The most terrifying psychopaths in fiction

05 April 2016

By Pan Macmillan

Is it just us, or is there something terrifyingly compelling about reading books about psychopaths?

Do we enjoy the insight into a fictional mind that's wired completely differently to our own? Or is the truly terrifying part that we can often identify with these characters on some level? Dare we say it, we might even like them from time to time. It's a question that Rebecca Whitney put to a clinical psychologist whilst writing her debut psychological thriller, The Liar's Chair and it got us thinking about the scariest psychopaths in fiction...

Patrick Bateman from American Psycho

A list on fictional psychopaths wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of Patrick Bateman from Bret Easton Ellis' cult classic. Patrick Bateman has it all: good looks, youth, charm, a job on Wall Street, reservations at every new restaurant in town and a line of girls around the block. He is also a psychopath. A man addicted to his superficial, perfect life, he pulls us into a dark underworld where the American Dream becomes a nightmare...

Start reading American Psycho

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl

Intelligent and beautiful 'Amazing Amy' Dunne from Gillian Flynn's hugely successful Gone Girl ticks all the boxes on the psychopath check list. Devious, controlling and manipulative, Amy meticulously plots her own disappearance in an act of vicious revenge against her philandering husband. Truly terrifying.

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Hannibal Lecter from The Silence Of The Lambs, Red Dragon and Hannibal 

Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter has to be one of the most notorious psychopaths in fiction. Not to mention the fact that he's also been immortalised on the Hollywood silver screen. (The words 'Hello Clarice' still give us goosebumps). Hannibal has been described as 'evil personified in modern fiction'. Need we say more?

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Mr Hyde from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Our fascination with fictional psychopaths is by no means a recent trend. Robert Louis Stevenson's eerie portrayal of Mr Hyde was first published in 1886! Perhaps particularly frightening as we can all identify with Dr Jekyll's battle with his dark side... 

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Kevin Katchadourian from We Need To Talk About Kevin
Told in his mother Eva's voice, We Need To Talk About Kevin tells the story of Kevin's murderous rampage through his high school. His complete detachment from everyone around him makes Kevin a textbook psychopath, and we find him completely terrifying.

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The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney is out now! Listen to an audio extract. 


You may also like

The Liar's Chair
American Psycho
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde