‘Quiet’ has Good ‘Bones’ but Problems, too

I’ve expressed feelings about unreliable narrators before, but each new book using it seems to change my opinion just a little—usually for good but sometimes for bad. Unreliable narrators can be a huge boon or bust for a thriller. I’ve thought about it for a while now, and I’m not sure which the unreliable narratorContinue reading “‘Quiet’ has Good ‘Bones’ but Problems, too”

‘Upright’ Lets Characters be Themselves

A few months ago, I read and loved Anna North’s Outlawed so much that it made me give the side-eye to Sarah Gailey‘s Upright Women Wanted because the premises have so many similarities. Both feature fierce young women who chafe against the bleakly misogynistic Wild West backdrop to the degree that their lives are threatened.Continue reading “‘Upright’ Lets Characters be Themselves”

‘Spy’ Too Compelling to Put Down

Every good spy story has coded messages, secret info drops, tense crossings of international lines, sordid love affairs, stakes of life or death and the threat of world war, and a few good turncoats. Ben McIntire’s The Spy and the Traitor has that and more—and perhaps most notably, is nonfiction. Oleg Gordievsky is a goodContinue reading “‘Spy’ Too Compelling to Put Down”

‘The Survivors’ Doesn’t Need Murder to Succeed (but it has that, too)

There’s no shortage of mysteries and thrillers set in small towns. That was basically the bread and butter of Masterpiece: Mystery for decades (not that I’m complaining), to say nothing of the dozens of murders Jessica Fletcher solved singlehandedly in her twee little Cabot Cove. Despite the proliferation of cozy mysteries, it’s rare that theyContinue reading “‘The Survivors’ Doesn’t Need Murder to Succeed (but it has that, too)”

Hench Asks Tough Qs Between Explosions

Everyone loves a good superhero story, according to box office figures. I used to be obsessed with the lore, Marvel, DC, and those weird, discount characters in tights and capes that someone invented with the sole purpose of getting a slice of that sweet superhero pie—I’m looking at you, The Cape (though to be fair,Continue reading “Hench Asks Tough Qs Between Explosions”

Can’t Shake the Underworld in ‘Harlem’

Morally gray characters are a special breed of protagonists (or antagonists). Their actions are one thing, but the reasons creators give for those actions are often far more interesting. In the case of Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead keeps his main character’s reasons simple: money, and a racist social system set up against him. As easyContinue reading “Can’t Shake the Underworld in ‘Harlem’”

‘My Heart’ Cuts Like a ‘Chainsaw’

Typically the term “unflinching” is used when talking about works of Very Serious Fiction or Nonfiction (an even more serious genre than Very Serious Fiction), of which genre fiction like horror is not typically a part. But the more I read of Stephen Graham Jones’ work, the more I can’t get past that word asContinue reading “‘My Heart’ Cuts Like a ‘Chainsaw’”

‘Velvet Was the Night’ a Sizzling Noir

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s been at it for over six years, but I’m ashamed to admit she didn’t even appear on my radar until 2019’s Gods of Jade and Shadow (a historical fantasy) appeared on NPR’s Book Concierge. She got some well-deserved attention last year from readers and reviewers big and small with the release of MexicanContinue reading “‘Velvet Was the Night’ a Sizzling Noir”

From Tropes to Teen Survivors, ‘Final Girl’ Nods to Slashers

The happy ending of many horror movies, especially slashers, is that the one last main character (usually teen, female, conventionally attractive) walks away bruised and bloodied but alive while the killer dies a horrifically fitting death, often at the hands of the survivor. This happens so frequently, this character trope has a name: the finalContinue reading “From Tropes to Teen Survivors, ‘Final Girl’ Nods to Slashers”

Restraint Helps ‘Killers’ Avoid Exploitation

There are a few key ingredients to many a good thriller: domestic intrigue, large sums of money, poison, explosions, conspiracies, a sympathetic victim at the center, and a dedicated investigator determined to get to the bottom of it all. And a good twist or two. Can’t forget the twists. David Grann’s Killers of the Flower MoonContinue reading “Restraint Helps ‘Killers’ Avoid Exploitation”