Friday, 29 June 2012

Killer Thrillers

 Killer Thrillers
Murder, the TV and film industry would have us believe, is common and frequented by dastardly criminal types and . The truth, happily, is that in real life, it is not as frequent as it might seem. As we all know, murderers inhabit the pages of whodunits and mystery novels like the opening night of a big screen blockbuster! The best example in English TV is the small quiet leafy village of Midsommer where murders – usually more than one - happen every week! The focus of these plots is the hero/heroine (usually a clever detective) who solves the murder and catches the killer.
In thrillers, unlike mystery and ‘whodunit’s’, a murder is often not the main plot line. But a killing will often serve to raise the stakes for the hero/heroine i.e. a woman desperate to save her child (and the rest of the world maybe) has to accept the kidnappers mean business when another child is found murdered. In a race against time, Killings along the way may be viewed as acceptable losses. Some murders are even inconsequential – strange though it may seem. For instance the multitude of deaths in war stories, blockbuster disasters and action movies.
The best thrillers, though, often have a murder somewhere in them, even if it is only a bit player (e.g. The Da Vinci Code and other search/quest thrillers). A murder lifts the story from ‘so so’ to an elevated level where more important characters are under threat. The tension and anxiety for the reader thus ratchets up a level. This, of course, is where thrillers come into their own for they are all about rising tension and cliff hangers at a mile a minute speed.
In one of my books (The Witcheye Gene) the killing actually starts in the prologue - another familiar way to show the true nature of what the hero is up against.
So do you need to show the actual murder in graphic detail or not? Depends is my answer – if we want the reader to feel worried or scared for the hero then yes. But maybe a few choice details will suffice rather than a blow by blow account. I also think it is more about showing what kind of person the protagonist is (and how his character connects to the story) than the actual deed.  However no one is truly all evil – except maybe the devil himself - so a fully rounded villain also needs some redeeming qualities. Many of the best known villains murder ruthlessly and without compunction yet they love their mother/animals/children! In fact, I believe it is these very human traits mixed with the very worst traits that fascinate us so much. And that is why the best known fictional villains/murderers stay with us for a long time. They could so easily have been just like us!
Murder for murder’s sake should never be introduced into a story just to spice it up but a well placed, well developed villain/protagonist who murders,horrifies us and that can certainly rev a tale up into top gear!
Who is your favourite murderer/villain in the most well known fiction?



  1. Hmm! Tough question. Hannibel Lector? Erudite, great taste (ha!).

  2. I think the creepiest ones are the ones you don't see coming like in Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects!

  3. When the victim of a corporate scam finds himself deep in hostile Africa, his discovery of a rare-earth mineral sparks a chase for evil riches; greed and lust must be overcome to keep an arcane tribal secret from revelation.

    The catalyst is a corporate fraud. An innocent man on the run where danger of every kind lurks – and where brutal love joins a pair of fugitives in a quest to hide a shocking discovery from being exposed to corruption and greed.
    An exciting thriller with lots of twists and turns in a forbidding landscape.