Friday, January 28, 2011


Lately I've been reading a lot of books labeled as thrillers and I'm beginning to wonder what exactly a thriller is?  I mean some authors are no-brainers: Vince Flynn, Nelson Demille, Tess Gerritsen.  These writers all create carefully crafted thrillers.  Each chapter is suspenseful in their own way.  But recently I've read a couple of books which were slow on the suspense.  In particular I'm speaking of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Now, I realize this is taboo to suggest this novel is anything but a remarkable feat of literature, but I'm 120 pages into this thing and so far I got nothing.  I mean nothing.

Will it get better?  Of course it will.  The entire world can't be duped into reading garbage.  I guess I'm under the assumption a thriller is supposed to capture you from the first page and maintain the suspense throughout the novel.  The above authors know how to accomplish that.  You don't have to go any farther than this month's winner of the strongest opening contest, Luke Romyn.  His novel The Dark Path not only opens strong, but remains tense throughout the book.

The lines are getting blurrier, however, because of the cross-pollination from political thrillers to medical thrillers to legal thrillers, but if it has the word thriller anywhere near the description of the book, please, please, get to the thrilling part.  I guess if it's supposed to be a literary book, then I read it with a different frame of mind.  I think we all read Catcher in the Rye with different expectations than we do Moby Dick.  Just don't label something a thriller unless you mean it.  I realize it sounds more titillating, but don't get our engines all revved up ,then spend a hundred pages telling us about the financial system in Sweden.  Sorry Stieg, I know you're looking down on me shaking your head, but this is not your fault.  
Am I wrong about this trend?  I don't know.  I think I'll pick up a Donovan Creed novel and get on the rollercoaster.  


  1. Some might suggest you are guilty of literary heresy. But, hey, I'm the girl who thinks Fight Club is a crappy movie. (Shhhh, because the first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club)

  2. Gary, I agree entirely, and I have spoken with several best-selling thriller writers who indicated the same sort of disappointment. Where's the hook? Certainly not up front.

  3. I gave up on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo about a hundred pages in as I was bored to tears. I don't know whether the late Larsson was a terrible writer, or perhaps his work just got translated badly. I can always bring myself to finish any book even if I'm not enjoying it, but this was completely unpalatable.

    I then went on to commit the cardinal sin of watching the film adaptation without having read the book, and realised that the literary phenomenon was essentially brutal misogynism disguised as feminism (which I missed entirely from the first hundred pages as Larsson hadn't started writing at that point, he was simply typing).

    Thriller? Certainly not. Foreign enough to make idiots feel intelligent? Maybe.