April 5, 2010

A Thriller By Any Other Name…

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 6:51 pm

I’ve written here before about legendary reviewer Oline Cogdill’s term “family thriller.” Until I started reading Oline’s reviews, I didn’t know what kind of books I most loved to read (or even what I wrote)!

But it’s true. The thing that really gets me by the craw in a story is your everyday, average family just about to cross a perilous line. How thin the margin is between dread and normal.

The family thriller shows us that. And then, thank goodness, it usually shows us a way out. The characters emerge altered, yet stronger. What more uplifting message is there than that? I think that’s why I find the act of reading some pretty devastating plots more enjoyable than harrowing, even though the events certainly are pretty much the definition of the latter.

Because I’m so enraptured by Oline’s concept, I noticed when a review site, also mentioned here before, used the term “domestic suspense.” They were talking about Linwood Barclay, who’s been one of my favorite authors since he was first published in the US.

Could it be that awareness of the concept is widening? Are family thrillers a subset of suspense…or even a genre unto themselves?

Here are a few more of my favorites.

Lisa Unger. Gillian Flynn. Laura Lippman’s standalones. The master, Harlan Coben.

If you have another great addition to this category, please write and add it to the list…

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