If you go to the beach this summer, stay away from sharp objects -– pick up a good book instead. It’ll keep your mind off the long wait you’ve endured since the last season of The Sinner, and help hone your detective skills as you figure out the mysteries central to some of these thrillers. We’ve picked a selection for you based on some of The Sinner’s central themes –- communes, child murderers, and whydunits -– but you’ll have to read further if you want to see more of their connections.
1. The Girls
What It Is: A bored teenage girl falls in with a non-conventional crowd during the summer before she heads off to boarding school. Her new BFF hangs out a commune led by a paranoid wannabe rock star Russell (clearly modeled after Charles Manson). What could go wrong?
Why The Sinner Fans Will Love The Girls: Emma Cline’s seductive, well-observed coming-of-age story reimagines the helter-skelter summer before the Manson Family’s Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969, gives us some insight and context as to why things spiraled so out of control.
What It Is: An upper-middle-class couple hires a Frenchwoman to help care for their two young children, so that the mother can return to her work as a lawyer. In the meantime, the nanny and family become increasingly and obsessively co-dependent, with horrifying consequences.
Why The Sinner fans will love The Perfect Nanny: Leïla Slimani’s widely acclaimed novel was inspired by a news report about a New York nanny who murdered two of the children in her charge back in 2012. (She stabbed them in the bathtub, and then tried to kill herself). The mystery isn’t that the murders happened –- the first line of the Moroccan-French author’s novel is, “The baby is dead” –- but why.
What It Is: A crime reporter returns to her hometown of Wind Gap to get some local color for a story -– one teenage girl has been murdered, another has gone missing. But the reunion with her dysfunctional family has the side effect of dredging up barely buried memories –- and could be the key to solving the case.
Why The Sinner fans Will Love Sharp Objects: Set against the backdrop of small-town life, Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects gets under the skin of how a small town operates, particularly when crimes by and against children are involved. The locals would rather blame an outsider than admit they’ve all been complicit in looking the other way.
4. The Captives
What It Is: An inmate psychologist is surprised to run into his old high school crush, now incarcerated at the Milford Basin Correctional Facility on a second-degree murder charge. He knows he should reassign her case to someone else, but he can’t resist –- and he becomes obsessed. Could this be her chance at escape? Or something more?
Why The Sinner Fans Will Love The Captives: The book has been billed as Orange is the New Black meets Gone Girl, but it’s more than that. Author Debra Jo Immergut (who clearly has done her research) uses the authority of both mass incarceration and psychotherapy to investigate questions of ethics, identity, memory, family, and closed systems. Couldn’t a prison be viewed as another kind of small town?
5. Cult X
What It Is: Toru Narazaki is looking for his missing girlfriend Ryoko Tachibana when he encounters two different groups -– one seemingly benign, led by a philosophic guru, and one focused on sex and violence, led by a charismatic terrorist. And then one group asks him to infiltrate the other.
Why The Sinner Fans Will Love Cult X: Fuminori Nakamura -– a sensation in Japan -– takes inspiration from the 1995 sarin gas terrorist attacks on the Tokyo subway, which were carried out by a doomsday cult. Cult X explores the reality of groupthink, and how seductive it can be to relinquish personal responsibility.
What It Is: Georgina -– Geo to her friends –- was sentenced to five years in prison for her role in disposing the body of her best friend and high school queen bee, Angela. But the Sweetbay Strangler –- her former boyfriend -– has escaped, and new victims were just found in the woods where they buried Angela: a mother and her child.
Why The Sinner Fans Will Love Jar of Hearts: Jennifer Hillier’s thriller takes place in a fictional Pacific Northwest suburb, where small town rules (and resentments) apply. (One of her other best friends –- the one she friend-zoned -- becomes the detective who arrests her).
What It Is: Abby Williams, an environmental lawyer, takes a case which sends her back to her hometown, a small Indiana town in the grips of a big corporate conspiracy. Is the drinking water of Barrens being poisoned by Optimal Plastics? Is the disappearance of Abby’s former BFF connected to the case? Abby has to play detective, and unearth her past trauma, to figure it all out.
Why The Sinner Fans Will Love Bonfire: Marvel’s Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter is also a novelist -– one who understands female trauma, gaslighting, and small town politics.
Find out why he did it when The Sinner premiere a new story on Wednesday, Aug. 1, on USA Network!