Female-Led Thrillers That Would Make Great Movies


When I read, I watch the story play out in my head like a movie. So, every once in a while there comes a book that I ‘watch’ unfold so vividly I wonder why someone hasn’t snapped it up to make it into a movie or show. When I was asked to give a list I barely knew where to start! But here are just a few of my favorites.


  1. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison: Maya was imprisoned by a man known only as ‘The Collector’ in his garden of beautiful human butterflies. Two FBI agents are charged with not only documenting her horrifying story, but also with discovering what the enigmatic survivor is still hiding. I love this book so much. In a way it reminded me of Silence of the Lambs with its dark mood and tight focus on character. I can see it playing out on screen with the terrible lighting and stark décor of an interrogation room contrasted with the color and surreal horror/beauty of the ‘garden.’ A really intense young actress would be needed to play the part of Maya, someone who can inspire sympathy but also encourage suspicion.


  1. Baby Doll by Hollie Overton: Lily disappeared years ago and has been held captive ever since by a man who wants to possess her. In the time that she’s been gone, she’s had a daughter who is the one thing that keeps her going. So, when the chance to escape presents itself, she takes it. She finds her way home – to the family that has never recovered from losing her, and to her twin sister, Abby, who has suffered most of all. But escape is only the beginning. Now, the authorities have to find the man who took her. And Lily has to learn to live again while her sister looks for forgiveness. Such a fabulous book about family and the bond between sisters. There was a moment in this book when I gasped out loud that I can just imagine playing out on the big screen. No coincidence that Overton is a screen-writer. This book begs for an adaptation.


  1. Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone: Jane’s best friend committed suicide because of the emotional abuse of her lover, Steven Hepsworth. Jane’s something of a sociopath, but she realizes the emptiness left behind by her friend’s death. Hepsworth took something beautiful from her, so she’s going to destroy everything he holds dear, and do it gleefully. The tight pacing and seamless plot of this book would make it perfect for the screen. Jane is such an amazing character that she would have to be played by an actress like Eva Green – someone with flawless intensity. Stone makes no apologies for her heroine, nor does she compensate by trying to force the reader to like her. There are times you might not like Jane, but her ‘mission’ is what will keep you rooting for her.



  1. Cop Town by Karin Slaughter: Set in 1974, Cop Town tells the story of Maggie and Kate, two of the few – and first — female cops in the Atlanta PD. Along with trying to make their way in the male-dominated field where women are routinely mocked and treated like objects, the two will also work to solve the murder of a fellow officer. In the background of Slaughter’s fabulous female-driven story, Atlanta bubbles like a pot about to boil over. With humor, intelligence and some extremely fraught suspense, this book practically begs to be a movie, or a series. A female buddy-cop story with a gritty setting, full of tension, suspense and even humor.


  1. Seven Crows by Kate Kessler: Oh, I’m cheating! No one said I couldn’t mention my own book! I pitched it as ‘Taken’ meets ‘Sons of Anarchy’ with a female lead, and I’m sticking to that description. Newly released from prison for assault, Killian Delaney just wants to move on, but then her niece is kidnapped by the man she was foolish enough not to kill, forcing her back into the life she once knew. And there’s a twist that makes Killian’s story all the more emotionally intense. I would love this book to fall into the hands of the ‘John Wick’ or ‘Peppermint’ producers and see what they come up with! Sarah Shahi would make a fabulous Killian – just saying. 😊


  1. Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine: Gwen’s name used to be Gina, until she found out in the most horrific fashion that her husband was a serial killer. Now, she and her children live under the radar, hiding from those who would exploit or hurt them. She takes up residence on Stillhouse Lake and attempts to live a normal life – until a body is pulled from the water, and letters start arriving from a familiar address. Even from behind bars, her husband is able to torment her, but Gwen will stop at nothing to protect her children. The question is: who can she trust? The rural setting of this book would make a wonderfully suspenseful movie setting, isolating the main character. I can imagine someone like Charlize Theron or Jennifer Garner playing Gwen – a woman in her forties that is totally believable as someone who can kick ass protecting her kids.


  1. The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre: Deanna knows what she is – that’s why she keeps herself locked in her apartment. If she’s locked up then she can’t give in to the urges to kill. She supports herself by providing sexual fantasies online. But, then her path crosses with a serial killer’s and Deanna must venture out into the real world to save a missing child. This book is an erotic thriller that would be amazing to see play out on screen. Deanna sees herself as a monster, but she’s presented in a way that makes it easy to sympathize with her, if not empathize. She’s a ‘good’ monster, if you will, and she uses her urges to hunt down another monster, sort of like a female Dexter. It’s dark and twisted but with moments of playfulness that would keep it from being too dark for a broad audience. I would love to see what someone like David Fincher would do with this book!


Kate Kessler is a former juvenile delinquent who grew up in a north-east rural town where sorrows and celebrations are shared, and secrets are hard to keep — especially if they belong to someone else. She began reading Nancy Drew mysteries and graduated to Sidney Sheldon’s intrigue-fueled thrillers by age eleven. She was writing her own books by age 12.

A peculiar addiction to soap operas at a young age, and an overblown sense of curiosity often resulted in landing her in trouble, an affliction that continued into her teens. These days, however, she prefers to write about trouble rather than jump head first into it. Kate also spends far too much time trying to figure out why people do the things they do, and shopping for shoes.

She lives in New England with her patient and supportive husband and four cats, who provide all the external drama her life needs.