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What’s So Great About Psychological Thrillers?

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  • Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson book cover, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn book cover, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016
  • Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Image courtesy of Syndetics, 2016

Karissa, Clemens Mill & Hespeler | May 1, 2015

I do not like to be scared. No seriously, I’m one of those people who hides under the blanket during the scary scenes in Game of Thrones. So why have I suddenly become so hooked by the often terrifying genre of Psychological Thrillers? Who knows, but I’ve fallen into a dark hole and can barely find time to read anything else.

After reading so many of these novels in such a short period of time, I’ve noticed some interesting similarities. They often feature a marriage that has just passed the honeymoon stage, and almost always feature an unfaithful partner. Sometimes the woman. Sometimes the man. Throw in some gruesome murders, memory loss, a few kidnappings, and the occasional ghost, and you’ve got something truly terrifying. Psychological thrillers are mixing our realistic emotional fears with our irrational dreads. And it works.

The first one I read was Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. A woman wakes up every morning without the memory of the past 20+ years of her life. Who is this man in her bed? Can she trust her supposed “doctor” who insists on meeting in secret? What is she to make of her personal journal that starts with the words “Don’t Trust Ben?” This is the heart-pounding, disturbing version of 50 First Dates.

Next, after being prodded by the rest of the reading world, I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and yes it actually does somehow live up to the hype. Both main characters are so deeply unlikable, yet I couldn’t tear myself away. I was especially impressed by the sharp tone and writing style of this book – at some points the choice of wording surprised me as much as the plot twists.

Next came more mysteries featuring fascinating perspectives: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (from the perspective of an alcoholic), The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison (from the perspective of a psychotherapist), and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (from the perspective of a dementia patient). All so gripping that I whipped through them one week at a time.

Young Adult novels have also been producing some excellent mind-bending thrillers. I started with We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly lovey dovey cover image. This is a freaky book. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer series is also an excellent psychological rollercoaster, with a paranormal twist.

All in all – I think the reason I love psychological thrillers so much is because they remind me of my other favourite genre: Magic Realism. Both genres take ordinary situations and infuse them with extreme or impossible aspects. Both challenge and surprise my imagination. Both can keep me up all night frantically turning pages.

What do you love about Psychological Thrillers?