Eight Frothy, Female-Led Thrillers To Read If You Loved Dead To Me

By Michele Campbell, author of The Wife Who Knew Too Much

When I was cooped up during quarantine and in need of diversion, bingeing Dead to Me on Netflix kept me sane. It was the perfect escape.  A suspenseful thriller leavened with laughs. A buddy comedy that explored serious issues (grief, miscarriage, breast cancer) with warmth and hope. It featured two strong, imperfect women whose opposites-attract chemistry survived every crazy plot twist, including homicide, lies, burying a body, a police investigation, and more. And it was set against the glittering backdrop of Laguna Beach and L.A., which brought a jolt of sunshine to my cold, damp New England spring.

At the heart of the show was the complicated friendship between edgy, potty-mouthed real-estate agent Jen and flaky, adorable artist Judy. The two women meet at a grief counseling workshop and embark on a quest to find the person who killed Jen’s husband. But Judy is nursing a dark secret that threatens to blow both women’s lives wide open. As their friendship deepens over wine and late-night confessions, they alternate between loving and hating each other, lying to each other and having each other’s backs.

Complex relationships between women provide great material for thrillers. I’ve explored this theme in my own work. Three college roommates cover up a murder and pay the price years later in It’s Always the Husband. Twin sisters’ differences turn deadly when they go to a remote boarding school in She Was the Quiet One. And I adore a glamorous, seaside setting, like in A Stranger on the Beach or my new book, The Wife Who Knew Too Much. When I finished Dead to Me, I found myself pining for its frothy concoction of thrills, friendship, glamor and humor. If you feels the same, check out these delicious reads to get your fix:


1. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner. New York Times bestseller Weiner nails the beach-read vibe in this murder mystery that’s also an intricate exploration of female friendship. Daphne, bullied because of her weight in high school, lived in the shadow of her glamorous best friend, Drue. The two hadn’t spoken in years when Drue reappears to ask Daphne to be maid of honor at her Cape Cod society wedding. But an unexpected tragedy leaves Daphne investigating her ex-best-friend’s dark secrets. Gripping and funny.


2. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. This fast-paced, charming detective story follows out-of-work actress Dayna, who turns amateur sleuth to investigate a hit-and-run for the reward money. As leads take her to the dark side of glamorous Hollywood, she’s determined to find justice for the victim. Award-winning novelist Garrett got her start writing for television, and her insider knowledge lends authenticity and sparkle to this laugh-out-loud funny caper. A must-read.


3. Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald. The suspense builds in this tale of a daughter suspected in her mother’s murder. Eva was struck by lightning the night her mother died and remembers nothing of what happened. As she investigates the murder to clear her own name, terrible secrets and buried memories emerge. Told in alternating, time-shifting chapters by mother and daughter, this seamless, accomplished psychological thriller will keep you riveted.


4. The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda. The relationship between a mother and daughter is the subject of this propulsive, edgy domestic noir set in a wealthy California beach town. Jane is the perfect mother with the perfect life until her daughter Mary dies in a tragic accident. As she sinks into despair and a haze of anti-depressants, you won’t know what the truth is or who you can trust. Deliciously creepy and fun.


5. Hurry Home by Roz Nay. Alexandra Van Ness’s life is turned upside down when her troubled, long-lost sister, Ruth reappears, in need of help. Alex wants to keep the past buried, but Ruth’s return threatens to expose old secrets. A moving portrait of the fraught relationship between two very different sisters, combined with a heart-pounding suspense novel, you won’t regret tucking this into your beach bag.


6. And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall. P.I. Grayson Sykes chases a missing woman around buzzy, glittering L.A. But does Isabel Lincoln want to be found? And will Grayson’s dangerous past stop her before she can solve the crime? This cat-and-mouse game between two fierce, complicated women will leave you breathless with suspense.


7. The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor. A gorgeously written thriller that explores the difficult relationship between two cousins. Hard-edged detective Maggie gets a call when new evidence turns up in the decades-old disappearance of her wayward cousin Erin. The narrative time-shifts between Ireland, where Erin disappeared, and the Long Island beaches of their girlhood, detailing the cousins’ intense friendship as well as the twists and turns of the murder investigation. Dark and gripping.


8. Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins. When Fern sees news reports about a missing woman, she’s convinced that she knows her, but no one believes her. Plagued by strange nightmares, she feels compelled to investigate the woman’s disappearance and discovers chilling connections to her own life. Haunting and compelling.