I don’t know if the problem lies with me, or if there is something really wrong with the thrillers being written these days. It doesn’t matter which one I pick up, they all tell the same story, over and over and over again. I have read so many books that essentially have the same plot, similar characters, and predictable twists. Now, I love reading Crime Thrillers, Mystery Thrillers as well as Domestic and Psychological Thrillers, but lately there has been a flood of such books, all selling the same thing.
The definition of a thriller novel is a book that is designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense (Merriam Webster). It is something that makes a reader want to know what is going to happen next and leaves them amazed with its unpredictability. By this definition, thrillers have been around since Homer’s Odyssey. Intrigue and suspense can be found in all types of stories, from fairy tales like Snow White and Red Riding Hood; to Shakespeare in Macbeth and Merchant Of Venice; to H. Rider Haggard with King Solomon’s Mines. The basic makeup of a thriller is the same, but over time it has branched out into many sub-categories making it more widely read than any other genre of books.
The most well-known type of thrillers have always been the Mystery Thrillers. Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, and many such writers were masters of this genre which continue to entertain readers even today. In the 1980s, writers like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon wrote about intrigue, crime and espionage, and were considered some of the best writers of thrillers. In early 1990s, John Grisham became a best-selling author by writing another type of thriller, the Legal Thriller which became an instant hit with readers.
All this time, it was widely accepted that this genre was mostly dominated by male writers who wrote for mostly a male audience, except for a few like Sidney Sheldon who appealed more to women. In the 2000s, with writers like Dan Brown and Jo Nesbo, who appealed to a wider audience, there was a visible shift in the narration styles of writers. Then came Stieg Larsson with his badass female protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, and things started changing for the genre known as the Thriller.
In 2012, came the success of Gone Girl, a thriller novel with a psychotic element, and before you knew it, people became aware of another genre of thrillers, the Psychological Thriller. Gone Girl was not the first of its kind, it was just more successful than the others. As a result of this success, other female writers began getting noticed and this genre became a constant presence in all bestselling fiction lists. And then came what always follows success – the Great Psychological Thriller Bandwagon!
I know I’m not an author, and I know I can never understand what they go through, and all that; but really, ORIGINALITY, people! There are only so many crazy females that the world can take. Not every female protagonist needs to be a certifiable murderess, or a crazy bitch; nor do they have to be depressed drunks. I like suspense and mystery and thrill and intrigue, but we’re back to where we were in the 1980s and 1990s with macho heroes doing their thing, and batshit crazy villains trying to take over the world; the same story being recycled again and again.
And please, please, PLEASE stop comparing each and every book to Gone Girl, already!!! I had decided not to read anything that compared itself to the book, to find that ALL the books have it mentioned somewhere in the reviews. To tell you the truth, there have been a couple of books that were decent on their own, but I disliked them on principle, because if they want to be compared to Gone Girl, then they deserve to be judged on that scale!
Same goes for the other trend of writing about domestic abuse. It really makes me mad when abuse is used as a prop in a book. Some books have portrayed such horrifying instances of domestic abuse that they leave you reeling and nauseous. I love those books. On the other hand, some writers take domestic abuse and use it as a tool for guaranteed success when it is glaringly obvious that they have no idea of what they are talking about. I HATE such books.
Going after commercial success rather than originality means that everyone loses out at the end, the reader, the writer and the genre. I’m a genuine devotee of the thriller genre, and I absolutely love the idea of a book that scares me yet I cannot put it down, a protagonist who I hate but cannot help sympathising with, and a setting that makes my hair stand and still I refuse to stop reading. All I want is a genuine story that doesn’t leave me with a feeling of having read it before!