search-icon

Dial M for Mother: 7 Ominous Thrillers with Not-So-Comforting Parents

by  | May 7
Photo on table

Motherhood is an experience like no other. It can bring out the best in some…and the worst in others. In honor of readers who would gladly take a twisty tale instead of (or in addition to!) a bouquet of flowers this Mother’s Day, we’ve gone a different route with our gift recommendations. We’ve pulled together a list of thrilling reads filled with exceptionally terrifying fictional parents who will make you feel better about that time you gave up on restricting screen time or wished the kiddos would disappear for just, like, a sec. Perhaps you can use these reads to remind yourself (or a mom in your life) of exactly how good your family’s got it?

Oh, and be sure to check out some additional—and potentially more wholesome—ideas in Simon & Schuster’s Books to Give Mom gift guide!

Behind Every Lie

Behind Every Lie

by Christina McDonald

Eva Hansen awakens in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street and can’t remember what happened, but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories of her own beginning to emerge, Eva can’t bring herself to trust anyone, least of all herself. Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Flowers in the Attic (40th Anniversary Edition)

Flowers in the Attic (40th Anniversary Edition)

by V.C. Andrews

They were a perfect and beautiful family—until a heartbreaking tragedy shattered their happiness. Now, for the sake of an inheritance that will ensure their future, the four Dollanganger children (Cathy, Chris, Carrie, and Cory) must be hidden away out of sight, as if they never existed. They are kept in the attic of their grandmother’s labyrinthine mansion, isolated and alone. As the visits from their seemingly unconcerned mother, Corinne, slowly dwindle, the children grow ever closer and depend upon one another to survive both this cramped world and their cruel grandmother. A suspenseful and thrilling tale of family, greed, murder, and forbidden love, Flowers in the Attic is the unputdownable first novel of the epic Dollanganger family saga.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Her One Mistake

Her One Mistake

by Heidi Perks

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after all the children, and she swears she was. But while her own three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found. Harriet, devastated by this unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her.

Now, more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women, trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that trusting Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter....

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Lying in Wait

Lying in Wait

by Liz Nugent

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life: married to a respected judge, mother of a beloved son, living in the beautiful house where she was raised. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Her Pretty Face

Her Pretty Face

by Robyn Harding

Frances Metcalfe is a stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job. She had hoped that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before. Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart—one of these women is a murderer.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
The Need

The Need

by Helen Phillips

When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. But then the footsteps come again, and Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Woman on the Edge

Woman on the Edge

by Samantha M. Bailey

Morgan Kincaid is on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms and jumps in front of an oncoming train. Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life.

When the police take Morgan in for questioning, she soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect. To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.

Amazon logoBarnes & Noble logoBooks a Million logoIndiebound logoBookshop logo
Love to get lit... erary? Sign up to get the latest delivered to your inbox!