Put a Girl on it. My ratings of various female-led thrillers.

by zoeibarker

I read a lot. Mainly advance reading copies (ARCs) from my mom who is a bookseller. I read during my commute and I love a good female-led thriller. They’re very popular right now. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train — my mom thought of starting a new hashtag #ggott for Gone Girl On The Train. It really does feel like if you’re going to write a modern thriller you should put the word Girl in it. Instant best seller. (The title of this post is a play on Put a Bird On It from Portlandia – in case that wasn’t clear.)

Explaining my jokes. This blog is the best.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


A girl enwrapped in the made-up lives of people she sees from the train on her daily commute becomes more involved in their actual lives than she could have imagined. 

One of the original and arguably one of the best. It’s probably the barometer of this genre, not just for me as a reader, but for other crime authors as well. As the characters show their true colors and the mystery unravels you’re not only totally engrossed but also completely blindsided by each twist. It jumps around in time and setting – throwing you off just when you think everything has become clear. Truly a unique experience. And perfect for those of us who read on the train. READ THE BOOK AND THEN SEE THE MOVIE. The movie was good, but read the damn book first.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


The main character thinks she has left her past behind, but when an old friend asks her to attend her bachelorette party, she learns the past is nearly impossible to escape.

As far as female-led thrillers go, this one is exceptional and it doesn’t even have Girl in the title! It was engaging, thrilling, and I could still sleep after reading it. I like thrillers that are intense but not too scary and this was just that. The main character is relatable and readable and the whole time you feel the need to figure out how the hell this is all happening – right up to the end. Apparently this will also be a movie at some point? I heard rumors but haven’t seen any followthrough. Fingers crossed!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware


Aboard a cruise ship, a travel journalist becomes obsessed with a mysterious murder that may or may not even have occurred.

Also by Ruth Ware! This is her newer book and I enjoyed it a lot, but it wasn’t quite as unique as In a Dark, Dark Wood. While a tiny bit predictable at times and a little slower to build, it was still an engaging and creative read. I found myself hurrying home to finish a chapter when my train pulled into the station at the end of the day – that’s saying something! The main character’s skepticism, both of other characters and of herself, keeps you guessing again and again. A great vacation book! But maybe not a cruise vacation.

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia


A teenage drama queen gets involved in a sticky situation (lol it’s her murder – it’s the central plot; this isn’t a spoiler) when trying to “find herself” in this small town-centered murder mystery.

So this is only partially female-led — it switches perspectives (and jumps around in time) between the girl, the town sherif, and an unhappy townsperson. This ARC was getting *all the hype* but unfortunately I wasn’t as excited by it once I started in on it. I think it was partially due to the personality of the main character and probably also her age. It’s a little too adult for teenagers but it also felt very young-adult-ish to me and that put me off (don’t get me wrong, I like young adult novels but this just wasn’t what I was expecting). I finished it because I wanted to see how it turned out, but I wouldn’t necessarily read it again. Plus I didn’t like reading it in public because the cover is a close up of a young white girl’s face and it made me feel like I was reading a Gossip Girl novel or something terrible. Judging the book by the cover… It happens.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson


An unhappy husband meets an intriguing stranger and gets caught in a Heathers-like game of “what if I murdered my spouse…”

This one is written by a man! It’s not entirely female-led, but it has two lead female characters as well as a male. It’s more of a standard crime fiction book but since I put it in the same category in my head, here it is. I actually had trouble putting this book down – I liked how it moved seamlessly between characters and perspectives and how fast the plot moved along. It’s unique (though as I mentioned in the synopsis, it’s a little like the movie Heathers but with adults)  and totally takes you on a ride as you learn more about each character, their pasts, and their motives. Threw me for a loop a few times – and I’m usually able to sniff out an upcoming plot move. The writing and particularly the dialog wasn’t amazing but it’s a good read.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena


A dysfunctional couple deals with a whirlwind of drama and trauma as they figure out who they can and cannot trust after their newborn baby goes missing.

I really wanted to like this book, but after about half way through I started to lose interest. It’s fairly predictable and I didn’t really like the characters, but has some gripping parts and is overall pretty original. It was a good book for my commute: engaging, but not so much where I had trouble putting it down when I needed to get off the train – it was easy to leave and pick back up later. A few moments were a little thrilling, but it was more emotionally stressful than the others in this list. I was disappointed that I was able to figure out the two main twists way before they occurred, which I don’t like! I want to be totally surprised!

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda


After a girl goes missing, mirroring her friend’s disappearance from ten years ago, Nic Farrell is roped back to into her hometown life. A reminder that history repeats itself and the people you thought you left behind never really let you go. Nic catches up with her past in this unwinding mystery. 

So the big device in this one is that it’s told backwards. It’s actually pretty fun. I was surprised by the twist in this one, which is big for me because I can usually sniff it out pretty quick. The writing is above-average and the characters are detailed but mysterious enough to keep you guessing. The whole “small town everyone knows your secrets” thing gets a little over-told, but doesn’t ruin it. Having been to small towns in North Carolina myself, the setting was familiar and easy to imagine, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard if you’ve been to any tiny town in America. All The Missing Girls is Miranda’s first adult novel, and even though at times you can feel her slipping into her young-adult style, it’s a page turner and a great read for the genre.



Check back as I continue reading mystery books with “Girl” in the title!