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Sara Shepard's 6 favorite stories of deception

The author of Pretty Little Liars recommends works by Daniel Handler, Wendy Walker, and more

Sara Shepard's new novel and first adult thriller, The Elizas, is narrated by a woman whose recent brush with death may or may not have been a suicide attempt. Below, the Pretty Little Liars author names six favorite stories of deception.

You by Caroline Kepnes (Atria, $17).

The narrator, Joe, presents a genial face to the world, but readers get the privilege of access to his darkest thoughts and gruesome actions — all conveyed in a surprisingly sympathetic voice. It's a cautionary tale that reminds us that we never know who anyone is beneath the surface, and that a good enough actor can fool us all.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Norton, $16).

People who choose to assume someone else's identity have always fascinated me. I read this novel years ago and have come back to it several times for its deftness and ingenuity — and to revisit how, in the end, Ripley's brilliant hoax comes at too great a cost.

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (Ecco, $14).

This novel was one of the first that inspired me to write a Y.A. thriller. In its pages, the smart, witty teenage narrator is spiraling out of control, a party has gone very, very wrong, and a crime has occurred — but the attempted cover-up is not the biggest deception. It's a third-act twist, which catches readers completely off guard.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin, $27).

Deception doesn't occur only in thrillers — a complicated relationship can be just as fertile ground. In this beautifully written new book, a great domestic betrayal occurs, but it's one that's arguably justified.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (William Morrow, $16).

The unnamed narrator has just married a wealthy Englishman, and now must live in the shadow of her new husband's first wife, whose presence can be felt everywhere at Manderley (her husband's estate, and one of my favorite settings in literature). I return often to this celebrated 1938 study of jealousy, obsession, and manipulation. I still can't get enough of Mrs. Danvers.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (St. Martin's, $27).

I read a lot of thrillers, but this recent example — two missing sisters, a narcissistic mother, and plenty of dark, ugly backstory — stood out. The psychology of this novel is very grounded and believable, and Walker managed to keep me guessing until the very last page.

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