In fiction, I can control the outcome. I can find the light in the darkness.
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My first and most important step in writing, choosing a theme, requires me to take a stand. Next, I clarify my unique perspective on those questions. Third, I ask what I want my readers to take away from this exploration. Throughout the process, I am open-minded—aware of and excited for surprising and joyful discoveries that may counter my original assumptions.
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I explore a wide range of themes in my work including moral ambiguity in our rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, guilt and redemption, the damage lies can inflict, and the effects of mental illness and domestic abuse on families. I marry these themes with characters to propel action. Catherine, the heroine of my novel, The Burial Society , is my braver, more badass avatar. Driven by haunting guilt and desperate for redemption, she devotes her life to providing safe, new lives for abused women and children, whistleblowers, threatened witnesses and the like.
But the beauty of my fictional world is that I can always shield her from the bullets, finding ways in which her smarts and skills can outwit the most dangerous weapon. These characters are not defined solely by their sexuality or gender identity, but instead these traits are facts of life for these characters the way they are for countless people.
Sometimes my process takes me places that surprise me.
This character reflects my deep respect for the men and women of that institution and their commitment to put the law of the land above personality and politics. This has been torture. It is a deep dive into the darkness of a human soul but unlike other serial killer noirs sitting on my shelves, this is real. And so much more chilling for that.
Ultimate Reading List: The Best Thriller Books
What a year! Two psychological thrillers really stood out for me this year. Their lives become increasingly entangled with devastating consequences. The novel begins with a young woman waking up after being washed up on a Greek island with no recollection of how she got there. The scene then switches to London where a young father reports his wife missing. What follows is a dark, multi-layered story that explores issues of motherhood, mental health and historic abuse with a deft but powerful touch. Jane Corry , author of Blood Sisters :.
It then goes on to describe his second marriage.
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- 1. Build anticipation for your scene’s most suspenseful incident.
The premise is riveting. I was so sad to learn of her death earlier this year when she was still comparatively young. However, Helen Dunmore has left a wonderful literary legacy. Howard Linskey , author of The Search :. DS Harri Jacobs walks the mean streets of Newcastle, always looking over her shoulder for the killer who left her for dead and has sworn to finish the job next time.
Jacobs is a complex, nuanced and refreshingly strong character with a finely tuned survival instinct but you might want to read this one with your doors and windows firmly locked! Helen Callaghan , author of Everything Is Lies :. Jake and Alice are newlyweds and as a present receive membership to something called the Pact, a secular club which promises to help couples keep their marriage together. I devoured this unique take on a dangerous, irrational cult. Emma Curtis , author of One Little Mistake :. My heart rate soared. The story belongs to struggling artist Scott Burroughs who accidentally becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the reputations and fortunes of influential people.
I loved it. Amy Lloyd , author of The Innocent Wife :. A smouldering noir set in the suffocating heat of Grace, Alabama, in a town that runs along the Red River. Great minds… All the Wicked Girls is totally engrossing. Rich characters, twisting plot and beautifully written. It stands out as my favourite crime book published in Simon Kernick , author of The Hanged Man :. My pick would have to be The Force by Don Winslow. A brilliantly written, totally authentic tour de force about corruption in the NYPD, and centring round three detectives in an elite squad, this book draws you in from the very first line.
It might be more than pages long but those pages turn very fast. However, this is far more than just a thriller.
Jo Jakeman , author of Sticks and Stones :. Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear is my pick of the year for many reasons. Not least because every single character matters. Optically subjective shots come to the fore here, as when Tommy witnesses the murder. Is this a bloodstain that will put Ross on the scent? Kellerson explains the stain as coming from a leak in the ceiling.
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Obediently Ross looks up and, to prolong the suspense, so does Mrs. Kellerson, apparently as apprehensive as we are. That extra shot of her nicely delays the reveal: there is a leak above them. In tune with the tendency to thicken the narrative texture, this POV dynamic reappears at other moments. Tommy sees his parents leave, and the reverse angle reveals that the Kellersons see them too, and so they know that Tommy is now unguarded. At the climax in the abandoned tenement, Tommy spots his father and the policeman outside.
So a movie called The Window begins, after a couple of establishing shots of Manhattan street life, with a shot of a window. This one has no special importance in the plot, but it announces the image that will recur throughout the movie. By shooting ordinary scenes through window frames, Tetzlaff reminds us that the locals live partly through those windows and the fire escapes outside.
Naturally enough, Kellerson plans to kill Tommy by having him tumble from the fire escape outside the window. He listens to their footsteps through his ceiling. Vertical space more generally is important at the very start of the film. At the very end, Kellerson has trapped Tommy on the broken rafter. The rooftop and rafter become part of another pattern, the circular one that rules the plot.
Starting the film there establishes the locale of the climactic chase, while creating parallel scenes of Tommy hiding. We even get to see the broken rafter early on, when Tommy is prowling around his playmates. The result is a pleasing, somewhat shocking symmetry of action: Tommy pretends to kill somebody at the start, and he succeeds in killing someone at the end.
The film offers a cluster of images that are recycled with variations, amplifying the basic story action through patterns of space and visual design. The drama of doubt involves a questioning of parental wisdom. Ed Woodry fails in his duty. Another convention, it seems, of the eyewitness film involves punishing the peeper.
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In Lady on a Train , Nicki has to brave a spooky house and risk death. Elaine of Shock suffers in the mental institution, and in Rear Window Jeff eventually falls from the very window that was his interface with the courtyard. Tommy, who acknowledges his inclination to tell whoppers, is subjected to a final burst of peril. The s eyewitness cycle laid out some options for future thrillers. Some passages are straight mimicry, albeit on a much smaller budget.
In recent decades filmmakers have revised the premise in ways typical of post- Pulp-Fiction Hollywood. Vantage Point multiplies the eyewitnesses and uses replays to conceal and eventually reveal information. The novel and the film recast the eyewitness schema by making the eyewitness unable to recall exactly what she saw, thanks to an alcoholic blackout. This uncertainty raises the possibility that the eyewitness is actually the killer.
With its goal-directed protagonist and trim four-part plot structure, The Window is a completely classical film. As often happens, a forgivably flawed character gains our sympathy by being treated unfairly but triumphs in the end. See Francis M. Nevins, Jr. There are doubtless many earlier eyewitness thrillers, which the indefatigable Mike Grost could tabulate.