TOP TEN SIBLING THRILLERS
As a TV writer on Cold Case and The Client List, I love telling stories about criminals committing crimes for reasons both good and bad. As an identical twin, I am also fascinated by the relationships between siblings, especially twins. It’s only fitting that I would eventually write a novel exploring both of these elements.
My debut novel, Baby Doll, is about Lily Riser, an identical twin kidnapped at sixteen, who returns to her family eight years later with a terrifying tale. The novel begins with her escape from captivity and explores what happens next—not only the aftermath of the abduction, but also the twin sisters’ relationship in all its dysfunctional glory.
Here are ten of my favorite thrillers that explore the dynamic between siblings. Double the suspense, double the thrills!
- A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Alternating between 1900 and present day, struggling journalist Harry Fitzglen is assigned to write a story about Simone Anderson, a previously conjoined twin whose sister, Sonia, disappeared years ago. The parallel story of another set of twins, Sorrel and Viola, who lived in the year 1900, intersect, pointing Harry to a run-down mansion in Wales. Harry, chasing his story, finds himself caught in an unyielding mess of dark secrets.
What I loved about this novel were the creepy tone and parallel story lines, but what really made it stand out was the writer’s compelling portrayal of society’s fascination with conjoined twins. There are dozens of novels where conjoined twins are merely a sideshow, but this felt as if the writer dug deeper and explored the complexities of literally being connected to your other half.
- Body Double by Tess Gerritsen
When Dr. Maura Isles examines a murder victim, she finds herself staring back at her own face. Dr. Isles discovers that she was adopted as an infant and had an identical twin sister. When Isles sets out to meet her incarcerated birth mother and track down her sister’s killer, she finds herself in a dangerous situation that could threaten her own life.
I’m a huge fan of Rizzoli and Isles—the book series and the TV show—but this one is my favorite in the series. As a twin who was also adopted, I related to the character, enjoying Dr. Isles’s journey to discover her true identity.
- Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
When identical twins, three-year-old Kelly and Kathy, are abducted, their parents, Steve and Margaret, must pay an $8 million ransom. They are reunited with Kelly, but find a note saying that Kathy was accidentally killed. After the memorial, Kelly tells her mother that she is able to communicate with Kathy. Margaret becomes convinced that her daughter is telling the truth and begs the police to reopen the case and bring Kathy home.
Mary Higgins Clark was one of my favorite authors growing up and that hasn’t changed. Her mysteries always captured women’s relationships in such a realistic way. In this novel, I love how she explores twins and the phenomenon of telepathy—something my sister and I are still working on.
- The Silent Twin by Carolyn Mitchell
When nine-year-old Abigail goes missing, Detective Jennifer Knight is tasked with finding the young girl. But help comes from a surprising source when Abigail’s identical twin sister, Olivia, who has been mute since Abigail’s disappearance, begins talking to Jennifer, but from Abigail’s persona.
Mitchell’s mother was an identical twin, so she’s able to perfectly capture the nuances in twin relationships. Even at a young age, the bond that twins share is unbreakable. With paranormal themes and secrets galore, this is an eerie, mysterious, and very satisfying story of sibling connection.
- Identical by Scott Turow
Identical tells the story of identical twins Cass and Paul. Spending twenty-five years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering his girlfriend, Dita, Cass finally gains his freedom. When evidence surfaces that suggests Paul was involved in the murder, another investigation into Dita’s death is launched, threatening Paul’s mayoral campaign and opening up long-buried secrets.
Inspired by the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux, Turow’s story kept me enthralled. I’ll confess that my twin sister and I have traded places on more than one occasion, so I loved how Turow explored the darker side of being identical twins, utilizing forensics and allowing us to question who was who throughout the entire story.
- Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan
On the verge of having a perfect summer, sixteen-year-old Laurie Stratton finds her life turned upside down when people begin seeing her around town in places she knows she hasn’t been.
Laurie soon discovers that she has a long-lost twin sister, but her sister isn’t looking for a happily-ever-after reunion. She wants something more: she wants Laurie’s life.
What I loved about this book was how it played upon the “bad seed” factor and the relationship between the two sisters. There’s a creepy horror element and an unsettling feeling that washes over you when you’re reading this book. When they say everyone has a twin, you desperately hope they aren’t like Laurie’s.
- After She’s Gone by Lisa Jackson
Sisters and aspiring actresses Cassie and Allie move to Los Angeles to follow in their mother’s footsteps. Allie, the more beautiful of the two, finds success and work instantly while Cassie is relegated to life in Allie’s shadow. When Allie goes missing, Cassie is implicated in her disappearance and must embark on her own investigation into what happened to her sister.
There’s so much to like about Jackson’s well crafted thriller, but my favorite part was how she explored the jealousy that occurs in relationships with one’s sibling. No matter how much we love our siblings, envy often creeps into the relationship and this is a very realistic exploration of that.
- Sister by Rosamund Lupton
When Beatrice learns that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she returns to London to help find her. When Tess’s body is discovered and her death ruled a suicide, Beatrice sets out to uncover the truth.
What stands out about Sister is Lipton’s ability to create two profoundly different people who love each other in spite of their differences. Even though Tess is dead, Lipton allows us to understand their relationship through Beatrice’s letters to her deceased sibling. The powerful bond between sisters is fully realized in this page-turner of a novel.
- Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
After their teenage sister disappears, Claire and Lydia go their separate ways, forging very different lives. Years later, Claire, a millionaire’s trophy wife, and Lydia, a struggling single mom, are brought back together when Claire’s husband is murdered. The sisters must uncover their family’s dark secrets as they set out to solve the mystery of their sister’s disappearance and the murder of Claire’s husband.
I am fascinated by stories about people who’ve been torn apart by secrets and come back together, and Slaughter’s story grabbed me instantly. I’m always drawn to books about family power struggles, and the shift of power in the sibling relationships here is incredibly realistic.
- The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
After a tragic accident claimed the life of six-year-old Lydia, Angus and Sarah take Lydia’s twin sister, Kirstie, to a remote and desolate Scottish island to heal. Soon after arriving at their new home, Kirstie tells her mother that she is really Lydia, and that her dead sister, Kirstie, has been visiting. Growing more and more isolated and with Kirstie acting stranger, they must confront what really happened on that fateful day.
Blame The Shining but there’s nothing creepier than twin ghosts. There are lots of twists and turns, but what I loved about Tremayne’s book was how she took a story about creepy twins and turned the dial up to a ten.
Follow her on Twitter @hollieoverton and visit her website at www.hollieoverton.com
Texas transplant Hollie Overton is a novelist and television writer. Hollie has written for Cold Case on CBS and Lifetime’s The Client List. She is currently a co-producer on the hit Freeform drama Shadowhunter. Hollie’s debut thriller, Baby Doll, will be released on July 12, 2016.