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8 Psychological Thriller Books from Joyce Carol Oates

Few authors have been as prolific as literary powerhouse Joyce Carol Oates. Since publishing her first book in 1963, she’s written over 40 novels, nabbed every award imaginable, and earned a coveted endorsement from Oprah Winfrey—all the while experimenting with different formats and genres.

One such genre is psychological suspense, for which she frequently writes under the nom de plume “Rosamund Smith.” In Oates’ hands, the darkest corners of humanity are brought to life, turning our worst nightmares into page-turners and New York Times bestsellers. From sex and vengeance to murder and obsession, the Joyce Carol Oates books below are a taste of her most chilling works. And if you love them as much as we do—take heart! You have 149 others to add to your TBR pile.

1. A Fair Maiden 

When teenage babysitter Katya is approached by Marcus Kidder, his wealth and stability are irresistible departures from her dreary home life. Enticed by the prospect of freedom, Katya accepts the man’s offer: he’ll pay her mother’s debts if she becomes his muse. Soon, their immediate connection takes a frightening turn, and Katya realizes Marcus is more predator than savior…Oates weaves psychological thrills with sexual menace to create a taut reinterpretation of the fair maiden archetype and her king. Read More.
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2. Double Delight 

With a lucrative career, a beautiful wife, and a family fortune, Terrence Green is the living embodiment of the American Dream. While serving jury duty, he meets Ava-Rose—the victim of a sexual assault—and obsession takes a fatal blow to his picture-perfect life. Their fiery relationship outside of the courtroom will lead Terrance into the shadows of her dangerous life…And when a man has it all, he also has everything to lose. Read More.
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3. Nemesis 

When young Brendan Bauer is raped by his professor, the crime is swept under the dean’s rug—until the accused is found murdered a few days later. While all eyes turn to the victim, Maggie Blackburn is convinced that Brendan isn’t responsible, and she sets out to find the true culprit. As Maggie’s investigation uncovers dark secrets, darker histories, and the evils lurking behind Forest Park’s pristine exterior, Nemesis takes on the eerie twistedness of a David Lynch film. Read More.
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4. Snake Eyes 

Death row inmate Lee Roy Sears is finally free—all thanks to his loyal attorney, Michael O’Meara. On the surface, Lee seems comfortable with his new life outside prison walls, striking up a friendship with Michael’s wife and rekindling his passion for the arts. But like the cruelest murder weapons, Lee is a slow poison in the O’Meara household, and Michael’s paranoia distorts the line between man and monster. Snake Eyes imagines the most frightening nightmare of all—one where evil exists inside our heads and in the room down the hall. Read More.
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