Thursday, September 14, 2017

Unstable States: Reading Psychological Suspense

SUSPENSE (1946). Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 4 Aug 2017.
A tale that is more interested in the “why” rather than the sheer mechanics of “how”—and that is more attuned to what makes a soul damaged potentially beyond repair—falls under the large umbrella of psychological suspense. Crime can be at the forefront, but the chase for the criminal is often hamstrung by mental intricacies of the case, its perpetrator, and, often most prominently, its would-be solver. A murder is usually the inciting event, the big rock that hits the water, but in psychological suspense, when it’s done right, the focus is on the ripples that rock makes. Psychological suspense is a genre within crime fiction that can, and does, encompass myriad subgenres, making it difficult to classify definitively. Still, one thing is for sure: if the mental states of the characters contribute to the story—the more unstable the better—and the plot revolves around this delicate balance, chances are you’re reading psychological suspense. And you’re reading with the lights on.
~Jordan Foster, "Top Ten Writers of Psychological Suspense"

Why do we love to read genres like psychological suspense? The intricacy of the plot? The complex, often wounded characters? The moral ambiguity that often ends up being punished? The fact that these tales have a domestic aspect, often set in familiar places and locales, while amping up the tension?  Psychology Today suggests it's because of their "power to stir up intense emotion. Our brains release neurotransmitters like dopamine, and oxytocin when we are intensely emotional (intensely happy as well as scared, or horrified) and these can serve to consolidate memories, and even strengthen bonds between us and others sharing the same experience." Maybe it's just the fascination with other people's psyches - Jessica Ferri asserts on the Early Bird Books site, "There's no escaping your own mind," but maybe you can, a little, by digging deep into the minds of others.

Fans of mysteries and thrillers will have likely heard of Daphne du Maurier, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Sophie Hannah, Patricia Highsmith, and Ruth Rendell. But how about some of these less well known twisty tales?

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton

The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

Long Man by Amy Greene

Her by Harriet Lane

The Fall Guy by James Lasdun

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Alex by Pierre Lemaître

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson

The Iron Gates by Margaret Millar

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The Walls by Hollie Overton

Drowned by Therese Bohman

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Watching Edie by Camilla Way

The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich [eBook]

Refinery29 says "Once you've reached the end and all the secrets have spilled out, it's not always fun to go back and read them again. You need new mysteries to unravel — new plotlines and characters to make the hair on your neck stand on end." Have you ever re-read a suspense thriller, or do you agree with their assessment? Regardless, you can find many more twisty titles in the library catalog - for more books, try a subject search in the catalog using the terms "Psychological fiction" or "Suspense fiction." But be prepared - there are thousands of titles to sort through!

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