Here is how the story begins:
I am running.
I am running through the moonlit woods, with branches ripping at my clothes and my feet catching in the snow-bowed bracken. Brambles slash at my hands,. My breath tears in my throat, It hurts, Everything hurts.
So begins the journey of Leonora who casually accepts the invitation to a “hen party.” An old friend she hasn’t seen in years is getting married. Why is she invited? She parted company with this “friend” many years ago, and it wasn't under the greatest of circumstances. Why is she being called now? Should she leave her comfortable but solitary existence in London to go to this party way out in the countryside? But her curiosity is piqued. The party is being held in a huge, modern glass-windowed house. Who wouldn’t be intrigued?
Persuaded by a mutual friend, she packs up and they drive there together.
After that, of course, the strange things start happening.
Two days later, she wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of the entire weekend. She can only piece together bits and pieces. The book deftly moves from past to present as Leonora puts together what happened to her.
Yes, I suppose these are pretty timeworn conventions in the psychological suspense genre—amnesia, old secrets, isolation (in this case, a deserted house in the woods), “ghosts” in the woods (whether real ghosts in the form of a horror novel, or in this case, the “ghosts” of past secrets), a storm, and of course a murder. The book is replete with quirky characters—the quirkiest is the friend who wants everything to be “perfect” and even when things are falling apart will go to to any lengths to make sure this is so.
These “conventions” are used over and over, and yet for beach reads, we never tire of them. Or, at least I never do. Bring on the amnesia and the Stephen King-like quirky characters!
Here’s a fascinating article in Psychology Today about why we enjoy reading suspense novels so much.
The author suggests that we like the intellectual challenge—the old “figuring out the mystery puzzle” but in a psychological suspense it’s more than just figuring out “whodunnit”, it’s coming up with why. It’s connecting past "ghosts" to present reality.
The article also suggests that these kinds of novels are usually so engrossing, so captivating, that “nothing else has a chance of sneaking into our minds, thus giving us a break from everyday worries.”
And with things the way they are in the world, I think we DO need this break. Agreed?
So, take the suggestions that I’ve offered over these past number of months, and enjoy your thrillers.
NEXT TIME: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda