13 Gripping Books with Unreliable Narrators

By Brandon Miller
A collection of suspenseful thriller novels floating against a neutral background, inviting readers into a world of mystery and intrigue.

No one can be trusted in these twisted thrillers.

We love delving into a thrilling book with an unreliable narrator. When you can’t trust the narrator, it puts you on edge — and makes unraveling the central mystery all the more exhilarating. If you feel like we do, the following reads are for you. From gripping crime thrillers to spellbinding tales of psychological suspense, here are a few of our favorite narratives that dare you to separate the truth from the lies.

The Fury, NYT bestseller image

The Fury

By Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides excels at crafting extraordinary psychological thrillers where the truth is never certain. Just take the author’s blockbuster debut, The Silent Patient, about a criminal psychologist striving to break through to his unspeaking patient after a shocking act of violence, or his dark academia follow-up, The Maidens, about a group therapist who’s convinced that a well-liked professor is secretly a murderer. In The Fury, Michaelides returns with a mesmerizing tale helmed by an unreliable narrator for the ages. Playwright Elliot Chase is invited to an idyllic Greek island by the reclusive ex–movie star Lana Farrar. He’s one of just a handful of glamorous guests at Lana’s isolated holiday getaway — and it isn’t long before simmering jealousies and resentments begin to boil over. After a tempestuous night ends in murder, Elliot claims to hold the key to the whodunit. But can we trust anything he says when he’s also a suspect? Expertly plotted and steeped in suspense, The Fury is “twisty, twisted entertainment” (bestselling author Riley Sager).

A bold book cover for a novel titled "listen for the lie" by amy tintera, featuring a tangled pair of earbuds against a striking red background, alongside laudatory quotes from various authors.

Listen for the Lie

By Amy Tintera

In Listen for the Lie, New York Times bestselling author Amy Tintera unspools a “world-class whodunit” (bestselling author Stephen King) that will have you tracking clues and questioning the truth just like your favorite podcast. What’s more, its razor-sharp wit will keep you wildly entertained! The story is told by Lucy, a young woman who’s at the center of a grisly cold case. Years ago, her friend Savvy was murdered, and Lucy, found covered in her friend’s blood, was presumed to be the killer. But Lucy can’t remember a thing about what happened that night, and as the years have gone by, she’s done her best to move on. When a hit true crime podcast (and its handsome host) begins investigating the unsolved murder, Lucy finds herself plunged back into the mystery of her friend’s death. Can she piece together her fragmented memory and solve the case — even if it means she’s the killer? Listen for the Lie will have you racing through the pages and questioning its narrator’s reliability as Lucy investigates her friend's murder to find out if she’s the killer.

Gillian flynn: gone girl - a novel that twists and tangles mystery like the unravelling threads on its cover, a #1 new york times bestseller delving into sharp obsessions and dark places of the human psyche.

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s electrifying thriller that was turned into an equally compelling film starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. One reason why this bestseller riveted readers far and wide is its unreliable narrators — yes, plural. First, we hear from Nick Dunne. Nick’s wife, Amy, has disappeared. He initially appears earnest and trustworthy, yet the more we hear from him and the deeper police look into the case, the more evasive Nick becomes. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the mystery, however, Flynn flips the story and lets Amy take the reins. Turns out Amy, like her husband, might also not be the most truthful of storytellers.

A promotional book cover featuring a blurred image of a woman with the title "you" in bold letters, highlighting that it's a novel by caroline kepnes, a new york times bestselling author, and the basis for a netflix original series, with a quote from stephen king describing it as "hypnotic and scary... totally original.


By Caroline Kepnes

You is another dark thriller that was adapted for the screen, becoming the truly creepy Netflix series of the same name starring Penn Badgley as the manipulative Joe Goldberg. When the novel begins, Joe, our narrator, appears as a likable loner who works at a bookstore. Joe strikes up a conversation with a customer, who then leaves her credit card behind. So Joe does what just about any of us would do, right? He looks her up on the internet. As the story unfolds, however, Joe’s infatuation quickly tips into obsession, and we discover dangerous tendencies lurking beneath his seemingly affable surface. Horror maestro Stephen King recommends this nerve-jangling read, hailing it as “hypnotic and scary.”

A woman seemingly suspended in mid-air against a grey background, with the title "sometimes i lie" by alice feeney prominently displayed, suggesting a theme of suspense or mystery within the novel.

Sometimes I Lie

By Alice Feeney

Alice Feeney’s New York Times bestseller Sometimes I Lie has everything a thriller fan could want: It’s propulsive and packed with plot twists, and its main character is not to be trusted. In fact, her unreliability is announced right there in the title: Sometimes she lies. The “she” in question is Amber Reynolds, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who has just emerged from a coma but is still unable to move or speak. While she can’t open her eyes, Amber can hear everything, which means the people at her bedside don’t realize she’s listening in. The book alternates between the present-day, the week before Amber’s accident, and diary entries from years before.. . .But since all of it is told by an admitted liar, how much can we trust?

The cover of 'the girl on the train,' a gripping novel by paula hawkins, portraying a sense of motion and mystery reminiscent of a passing train's blurred view.

The Girl on the Train

By Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is another blockbuster book with an unreliable narrator that was made into a feature film, this one starring Emily Blunt. But don’t come at us: The novel far outshines the adaptation. The story centers on Rachel Watson, an alcoholic divorcee who recently lost her job. Rachel continues to take her commuter train into London, where in the morning she observes the same couple eating breakfast on their deck. One day, however, she sees something shocking. The next day, after a bout of heavy drinking, she wakes up bloody and injured, with no memory of what happened. In a flash, Rachel finds herself entangled in a missing person investigation — and because she has a habit of harassing her ex-husband and blacking out from alcohol use, police view her with skepticism and suspicion. But is she unreliable, or the only one who’s seen the truth? Two additional narrators further complicate this acclaimed narrative that will have you guessing until the last page is turned. 

Cover design for 'one of us is lying'—a mysterious and gripping novel with a collage of four characters, their faces obscured by paper, hinting at the secrets and suspense within the pages.

One of Us Is Lying

By Karen M. McManus

If you’re a fan of YA thrillers like Pretty Little Liars or A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder then you’re sure to love One of Us Is Lying. The book, a #1 New York Times bestseller, centers on five students at Bayview High, all serving detention on a Monday afternoon. The group includes outcast Simon, the brainy Bronwyn, beautiful Addy, Nate the troublemaker, and star athlete Cooper. By the end of detention, Simon is dead — and we learn he had dirt on all four of his peers that he planned to reveal the next day. Now Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper are prime suspects in a murder. Each character narrates a portion of the book, and as the title suggests, one of them is not telling us the truth. So, which one are you going to believe?

A book cover of "in a dark, dark wood" by ruth ware, featuring bold typography overlaid on a red-tinted backdrop of forest branches, suggesting tension and mystery.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

By Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is the reigning queen of contemporary suspense thanks to pulse-pounding tales like The Woman in Cabin 10 and The It Girl. In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ware’s acclaimed psychological thriller from 2015, is an excellent example of a book with an unreliable narrator. Nora, a reclusive writer, accepts an old friend’s invitation for a weekend getaway in a weird glass house in the woods. Two days later, she wakes up in a hospital knowing someone died, with her first thought being “What have I done?” As Nora desperately searches for answers about what happened, long-buried secrets from her past emerge, and the reader begins to question the very person we’re supposed to trust.

All the Missing Girls

By Megan Miranda

In All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda ups the ante on the unreliable narrator premise by adding a reverse chronology timeline. The novel is narrated by Nicolette “Nic” Farrell, who’s been away from her hometown of Cooley Ridge for a decade, ever since her best friend Corinne went missing. The investigation into Corinne’s disappearance — which focused on Nic, her brother and her boyfriend, and Corinne’s boyfriend — has long since gone cold. But when Nic returns home to care for her ailing father, the fresh disappearance of a local woman connected to all of the suspects pulls the cold case out of the past and into the present. Moving backward through time, All the Missing Girls is a mind-bending mystery to unravel — and one where your faith in the truth is constantly called into question.

A novel titled "woman with a secret" by sophie hannah, the new york times bestselling author of "the monogram murders." the cover features a blurred background suggestive of a window streaked with raindrops, hinting at mystery and obscured truths.

Woman with a Secret

By Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah’s Woman with a Secret is an interesting and unpredictable thriller that you will want to finish in as few sittings as possible. It focuses on Nicki Clements, a wife and mother who keeps secrets from everyone she knows, including her husband and children. Nicki’s only ever shared her hidden truths with one other person — a stranger she’s never seen or even heard speak. But Nicki’s delicate facade comes tumbling down when she’s arrested for the murder of a neighborhood man and all her secrets come to light. The book, which is part of a series featuring husband-and-wife detective team Simon Waterhouse and Charlotte Zailer, is told from Nicki’s perspective, but she is far from dependable.

A book cover featuring a single, wilting rose against a stark background, titled "luckiest girl alive" by jessica knoll, with quotes praising the novel and an indication that it's now a netflix film.

Luckiest Girl Alive

By Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive is a dark, complex thriller that centers on Ani FaNelli, a woman whose past is ladened with trauma and secrets. Now a successful magazine editor about to marry into a world of wealth, Ani hopes her dark days are behind her. But the troubled past bubbles back to the surface when a former classmate begins making a documentary about a shooting that occurred years ago at their elite private high school. As the narrative flashes back and forth through time and harrowing new details come to light, we’re left with new perspectives on the truth and the traumas Ani endured.

A haunting book cover for "before i go to sleep" by s. j. watson, featuring a blurred face behind what appears to be a wet, steamy glass pane, with the title and critical acclaim prominently displayed.

Before I Go to Sleep

By S. J. Watson

S. J. Watson’s award-winning debut Before I Go to Sleep was an international bestseller that inspired a 2014 film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. It masterfully employs the unreliable narrator premise — in fact, its haunted central character is about as unreliable as you can get! Christine Lucas is unable to form new memories because of an accident that occurred long ago. Every morning, she wakes up with a frighteningly clean slate, and Christine’s husband must explain to her who he is, where she is, and why she can’t remember anything. But after uncovering a hidden journal and reading through its entries, Christine discovers inconsistencies in the story her husband has been telling. The question is: Whom should we trust if Christine can’t fully trust herself?

A suspenseful novel cover titled "the house across the lake" by riley sager, featuring a glowing house at night reflected in dark waters, with quotes praising the author's storytelling prowess.

The House Across the Lake

By Riley Sager

We conclude our list of books with unreliable narrators on a high note. Riley Sager has become one of the most exciting voices in the thriller genre. Books like Lock Every Door, The Only One Left, and Survive the Night practically dare you not to crack open the cover and see what lurks within. In The House Across the Lake, Sager delivers an exhilarating tale with his “best plot twist yet” (People). The novel focuses on widowed actress Casey Fletcher, who has decamped to her Vermont lake house to clear her head and escape some bad press. While there, she drinks too much and starts spying on the handsome couple across the lake, Tom and Katherine Royce. But after Casey saves Katherine from drowning and the pair become friends, she gets a concerning glimpse behind the curtain at the couple’s too-good-to-be-true domestic life. Then Katherine disappears, which clearly points us to Tom — unless our narrator is withholding information from us.

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