Over the last few years, January has become Thriller Season. Publishers launch their twisty-turny tales when in the gloomiest darkest month of the year, then slowly excitement builds until by summer there’s a copy of that year’s crime hit in every airport departure lounge and by every pool. It worked last year with the smash hit Girl On The Train (soon to be a movie with Emily Blunt) and now everyone’s at it. So if you like your narrators unreliable, your families laden with dark secrets and your book covers monochrome then this is the month for you.
As the New Year approached, my TBR pile was overflowing with intriguing catchlines, books with ‘girl’ in the title and promises that this book would be every bit as exciting as Paula Hawkins’ novel which I remember last year was being promoted as every bit as exciting as Gone, Girl before it.
If you like your narrators unreliable and your families laden with dark secrets this is the month for you
For the reader, this is good news. Thrillers focus on plot, on strong, love-to-hate characters and juicy dark secrets – often the kind of situation that could happen to anyone. It’s a great formula but it’s also so easy to get wrong.
The problem is often in the twist. Flynn’s book set the trend for the jaw-dropping reveal and some authors seem to start writing the book with the twist in mind – then make their characters jump through all kinds of outlandish and increasingly unbelievable hoops to get there. I’m going to assume you’ve read Gone Girl here (if you haven’t, skip to the end of the paragraph) and argue that the ending of the book was colossally absurd. For starters, anyone who has had fertility treatment can tell you it ain’t that easy to get pregnant from one measly batch of home-frozen sperm.
Often the flaws are obvious as you read and doubt creeps in before the end as you think, that character would never do that, or hang on, where the hell did she get that gun from? But sometimes the author has done their job so well that you’re carried along by the page-turning writing and it’s not until after the book that you get that post-thriller hangover. The whole plot comes unravelled in your mind and the experience is ruined.
The good news is that there’s lots of strong contenders around this year (I’ve pictured a small selection here but there are many more.) I’ve had fun – well, sinister, spine-tingling fun – diving into them all and will be ready to share my reviews soon.
Happy dark and scary new year!