The popularity of the marriage thriller
By Paula Daly
Why has this new breed of psychological thrillers gripped the nation? To find the answer to that I think it’s worth asking why women read so much crime fiction in the first place. Put bluntly, we have an insatiable need to know. If someone throws themselves off a bridge, we need to know why. If we discover a friend’s spouse is having an affair, we’re desperate to know who with. Crime fiction (usually) presents us with a mystery, and we’re compelled to turn the pages to discover either who did it, or else why they did it.
We also love strong villains. I think this is why so many of us still enjoy children’s fiction too. We adore reading about a character battling insurmountable odds, someone who keeps going despite continuous attack from an appalling, but fascinating, villain.
But what if you were married to that villain?
What if you were that villain?
The domestic thriller has sprung up out of an urge to read about ourselves. When I started writing I wanted to write the book that wasn’t already on the shelves.
The men had long been writing about ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances. I’m thinking of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, and Douglas Kennedy. But the women novelists were mainly sticking to traditional crime: police procedurals, or mysteries. I wanted to know about women like me in extraordinary circumstances. What would I do if I found out I was married to a murderer? What might drive me to murder?
Combine those questions with the need to know about what goes on inside other people’s marriages, along with the trust/ lust dichotomy – when so much trust is invested in marriage, what happens when the animalistic, primitive emotion of lust takes over – and you have yourself a very interesting set up.
Or a whole new genre to play around with.
Of course, like all storytelling, none of this is really new. Shakespeare was said to be more interested in what happened after the wedding, and the balance of power within a relationship. How nice that four hundred years later we get to put ourselves in those roles, with all of our modern advantages, and see just how well we’ll fare.
Were you addicted to Gone Girl and love the suspense of marriage thrillers? Then we have 8 killer thrillers for you to read next: After Gone Girl