Featured Genre Friday: Psychological Suspense

December 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

stillmissingStill Missing by Chevy Stevens / Pub Date: May 2011 / 368 pgs.

Stevens’ debut novel has become  a benchmark of the psychological suspense genre, and with good reason: she does a great many things very, very well.  Annie O’Sullivan is a Realtor in her early thirties when she is abducted from an open house she is hosting.  Annie is brought deep into the woods, and over a year’s time, forced to endure various atrocities at the hands of a man she comes to know as “The Freak.”  The reader learns Annie’s story bit-by-bit as she reveals it to her therapist, so it’s clear from the start that Annie does eventually escape.  However, Stevens’ story unfolds in such an unsettling manner that there is no shortage of twists and uncertainty.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn / Pub Date: May 2009 / 368 pgs. dark_places_l

Flynn has recently garnered much attention for this summer’s best-seller, Gone Girl. (A review of that book is forthcoming!) After reading Gone Girl in one weekend, I immediately turned Flynn’s earlier books.  Dark Places does not disappoint, blending a compelling plot with the author’s signature prickly, damaged characters and powerful setting.  Libby Day was only 7 years old when her entire family, except for herself and her then-15-year-old brother, Ben, was murdered in their Kansas farmhouse in the mid-eighties.  Ben was flagged as the prime suspect and thrown in prison for life.  After 25 years of living off donations that poured in in the wake of her family’s murder, Libby must venture out of her hermetic existence.  She gets involved with a “murder club” in the hopes of selling her story to a group that debates the details of famous murder cases.  Libby also discovers a contingent of people convinced that Ben is innocent–and must finally face the truth of what really happened that night. Flynn’s setting (the desolate mid-western town/farmhouse) makes her story come alive. Libby is the quintessential unreliable narrator. As a small, terrified child on the night of her family’s murder, are her memories valid, or were they coerced by law enforcement? Flynn expertly paces her novel: the plot is revealed bit-by-bit, keeping the reader’s interest, and there are some very satisfying plot twists toward the end. As the title implies, the book is dark, dark dark….characters, tone, and setting. Very worth it, though, for readers who enjoy well-crafted suspense.

beforeigotosleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson / Pub Date: June 2011 / 368 pgs.

Speaking of unreliable narrators, this one may actually take the cake.   Christine Lucas wakes up every day with her mind erased of her memories.  (Kind of like the movie Memento.)  She has recently started seeing a new doctor who has encouraged her to start keeping a journal of her days, building her own history from scratch.  She wakes up every morning next to a strange man, and from her journal each day learns that this man is her husband, Ben.  But then she wakes up one morning and sees these words in her journal: “Don’t trust Ben.” From there, Watson takes his readers on an unpredictable journey as we discover, along with Christine, the keys her mysterious past.
Watson’s debut novel is highly anxiety-ridden, but incredibly interesting.  It certainly keeps you guessing.




Entry filed under: Genres, Suspense.

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

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