It's the birthday of Alfred Hitchcock. To honor the Master of Suspense, our crackerjack team of book experts came up with a list of books that would do him proud: psychological suspense novels that give readers the same creepy, think-y thrill as watching his movies... and feature twists that no one saw coming.
Roald Dahl’s Collected Stories has dark twists and turns, with endings you can’t predict unless you get totally obsessed and read them all in a row. (I may have done that.) —Jenny Rosenoff, Mulberry Street
Before someone beats me to it, I recommend Shirley Jackson’s stories. Whether we’re talking about her legendary short story, “The Lottery,” or her morbid yet strangely charming, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson is a master at stringing the reader along, and throwing in a twist that’s sure to please as much as it shocks. —Andrew Fairweather, Seward Park
I’ll go with Another by Yukito Ayatsuji, art by Hiro Kiyohara. New student Koichi Sakakibara has just transferred to a new school, with classmates who appear on edge and afraid all the time. He befriends one of them, the withdrawn Mei Misaki, but she is unable to be seen by any of the other kids in the class. As the story unfolds, Koichi learns that his class has a curse bestowed upon it, and when students start to die gruesome deaths, the plot twists come out in abundance! —Joe Pascullo, Grand Central
Margery Allingham’s books have been re-released in paperback, and some are highly suspenseful. So I’ll go with Traitor’s Purse, an Albert Campion novel that combines Hitchcockian themes of amnesia and the very thin line between leadership and obsession. —Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, Exhibitions
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin pits the world’s greatest detective against its most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Holmes and the steadfast Watson pursue the Ripper through London’s gas-lit, foggy streets as the murders pile up. It is a different take on the post-Reichenbach Holmes and a sinister tale that leaves you shaking with its final reveal. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil
Crow Girl comes to mind, if you like your Hitchcockian fever dream in a Nordic noir setting. It’s a Swedish police procedural featuring three strong female characters. Jeanette Kihlberg, investigating the murders of refugee children, teams up with mysterious psychologist Sophia Zetterlund. Her specialty is multiple personalities, and her victimized patient, Victoria Bergman, is at the center of the drama. Expect a religious cult backstory with WWII roots and a Vertigo-esque vibe that keeps you guessing. For Stieg Larsson fans who want to go deeper and darker, it’s grim stuff packed into 750+ suspenseful pages (yes, there’s an ebook available). —Jeremy Megraw, Billy Rose Theatre Division
In the atmospheric The Lake House by Kate Morton, a young female detective, on vacation in Cornwall, stumbles upon an isolated, abandoned lake house covered in overgrown vines and moss, seemingly stuck in time for over 70 years. As she explores, she begins to discover its secrets and tragedies as a home to a family torn apart by a child gone missing on a beautiful midsummer’s eve. Meanwhile, hours away, in London, the daughter of the family, now in her ’80s and a best-selling author, is still haunted by the disappearance of her baby brother. Hitchcock would have milked the story’s isolated setting, the oppressive heat of summer, and the dark underbelly of familial love. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street
Stephen King may be known mostly for gore and ghouls, but in Salem’s Lot, he creates one of the most overpowering atmospheres of tension and slow-burning dread I’ve ever come across. A small town in Maine, a series of children disappearing, a mysterious visitor from Europe, a notorious house where a suicide took place long ago... all are key ingredients in this sizzling powder-keg of a novel. —Isaiah Pittman, Inwood
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I simply could not believe the nonchalant deviousness of Tom Ripley. The 1999 film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow perfectly captured the tense, creepy feelings and paranoia in the book. —Maura Muller, Volunteer Office
Arrowood by Laura McHugh. Gothic old house: check. Suspenseful mystery: check. Summer in Iowa has never been so creepy. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market
Vertigo meets Read Window in The Likeness by Tana French, a sharply drawn Irish police procedural in which the striking resemblance of Detective Cassie Matthews to a murder victim leads the police to report that the victim has survived, and to enlist Matthews to go undercover as the murdered girl. —David Nochimson, Pelham Parkway-Van Nest
The most Hitchcock-ian group of books is formed by those the Master himself adapted as films. The French source of Vertigo—by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, writing jointly as “Boileau-Narcejac”—was originally published as D’entre les morts in French and The Living and the Dead in English. NYPL has it in both languages. The story is roughly the same as in the film: A detective becomes obsessed with the mysterious beauty he has been hired to follow. Traumatized by her suicide, which he was powerless to prevent, he later falls deeply in love with her presumed double. The original story was set in Paris during and after World War II. —Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials
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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!