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The Psychological Thriller


Over the decades, the definition of mystery fiction has broadened to include any story about a crime, whether it be a “cozy”, “noir”, or psychological thriller. These stories are often told through the viewpoint of psychologically stressed characters and incorporate elements of mystery, drama, action, and paranoia.

Like many modern examples of mystery subgenres, these stories emphasize character over plot. What makes them different, however, is that they may also reveal the identity of the criminal at or near the beginning. The suspense comes not from unraveling the mystery but from the fear of what the criminal will do next and whether they’ll be caught.

For example, Simon Brett’s A Shock to the System (1984) is about a hitherto law-abiding business manager’s revenge triggered by his being passed over for a promotion. My short story, “The Hunch” [The Dark Sire, Fall, 2021], a psychological thriller set in our time just outside New York City, is about a wife’s hunch that her husband has been unfaithful to her. More than a hunch, however, she needed to know. She explains:

I asked him to sit with me for a little quiet time before we had lunch.

He must have figured something was up, but he complied, sitting down at the table and lacing his fingers.

“I spoke to Linda after school yesterday.”

He looked at me, his head cocked, his eyes locked onto mine.

I waited.

He waited.

Neither of us was eager to break the silence.

Still, I had to find out. But I also had to be careful. I really didn’t know anything. And even if I did, I hoped I was wrong.

You’ll find many examples of this subgenre in film and in print. To find out more about “The Hunch”, just click here.


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