Psychological Suspense: Genre Characteristics

Posted on September 26, 2016

by April S

What Is Psychological Suspense?

Psychological Suspense is considered to be an Intellect Genre. Some works may also be cross-listed under Suspense, Thriller, Horror, Mystery and Psychological Fiction genres.

Characteristics of the Psychological Suspense Genre
  • Tangled or elaborately constructed plots are very common with this genre, which is why it appeals to the human intellect.
  • Storylines are layered with frequent twists, surprises and often unresolved endings.
  • Measured pacing with mental activity driving the stories as opposed to the more intense physical action common in traditional Suspense novels.
  • The tone is often chilling, edgy, disturbing, unsettling, moody, ominous and foreboding.
  • The writing style is often compelling, elegant and stylistic in nature.

“These suspenseful reads focus on the devious depths of the human mind. Characters explore the cunning (often disordered) psychological motivations of others — and question their own emotional stability (Novelist).”

Psychological Suspense fans enjoy the complex storylines or “edge of your seat” quality inherent in this popular genre. The focus is on building tension and uneasiness, which prompts fans to continue reading or watching to find out – what’s going to happen next? “Readers of Psychological Suspense appreciate dark stories with dark undertones (The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction by Joyce Saricks).” Many popular authors have dabbled in this field. If you’re interested in exploring this fascinating genre, try the following …

Recent Psychological Suspense Novels

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth BrundageFormats Available: Print | Large Print | eBook | eAudiobook“A beautifully written treat. . . . as much a disturbing portrait of family and town life as it is a provocative mystery.” (Elle)Arriving home to find his wife murdered and their toddler left alone, art history professor George Clare is targeted with suspicion by a relentless police officer as dark community secrets are revealed over a span of decades. By the author of A Stranger Like You.
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. ParisFormats Available: Print | Large Print | Audiobook | Pocket Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook“Paris grabs the reader from the beginning with a powerful and electrifying tale. Behind Closed Doors, a novel sure to make one’s skin crawl, also reveals no one truly knows what does go on behind closed doors.”(New York Journal of Books)The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie? Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.
I Let You Go by Clare MackintoshFormats Available: Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobookA novel with “an astonishing intensity that drags you in and never—ever—lets you go.” (Daily Mail, UK)Devastated by a hit-and-run accident that has ended the life of her young son, Jenna moves to the remote Welsh coast to search for healing while two dedicated policemen try to get to the bottom of the case.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Formats Available: Print | Audiobook | eBook

“Iain Reid fuses suspense with philosophy, psychology, and horror in his unsettling first novel…Capped with an ending that will shock and chill, this twisty tale invites multiple readings.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

A man and his girlfriend, on their way to a secluded farm, take an unexpected detour that leaves the woman stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape from the twisted manifestations that are haunting her.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly SeddonFormats Available: Print | eBook“An engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense.” (Amazon)In this novel of psychological suspense, a young journalist struggles to keep the demons of her alcoholism at bay as she finds her purpose again in tackling the mystery of a shocking headline-making crime, still unsolved after fifteen years.


The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth WareFormats Available: Print | Large Print | Audiobook | Pocket Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobookFrom New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware — this time, set at sea.In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for–and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.


Not new, but worth checking out …

The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsFormats Available: Print | Large Print | Audiobook | Pocket Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook“The #1 New York Times Bestseller, USA Today Book of the Year, soon to be a major motion picture. Nominated for the 2016 Holden-Crowther Book Award.” (Amazon)Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.


Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. WatsonFormats Available: Print | Large Print | Audiobook | eBook“Watson’s debut novel unwinds as a story that is both complicated and compellingly hypnotic. . . . Watson’s pitch–perfect writing propels the story to a frenzied climax that will haunt readers long after they’ve closed the cover on this remarkable book.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)An amnesiac attempts to reconstruct her past by keeping a journal and discovers the dangerous inconsistencies in the stories of her husband and her secret doctor. Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.


The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Formats Available: Print | Large Print | Audiobook | eBook

“A terrific suspense debut, reminiscent of Du Maurier’s Rebecca. I wish I had written it.” — Stephen King

Picking up Rex after a 10-year prison sentence for murder, Karen remembers the bohemian summer in 1990s London when their carefree romance and excesses became subject to a complicated family history and ended in violence.

Psychological Suspense fans may also like these Suspense/Thriller Movies
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