Throughout my twenties and early thirties, my “go-to” fiction genre was Thriller. I read Robert Ludlum, Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, and John le Carré. (And loved the movies that followed many of these novels.) Maybe it was an obsession with spies or conspiracies. Or simply the adrenaline rush. But, other than children’s books, it was the only fiction I read for that period of time. I guess it was a natural progression from my steady diet of mysteries as a child.
While my current fiction reading displays a much wider brushstroke, I still enjoy the suspense of a good thriller. Some, like the Millennium Series (initially Stieg Larson and now David Lagercrantz) still carry much of the spy, crime or espionage flavor of my earlier reads. The violence in these novels was challenging for me at times, but I so loved the characters and story that I wasn’t about to put them down!
In an earlier blog (Who Remembers Trixie Belden?) I mentioned Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc murder mysteries, each set in a different arrondissement in Paris. While categorized more as mystery than thriller, Aimee’s escapades are often very thrilling to the point of nerve wracking. She has a proclivity for getting herself into harrowing and life-threatening situations.
I also enjoyed Robert Harris’s, The Ghost, a political thriller with collusion at its core. And Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series pulled me in with the conspiracy theories and historical references. I know Brown’s works have generated much controversy and dialogue, but with an interest in religion and spirituality, I found them to be fun and engaging. And the settings were a nice bonus!
Other thriller or suspense novels I have enjoyed recently are less about espionage and conspiracy and more about interpersonal relationships. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train are two examples. What most drew me into these books was the psychological exploration of the characters. The psychotherapist in me was fascinated with the working of their minds, wanting to figure out what made them tick.
I just finished Michelle Campbell’s It’s Always the Husband, a suspenseful tale that crossed over into Women’s Fiction, a nice blend for me. I loved following the back and forth unfolding of the relationships formed in college to where they ended up in the present day. Campbell kept me guessing. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, a new twist emerged.
Liane Moriarty’s (Blog #7: Girls Just Want to Have Fun) more recent novels, The Husbands Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty, also fall into the category of Women’s Fiction with suspenseful twists. Again, it is the blend of suspense and the psychological study of the characters and their relationships that make her books so captivating for me.
I think some degree of suspense always makes a book more enjoyable for me. I’ve certainly been drawn to that since childhood and obviously have kept coming back over the years, just in differing forms. As I mentioned in Blog #2: Who Remembers Trixie Belden, I was programmed from a young age, with most likely some genetic predisposition thrown in, to love to problem solve. Discovering clues, making connections, and solving the puzzle, hopefully before the end of the book, holds a thrill of its own for me.
What about you? Are you a fan of suspense in books?