Beyond Bestsellers: Suspense

by Denise D. 

It’s March! That means daffodils, college basketball, and spring.  For those participating in our Beyond Bestsellers community reading challenge, March means a new theme. (Check out Jocelyn’s January blog if you need a refresher on how to participate in Beyond Bestsellers.) What’s our theme for March?


Wait! Who’s that reading over your shoulder?… 

No, your other shoulder….

Oh, is that just a shadow?…

Sorry, I could have sworn I saw something….

It’s probably all in my head….

Anyway, as I was saying…March is all about Suspense!

Roller Coaster Reads

What makes a suspense novel? At it’s most basic, suspense is all about a sense of unease and peril. The reader is glued to the book, quickly turning the pages to see if everything is going to be okay.

Why do we like suspense? Probably the same reason we flock to amusement parks and stand in long lines to ride roller coasters… the adrenaline of knowing danger is imminent, uncertainty about what twists are coming, breathless speed of action, all encased in the safety of a fictional world.

A Ride for Every Taste

Dwell in the character’s head

Suspense comes in a wide variety of styles. My personal favorite is psychological suspense because of its focus on character and atmosphere. The tension in psychological fiction is very intimate, with the unease coming from within in the character’s own mind or the minds of those close to her.

These stories often feature plot twists, unreliable narrators, multiple perspectives, flashbacks and other literary devices that keep you hungrily turning the page to find out what is real and what is illusion. Gillian Flynn, Ruth WarePatricia Highsmith, S.J. Bolton, and Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine are just a few of the masters of this genre.

Jump into the thrilling world of action

Whereas psychological suspense is intimate, the realm of political, military and spy thrillers is international.

These are the tribulations of courageous heroes who may have a few skeletons in the closet, but are rather resolute in their patriotism and loyalty to a personal code of conduct.

Action usually fuels these adrenaline-filled tales rife with intrigue, conspiracies, and impending doom and devastation.

It takes two to tango in crime

Crime suspense straddles the middle ground between the claustrophobic psychological interior and the expansive globetrotting setting of political thrillers.

Whereas mysteries involve solving puzzles to figure out who committed a crime, crime suspense is all about being in the action of preventing another crime. Tension, menace and frenzied pacing keep readers on the edge of their seat wondering what might happen.

Thrills are compounded when authors write from both the hero and villain’s perspectives, showing that crime takes two.

It’s all in a day’s work

Some thrillers tantalize readers with a detailed insider’s view of a profession, usually legal, medical or financial.

It’s good doctors, lawyers, and scientists against the bad guys in these insider thrillers.

Which one is for you?

Not sure what suspense is right for you? No worries! Just take this quiz and we’ll guide you.

No waiting… except for the suspense!

Want to immediately jump into the suspense? During the month of March, you can immediately download the following books from Overdrive:





Tags: ,


3 responses to “Beyond Bestsellers: Suspense”

  1. Lindsey A. says:

    I got psychological suspense and I’m not surprised. I love mind games in fiction. I’ve only scratched the surface of the genre since I’m relatively new to mystery and suspense, though, so I love all the suggestions. I think I might check out a Jennifer McMahon novel this month!

    • Denise D. says:

      Excellent! I can’t wait to hear how it goes! Psychological suspense is indeed my favorite suspense category, especially when it crosses over with crime suspense. The downside is staying up way past your bedtime– which I did last night, finishing The French Girl by Lexie Elliott. A decade after they graduated from Oxford, six classmates– some friends, some former lovers– are reunited under suspicion for murder when the body of a teen girl who went missing the day they left the farmhouse is found.

  2. Jackie P. says:

    I’m very interested in women spies at the moment, so it’s appropriate that I got the Rogue list.

Leave a reply (comments are moderated before posting)