Tuesday, April 10, 2012


A thriller by its very definition, is not a feel-good book (or movie) but an experience which is laden with suspense and can cover all sorts of topics such as espionage, crime or mystery i.e. it’s a suspenseful adventure story.

Thrillers popped up more and more from the early 1900’s and probably the most famous one of that era was The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan which set the standard for innocent framed men on the run. An earlier novel with a theme of an innocent protagonist that might not spring to mind as a thriller is The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).

Hitchcock’s very early films such as The Lodger (Jack the Ripper) and The Man Who Knew Too Much were the forerunners of his suspense-thrillers which advanced during the 50’s to movies such as Strangers on a Train.

During the 70’s and 80’s movies such as Play Misty for Me and Deliverance and the so-different Blow Out expanded the genre.

In the 1990’s and onwards spy thrillers in particular became much more technical e.g. Tom Clancy’s novels such as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games along with Robert Ludlum’s books about Jason Bourne.

In the 2000’s now we have novels and movies and TV series based on a variety of thriller subgenres:

 Conspiracy thrillers (Da Vinci Code)
 Crime thrillers (Silence of the Lambs)
 Erotic thrillers (Basic Instinct)
 Political thrillers (Day of the Jackal)
 Psychological thrillers (Misery)
 Spy thrillers (Casino Royale)
 Supernatural thrillers (Flatliners)
 Techno thrillers (Jurassic Park)

Recently one of the more successful thriller writers has been Stieg Larsson (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo etc). Interesting that this a little controversy about who did most of the writing of his more recent novels. All adds to the mystique.

The main elements of a good thriller are:

 The protagonists face death, either their own or someone else’s
 The main plotline is a mystery begging to be solved
 The characters are often dragged into conflict and situations that they don’t normally meet (although the spy subgenre of course has a bunch of well-equipped protagonists and antagonists).

Below I’ve laid out some thrillers I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Sometimes that does not include well known writers since I love finding new writers who satisfy me with their writing. I like MEAT to my thrillers, not necessarily just the promise of it. I won’t describe the plot lines, but I’d suggest you try some of the following books:

A Bodyguard of Lies by Donna del Oro
Upcoming books by new author Liese Sherwood Fabre
The Geneva Convention by Martin Bodenham
Lost in the Bayou by Cornell de Ville (Young Adult)
Bait by Karen Robards
I Can See You by Karen Rose
Face of a Killer by Robin Burcell
Gone by Lisa Gardner
The Killing Floor by Lee Child

I tend to get hold of a writer and read them dry. The above books are only a very little sample of what I read. I read a large quantity of books called romantic suspense which are, in actuality, thrillers; likewise I love detective fiction and police procedurals which are often more thriller than the genre they are purported to be. I guess it’s all down to that old word: marketing.

NEXT WEEK I’ll move on to police procedurals.


  1. Here's something that may interest you. I was recently in a department store, waiting for my husband to find something. Of course I decided to hang out in the book department. The books there are supplied and stocked by a separate company. I found Iris Johansen, Sandra Brown, etc... in the romance section. I finally realized that all female authors were stocked under 'Romance'. The section for male writers was under a sign that read 'Novels'. I'm talking about a huge, national retail chain. Does this supplier think that all female writers write romance? And if romances aren't novels, than what are they, tube socks?

  2. Actually, Sandra, I've noticed that here on the Gold Coast they tend to do the same thing. I guess guys read the REAL novels, huh?

  3. Hi Vonnie, I really enjoyed the post. The movie thrillers that still take up space in my psyche are The Manchurian Candidate, Rear Window and Tell No One.

    1. Rear Window for sure; I'd totally forgotten The Manchurian Candidate. Quite shocked that Sinatra could really ACT when he put his mind to it.

  4. Great post, Vonnie. Anything by Harlen Coben is a thriller. His books are so well written. I've read all of Karen Rose's books. She can keep you awake nights, listening to every sound.

    Not sure when the marketing folks will realize there are awesome women authors who write thrilers. Sad actually.

    1. I agree. I devour Karen Rose and Harlen Coben books whenever I can get my hands on them. My favorite Karen Rose is Don't Tell. Yup. Some great female thriller writers out there. Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Beverly Barton (rest her soul) etc. Some of course cross over to romantic suspense and maybe that's why booksellers see them as "romance." Hey, I seem to remember Alister MacLean and Desmond Bagley had the old obligatory love story threaded through their novels and nobody even uttered a peep.

  5. Love Lee Child. Good post, Vonnie. Well written and interesting.
    Emma Lane

  6. Good blog, Vonnie, thank you. I think there is a blur now about where a suspense becomes a thriller. That's a great but, in a way, scary observation that Sandra D made. It makes me want to check out the 3 bookstores that are all that remain of the-used to be plethora-of bookstores, in my nearest city of Aberdeen (scotland).

  7. Enjoyed your blog, Vonnie. I've read quite a few of the books on your list but haven't read anything by Lee Child which I'm told is a must read in the thriller genre. Now, I'm intrigued so I'll be looking for his books on my next trip to the library.

    1. Katherine, you'll love Lee Child's hero who is called Jack Reacher. Think Sean Bean...

  8. Just finished reading J. Thomas Shaw's latest political thriller, "The Rx Factor. " I have been searching around all night trying to find something that would even compare to this spectacular book. Can't wait to check out some of the books suggested here. Thanks!

  9. Hi Vonnie

    I enjoyed the post. Thanks.

    By the way, my novel is called "The Geneva Connection". You have a small typo in the title above.



    1. Sorry Martin. Connection not Convention. For some reason I've always thought it was Convention. Mea culpa.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Here's a link to the author's site for The RX Factor (sorry, my previous link did not work)

  12. Great post Vonnie, love Harlan Coben. Thrillers and romantic suspense are genres which just keep going on and on, they never seem to date. The original 39 Steps with Robert Donat is one of my favourite films!

  13. I've just finished a novel by Tana French, an Irish crime/thriller writer. Couldn't put it down. In the Woods.

  14. Hi Vonnie, my husband loves Lee Child. I enjoy Nicci French's novels. The lines are often blurred mixing mystery/romantic suspense/thriller/police procedural. I know I've just written one which seems to have elements of all these.

  15. I'm not sure what you'd classify PD James's Death Comes to Pemberley. I enjoyed it but what was really interesting was that it was so polarising when it came to how much her fans enjoyed it: Dozens of one-star reviews as opposed to dozens of 5-star reviews.

  16. Thrillers
    When the victim of a corporate scam finds himself deep in hostile Africa, his discovery of a rare-earth mineral sparks a chase for evil riches; greed and lust must be overcome to keep an arcane tribal secret from revelation.

    The catalyst is a corporate fraud. An innocent man on the run where danger of every kind lurks – and where brutal love joins a pair of fugitives in a quest to hide a shocking discovery from being exposed to corruption and greed.
    An exciting thriller with lots of twists and turns in a forbidding landscape.

  17. Well now, if the last commenter had left us a link to this book, it would be helpful!