Thriller Books About Cults

The Hive

In the Pacific Northwest, detective Lindsay Jackman is investigating the murder of a young journalist found at the bottom of a ravine. Lindsay soon learns that the victim was writing an exposé. Her subject: a charismatic wellness guru who’s pulled millions into her euphoric orbit…

To hear Marnie Spellman tell it, when she was a child, a swarm of bees lifted her off the ground and toward the sunlight, illuming her spiritual connection with nature—an uncanny event on which Marnie built a cosmetics empire and became a legend, a healer, and the queen of holistic health and eternal beauty. In her inner circle is an intimate band of devotees called the Hive. They share Marnie’s secrets of success—including one cloaked in darkness for twenty years.

Determined to uncover the possibly deadly mysteries of the group, Lindsay focuses her investigation on Marnie and the former members of the Hive, who are just as determined to keep Lindsay from their secrets as they are to maintain their status.

Perfect Little Town

Ron and Jessica Stahl are a power couple from Southern California, on a Christmas driving holiday in the Colorado mountains.

When they stop for the afternoon in sleepy Lone Cone (Pop. 317), they’re charmed by the quaint tourist town which is filled with B&Bs, candy stores, and gift shops.

But the folksy hospitality will vanish as the sun drops behind the mountains. A winter storm is approaching, and the Stahls couldn’t have picked a worse night of the year to get snowed into this perfect little town with a dark, dark secret.

Little Heaven

A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins, colloquially known as “the Englishman”—is hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway. But shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. There are stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—and above all else, the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust soon grip the settlement. Escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral toward madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. All present here are now forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is marshaling its power—and it wants them all…

The Servants of Twilight

An ordinary parking lot in southern California. Christine Scavello and her six-year-old son are accosted by a strange old woman.

“I know who you are,” the woman snaps at the boy. “I know what you are.”

A scream, a threat—and then a grotesque act of violence. Suddenly Christine’s pride and joy, her only son, is targeted by a group of religious fanatics. They’ve branded him the Antichrist. They want to kill him. And they are everywhere…

The Handmaids Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.

The First Book of Calamity Leek

A beguiling, irresistibly immersive debut novel about sixteen sisters in a walled garden, and what happens to their carefully constructed world when one girl starts asking questions about life outside.

Fourteen-year-old Calamity Leek and her sisters spend their days tending white roses and memorizing the lessons in Aunty’s Appendix, a multi-volume compendium of show tunes, beauty regimens, and twisted creation myths. Calamity knows the Appendix front to back, and she is Aunty’s favorite, destined for particular greatness. But when her restless sister Truly Polperro gets too curious about life beyond their Wall of Safekeeping, she cracks Calamity’s world wide open. Calamity needs a new book. And she will have to write it herself.

The Girls

An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

The Followers

Judith has been visiting her mother, Stephanie, in prison once a month for the last eight years. She still can’t bring herself to talk with her mother about what brought them here―or about Nathaniel, the man whose religious cult almost cost them their lives.

When Stephanie first meets him, she is a struggling single mother and Nathaniel is a charismatic outsider, unlike anyone she’s ever known. In deciding to join the group he’s founded, Stephanie thinks she’s doing the best thing for her daughter: a new home, a new purpose. Judith and Stephanie are initiated into a secret society whose “followers” must obey the will of a zealous prophet. As Stephanie immerses herself in her new life, Judith slowly realizes the moral implications of the strict lifestyle Nathaniel preaches. Tensions deepen, faith and doubt collide, and a horrifying act of violence changes everything. In the shattering aftermath, it seems that no one is safe.

The Cult

I see his wicked smile in the theatre. I see it in the apartment across from mine.
I see it everywhere.
Before I can run, I’m taken.
And when I wake up…I’m in the middle of nowhere.
The man who’s taken me claims to be a demon.
And claims I’m his angel.
What happens when he finds out I don’t have wings?
I’m not the only prisoner in this forest. There’s a little girl too. Her name is Claire. She’s beautiful, happy, wonderful. It’s my responsibility to protect her–and I will give my life to accomplish that.
She says her father will save us both.
She says he’s powerful, formidable, that he’ll burn this entire forest to get to her.
I hope she’s right.

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