Sponsored by Flatiron Books
My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
- I’m in a coma.
- My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
- Sometimes I lie.
Slow-Burn Suspense Reimagines the Donner Party (TW: child death/ suicide/ rape–including incestual)
The Hunger by Alma Katsu: An eerie, suspenseful reimagining of the already horrifying historical event of the Donner-Reed Party and their wagon train trek in 1846 heading to California. Katsu brilliantly fleshed out the fictional characters on their fateful trek while also giving some flashbacks to how and why they’d decided to join this ill-fated journey. I found it smart and interesting and now want to go play (i.e. die in) the Oregon Trail game. (Kirsten Potter does a fantastic narration on the audiobook!)
If You Wake Up Next To a Murdered Man Did You Do It?! (TW: date rape)
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian: Cassie Bowden is a flight attendant. An alcoholic. A woman who uses casual sex to get lost. But is she a murderer? This is what she needs to find out when she wakes up next to her murdered one-night stand in Dubai–dun dun dun! Told in alternating POV starting with Cassie, the suspense of what was going to happen and how had me glued to the audiobook.
The Echo Killing (Harper McClain #1) by Christi Daugherty (next on TBR)
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney (currently reading: told in then and now as a woman is in a coma but doesn’t know why.)
This is How it Ends by Eva Dolan (currently reading: told in then and now, woman in a room with a dead man but why/how?)
Hiroshima Boy (Mas Arai #7) by Naomi Hirahara (Mas returns to Japan for 1st time in 40+ years with friend’s ashes, starts looking into drowned boy’s case.)
AND Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh (TW: suicide/ domestic abuse) which Clare Mackintosh will be discussing in this interesting essay about her writing:
Nothing fascinates me more than the interplay of family relationships. The secrets we keep, the lies we tell, the history that influences today, tomorrow and beyond. Twelve years in the British police service was the perfect training ground for domestic thriller writing, and much of what I write now has its basis in truth. The motivations of a man who kills a stranger are often mundane – he wanted money, he lost his temper – but the reasons for murder closer to home are nuanced and varied. What turns love into hate? How could a parent kill a child, or a child a parent? Society conditions us to believe that blood is thicker than water, but one spills as easily as the other…
All my books centre around relationships in some way, because I find them inherently interesting. As someone fortunate enough to come from a safe, happy, secure family background, I’m intrigued by estranged siblings and warring parents. In my latest book, Let Me Lie, I wanted to explore the relationship between parent and grown-up-child. I wondered how a loving relationship might be affected in the aftermath of suicide, and specifically, how one might come to terms with parents who had chosen to end their lives. In Let Me Lie Anna has a new baby of her own, and is coming to terms with motherhood whilst still struggling to understand how her parents could have abandoned her. The underlying question is: can you still love someone if they hurt you? As a police officer I saw this played out in domestic abuse situations, where victims returned to abusive spouses again and again, because love was often stronger than fear or hate. The battle between these emotions forms part of Anna’s journey in Let Me Lie.
Relationships change over time, and I found it interesting to contrast a brand new relationship – that of Anna, and her therapist partner Mark – with one several decades old. Retired detective Murray Mackenzie has been with his wife Sarah since he graduated from police training college in his early twenties. Their relationship is solid and steadfast, but not without its challenges. Sarah has mental health issues that impact on them both, changing the way they live their lives. Just as Anna tries to love her parents despite their final act, so Murray loves his wife despite of – and occasionally because of – her illness.
Writing about such everyday characters does not at first glance appear to lend itself to the psychological thriller genre, but I am not alone in choosing to set my books in the domestic arena. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca – the tale of a young bride unsettled by the ever-present memory of her husband’s dead wife – is the perfect suspense-filled thriller, and Agatha Christie was the mistress of the genre. More recently, Paula Hawkins’ global hit The Girl on the Train put the mundane world of commuter trains front and centre, and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door is as pedestrian a setting as the title suggests. Far from deterring thrill-seekers, it is precisely the normality of these settings and characters that appeals. They are plausible, familiar, relatable; there is nothing more (brilliantly) disturbing than the realisation that what’s happening between the pages could happen to you.
Not for me the secret agent with a briefcase of gadgets, or the special powers of a superhero. My literary heros are everyday men and women, their strengths tested to the full. Ordinary people, in extraordinary situations. What could be more suspenseful than that? —Clare Mackintosh