From The Secret History to Pretty Little Liars, I really love a good Friend Group Thriller. What is better than a story about a group of friends, former friends or frenemies tied together by a dark secret? Here are some of my favorites. Check out my list of Best Friend Group Thrillers!
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Best Friend Group Thrillers to Read and Watch
- Friend Group Thriller Books to Read
- Friend Group Thrillers to Watch
- Where to Find Young Adult Friend Group Thrillers!
What is a Friend Group Thriller?
Here’s how I define it:
A Friend Group Thriller is a story about three or more friends (or former friends) who are tied together by a dark secret they are keeping.
The secret can be in the past of in the present of the story. But I’d argue that the people have to be friends before the bad stuff happens, not just strangers. That might be a different kind of book.
Where’s the drama? Well, as they say in Pretty Little Liars: two can keep a secret .. if one of them is dead.
Most Influential Friend Group Thriller
I’d argue that the most famous and influential Friend Group Thriller was this 1992 book:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)
- The OG Friend Group Thriller and Dark Academia trendsetter!
- New England setting
- Rich friends, poor friend dynamic
Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor Julian Morrow, a group of eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a new way of thought and life. The group includes twins Charles and Camilla, plus students Richard, Francis, Henry, and Bunny.
The Secret History takes place years later and is narrated by Richard, who reflects upon the events that led to Bunny’s murder.
New Friend Group Thriller Coming in January 2024!
Reclusive former movie star Lana Farrar is one of the most famous women in the world. Every year, she invites her closest friends to spend Easter on her idyllic private Greek island.
We found ourselves trapped there overnight. Our old friendships concealed hatred and a desire for revenge. What followed was a game of cat and mouse ― a battle of wits, full of twists and turns, building to an unforgettable climax. The night ended in violence and death, as one of us was found murdered.
My name is Elliot Chase, and I’m going to tell you a story unlike any you’ve ever heard.
2022 and 2023 were HUGE years for Friend Group Thrillers. I will be adding to this list, so if you have suggestions, please make them in comments.
There Should Have Been Eight by Nailini Singh (November 2023)
They met when they were teenagers. Now they’re adults, except Bea, the one they lost nine years ago.
They rest have gathered to reminisce at Bea’s family’s estate, a mansion straight out of a gothic novel. Best friends, old flames, secret enemies, and new lovers are all under one roof. But when the weather turns and they’re snowed in at the edge of eternity, there’s nowhere left to hide from their shared history.
As the walls close in, the pretense of normality gives way to long-buried grief, bitterness, and rage. Underneath it all, there’s the nagging feeling that Bea’s shocking death wasn’t what it was claimed to be. And before the weekend is through, the truth will be unleashed—no matter the cost. . . .
The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda (2023)
- An 1990s “I Know What You Did Last Summer” vibe
- An Outer Banks setting
- High school secrets in the past
- Twist at the end, but some readers found the ending a little wacky
A decade ago, two vans filled with high school seniors crashed into a ravine, claiming multiple lives.
Nine students managed to escape. A year later, after one of the survivors dies on the anniversary of the crash, the rest of them make a pact to come together each year on the Outer Banks to commemorate that terrible night.
By the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Bent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy. This year, she is determined to finally break ties. But on the day of the reunion, she receives a text with an obituary attached: another survivor is gone. Now they are seven, and Cassidy finds herself reluctantly re-joining the group.
But something feels off this year: a missing survivor, an impending storm. As they promised long ago—each survivor will do whatever he or she can do to save one another. Or will they?
What Have We Done by Alex Finlay (2023)
Check out my Review of What Have We Done.
- Trauma bonded friend group
- Friend group stalked by a mystery enemy
Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, having forged a bond through the abuse and neglect they endured as residents of Savior House, a group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down―after the disappearance of several kids―the three were split up.
Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live accomplished―if troubled―lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them.
To survive, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their shared past―a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.
It’s a reunion none of them asked for . . . or wanted. But it may be the only way to save all their lives.
The Secrets We Buried by Becca Day (2023)
Here’s my Review of The Secrets We Buried.
- “Desperate Housewives” vibe
- Rich people behaving badly
- Nosy YouTuber tries to solve the crime
When Frankie moves into her new seaside home, it is a dream come true. Her new neighbours (glamorous Zara, ambitious Nadine and social butterfly Geneva) take her under their wing. The four women become inseparable. Until the morning when Geneva’s body is found on the beach.
Everyone immediately suspects Geneva’s husband. It’s always the husband, right? But the police don’t charge him, and he vanishes without a trace. Now, five years later, he’s back.
Dark secrets that have been hiding behind closed doors begin to be revealed, with devastating consequences.
But one person will do whatever it takes to make sure that one secret never comes to the surface…
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall (2023)
- A Slenderman or Heavenly Creatures vibe
- Podcast element
Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game.
The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes. And they were liars.
For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods―no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.
The It Girl by Ruth Ware (2022)
I also put this one on my Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2022 list!
- Dark Academia vibes
- Agatha Christie classic mystery vibes
- Elite Oxford University setting
April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.
Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, April quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.
Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison.
Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead (2022)
Here’s my Review of In My Dreams I Held a Knife.
- Mean Girls vibe
- College reunion gone wrong
- Unlikeable characters
Ten years after graduation, Jessica makes her triumphant return to elite Duquette University. She has planned everything, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake.
Everyone is going to see a girl who is confident, beautiful, and indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus. Not the girl she was when Heather’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.
But not everyone is ready to move on. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night―and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones (2022)
- Couples trip plagued by secrets
- Wedding Thriller
- Lots of twists and turns!
Rachel and Jack. Paige and Noah. And Will. Five friends who’ve known one another for years. Then along came Ali, Will’s new fiancée.
The three couples travel to Portugal for Ali and Will’s destination wedding. A weekend away at a stunning cliffside villa is a chance to relax and get to know Ali better. Will seems happy after years of bad choices.
But when Rachel discovers a shocking secret about Ali, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them holds begin to spill, and friendships and marriages unravel.
Best Friend Group Thrillers to Watch
- Classic mystery
- European setting
- Con artist themes
- A group of friends hiding a terrible secret
- Anonymous threats one year after a terrible accident
If you’re an older millennial or a Gen X, you might remember the Lois Duncan book. The 1997 movie starrs 90s icons Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, and was written by Kevin Williamson.
There’s also a new remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer on Amazon Prime. I’m going to watch it and report back, so make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter!
- High school setting
- Anonymous threats to a group of friends
- A missing Queen Bee
Ok, so I watched this and loved it … at first. But this show was an amazing Friend Group Thriller for a few seasons.
- Law students united by a dark secret
Again, to me, this was a show that started strong and then eventually lost its way. But it’s a classic friend group murder in the first season at least!
Love young adult books? Check out my List of YA Friend Group Thrillers. I mean, what is more terrifying than high school drama?