Some years ago, I left my job as a corrections officer, working with inmates in a jail, to take care of my mother who was a victim of dementia. I knew the change would be challenging, but what I hadn’t considered was that I would miss the adrenalin rushes, common in my former position. Then I went to a thriller movie that was excitingly scary and kept my heart pounding to beat the band through much of the two hours. I left the theater happy, and a little surprised by that. I hadn’t thought of myself as an adrenalin junkie up to that time.
So if you find yourself craving a little excitement, sit down with a thriller. One that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In our everyday lives, very few of us are involved in thwarting assassination attempts or acts of terrorism. All the while, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys who would surely want to kill us. Thankfully. But a huge segment of the population likes to read about people who are.
What distinguishes a thriller from other mysteries? For the most part, they are fast-paced, action-packed stories where a smart, resourceful hero must stop an enemy and his or her evil plan without getting killed himself. They are often large scale crimes or plots such as mass murder, or over-throwing a government. But there are also thrillers where an innocent victim is dealing with a crazy person who is out to get them. The suspense drives the narrative, sometimes with ups and slight downs, sometimes with constant thrills. They maintain tension to the final climax when the protagonist defeats the antagonist.
According to Wikipedia, “Thrillers emphasize the puzzle aspect of the plot. There are clues and the reader/viewer should be able to determine the solution at about the same time as the main character. In thrillers the compelling questions isn’t necessarily who did it but whether the villian will be caught before committing another crime
“ . . . Usually, tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller the protagonist is faced with what seems to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful they face personal dilemas along the way forcing them to make sacrifice for others.”
There are any number of types of thrillers in the genre, including: psychological, spy, legal, crime, espionage, terrorism, military, mystery, medical, political, adventure, religious, historical, etc. They are set in small towns, large cities, on the seas, exotic islands, polar regions, desolate areas. Anywhere the author can spin a thrilling tale that keeps the reader engaged to the end.
Do you have any favorite thriller authors, or books you’ve enjoyed? Or, if you write thrillers, please tell us about them.
Christine Husom is the Second Wind author of the Winnebago Mystery Series. Her fourth book, The Noding Field Mystery will be released Fall, 2012.