaptation of The Ancient Nine.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
Down-on-her-luck aspiring author Lowen Ashleigh gets the deal of a lifetime in Verity. She's been hired to help complete writing the remaining books of a beloved and successful series by Verity Crawford, a famous author who is injured and unable to finish them. With access to Verity's office, notes, and outlines, she begins piecing together which direction the next novel should go in. While rifling through Verity's desk, Lowen discovers an unfinished autobiography that was never intended for prying eyes. Lowen grapples with sharing what she's learned — and her growing feelings for Verity's husband, Jeremy.
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
When Lauren Tranter says she's tired, she means it. But no matter how tired she is, Lauren knows what she saw in the hospital room: an eerie woman tried to take her newborn twins and replace them with her own "creatures." After speaking with the police, they write it off as a new mom being hysterical and paranoid. After she's been home for a month, she feels like she has really gotten the hang of being a twin mom . . . but then the babies disappear from the park.
When the police locate the babies, Lauren can instantly tell something is different. Everyone else is so happy to see the twins back home, but Lauren knows they are not hers. Determined to bring her baby boys home, Lauren will risk whatever it takes. Will her choices be for the best, or will they be the worst mistake of her life?
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Nothing quite says "I love you" like inheriting the spooky old house your family swears is haunted. Maggie Holt has spent her entire life dealing with questions about her father's nonfiction bestseller, House of Horrors. In his book, he recounts a ghostly and ghastly tale of living in the old Victorian mansion; the family lived there for three weeks before fleeing in the middle of the night.
Home Before Dark mainly takes place 25 years later, when Maggie is back at the old house following the death of her father. Her plan is to remodel it and hopefully sell it as soon as possible. During the remodel, she begins piecing together what happened in the short time her family lived there. As Maggie begins to experience some of the strange occurrences that seem straight out of her father's book, she starts to think maybe ghosts do exist . . .
Sony actually bought the film rights to this book before it was even released, but has yet to move forward with a movie.
Ghoster by Jason Arnopp
If you enjoy thrillers with a side of paranormal activity, then Ghoster is perfect for you! The tale begins with social media-obsessed Kate, who is moving across the country to be with her boyfriend Scott. When she arrives to an empty apartment, she can't help but think she's been "ghosted." All of Scott's belongings seem to have disappeared . . . except for his phone. Kate navigates through her new life in a new place while trying to find her missing boyfriend. She receives strange whispering calls and finds scratch marks in the apartment she can't explain, and she can't shake the ever-present feeling that she's being observed. She stands her ground in her new home while trying to find some answers.
This story will definitely make you reconsider your values and obsessions — especially if you're connected to your phone 24/7.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola just can't seem to keep a boyfriend — not because they're breaking up with her, but because she can't stop murdering them. My Sister, The Serial Killer begins with Ayoola's sister, Korede, who gets a call in the middle of a dinner date. The call is from Ayoola, who basically says "Oops, I did it again." This will be the third time that Korede has helped her sister clean up the mess of her actions. Self-defense or not, Korede has yet to inform the police of her sister's handiwork. It isn't until Ayoola begins dating Korede's longtime doctor crush at the hospital where she works that she feels the need to step in. She loves seeing her sister so happy, but is Korede ready to see the man she's been in love with for ages with a knife in his back?
The novel was optioned in 2018 . . . and we're still waiting for the movie.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
In 1988, the police find a baby, along with three dead bodies; the four children who lived in the house have disappeared. Flash-forward to the present, and upon her 25th birthday, Libby Jones inherits an abandoned mansion worth millions from a family she never knew. Libby's past has been a mystery until now, but there are others that have been waiting for her to return, keeping an eye on the baby as she grew up over the last 25 years. And they have not forgotten the terrible things that happened in that house.
Some books just seem made for movies, and Lisa Jewell's The Family Upstairs has it all.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
The Guest List is a multiple point-of-view story that bounces from the past to the present, with a big exclusive wedding at the center of it. Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, we meet guests as they boat in for the event. Each character, suspicious in their own right, is dealing with some inner turmoil. When a dead body is discovered during the reception, we discover that their stories are more connected than they seemed.
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun
The Hole is about Oghi, who has been in a coma after causing a car accident that killed his wife, which left him paralyzed, mute, and disfigured. Oghi is severely neglected and left alone in the world, with only his mother-in-law — a widow grieving the loss of her daughter, who has suspicions about Oghi's marital fidelity and his role in the accident — to care for him. His mind races with thoughts of his wife and the troubled relationship he had with her.
His flashbacks display a selfish and narcissistic man who didn't connect with his wife, a smart woman who had achieved most of her life goals except for one: to have a garden in front of their house. Oghi notices his mother-in-law working in the abandoned garden, uprooting the progress his wife had made, obsessively digging larger and larger holes. He asks his mother-in-law about what she is doing, and she responds with, "I am finishing what my daughter started."
This gothic book has been compared to the works of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson — tell me again why it's not a movie yet?
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
"You are not the first. And you will certainly not be the last."
When Rachel receives a bone-chilling phone call after dropping her daughter Kylie off at the bus stop, it feels like her entire world is falling apart. Her daughter has been kidnapped. Rachel has to be strong and ruthless as she follows the instructions from the woman on the phone. Pay a ransom, and find a child to abduct. This isn't an ordinary kidnapping. The call is from another mother, desperate to get her own child back, following the same instructions from another panicked parent. Rachel is now part of The Chain, an unending and enterprising scheme that turns victims into criminals.
Edgar Wright is supposedly directing the film version of this, but we haven't heard much of anything since last year.