It is four months since I wrote a discussion post, which for me is just way too long! I guess that I have just been really busy lately, but I am excited for this one as I feel like I have plenty to say here. Discussion posts can be long, but they are also a lot of fun.
Anyone who reads domestic or psychological thrillers will know that they can be extremely hit and miss. When they are done well, they can be truly exhilarating and bring about heaps of tension and intrigue, but equally there are many that fall a little flat for a number of reasons. There is a very fine line between a great thriller and an average one.
It is not only fundamental elements such as the plot which I am going to talk about in this post, but also a handful of contextual factors that make thrillers what they are, so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons…
In my opinion, there is nothing better in a thriller than a twist that really turns everything on its head and leaves you just a little bit speechless. This only happens occasionally, but they are amazing moments that simply blow your mind.
Not every twist is quite so dramatic, but it is great to have an overriding sense of unpredictability that keeps you guessing on what might happen next, and there may also be some red herrings to catch you out. There have been some twists that have made me consider a book in a totally different light, or have been the difference between a four-star or a five-star read. Again, when done well, twists are what make a thriller special.
Multiple Narratives and Timelines
I really enjoy reading books containing multiple POVs and/or timelines! They add a great deal of extra perspective to the story and add an extra dimension to the plot, making it fascinating and complex. It also ensures a range of different voices, which adds variety and changes in tone.
Some of my favourite thrillers (and indeed books in other genres) have used this technique, a recent example being The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. I always enjoy trying to work out how two timelines or storylines are connected.
An unreliable narrator is not everyone’s cup of tea, but they can be highly intriguing for a whole number of reasons. They make you question absolutely everything, such as which characters to trust, who is telling the truth, or even if the events you are reading about are actually happening as they are described.
These kind of doubts persist all the way up to the end of the book, and they can richly pay off with a good resolution. The entire trope brings an extra layer of mystery and suspense that can make the story more addictive.
A vast majority of thrillers explore and confront some extremely powerful issues, sometimes shedding light on things that we might know or understand very little about. These include many aspects of life, such as mental health or social media.
Sometimes these themes can make for an unsettling read, but if they are represented strongly and authentically, they leave a considerable impact and are often one of the first things that come to mind when I think of a particular book.
Lack of Diversity
This is the thing that disappoints me most about thrillers in general. There is a chronic lack of diversity and that is simply not okay. For books with diverse representation, I almost always need to to turn to other genres, such as Fantasy, Young Adult, Contemporary, and even Historical Fiction.
Currently, the main characters or narrators in thrillers fit a very similar profile. White, middle class, heterosexual. Even in terms of supporting characters, you are often lucky to find many who do not fit within these categories.
The fact I hardly see a BAME and/or LGBTQIA+ character in thrillers has troubled me for a long time. Yes, many thrillers authors are white, middle class and heterosexual too and they may instinctively write about what they know, but really we need to see a major improvement on this front.
We all love a twist, but sometimes they can seem much too convenient for the sake of the plot. I am very sceptical when a twist turns out to be the most unlikely coincidence. It does not ruin the book, but it can certainly undermine its credibility and harm my overall thoughts.
One example was a book I recently read, The Guest List by Lucy Foley. There were lots of twists in that one towards the end, some of which were very good, but one or two veered into very far-fetched territory!
In most thrillers, the characters go through a lot. Some of the things that happen to them and their families are quite traumatic, but a lot of the time the ending feels too ideal, with everything wrapped up far too neatly and all problems resolved.
When this happens, it rarely feels believable in the context of the book. It is almost as if the events that we read about before had not really happened, or the characters had moved on incredibly quickly. This matters, because ultimately the ending can greatly affect your lasting impression of a book.
Lack of Content Warnings
This is a problem that exists across all genres: the fact that content warnings are not included in 99.9999% of published books.
It probably matters more in thrillers than a lot of other genres. Although there are a lot of powerful and hard-hitting themes, they are not ideal for every reader so I think it is essential that they can at least be prepared for the contents of a book beforehand.
That way, you can make the decision yourself if you would like to read it. Content warnings are NOT spoilers. It does not take much effort to include them in a book, and this issue applies greatly to thrillers.
That is everything! Do you agree with my thoughts? Are there any other pros and cons that you can think of? Let me know in the comments!