Category Archives: Suspense

Suspense Subgenre Discussion

cover imageWe had a lively discussion of suspense fiction at the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable meeting in Carver last week. Thank you to Amy for hosting!

We talked about the chapter on suspense in Joyce Saricks’ book Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. (pp. 50-59); a Mystery.Net article by Janet L. Smith titled Mystery vs. Suspense Thriller Book Genres; and a handout on suspense created by two members of the venerable Chicago-area ARRT. We tried to focus less on trying to define suspense or deciding if it is a subgenre of mystery or not, and more on talking about about what characteristics we would expect a suspense story to have. We also talked about the terms “thriller” and “suspense” and what the differences might be between them.

Main characteristics of suspense:

  • Creates an atmosphere of tension and makes the reader feel tense
  • Puts a main character(s) that readers care about in jeopardy
  • Is more about what’s about to happen than about a crime that has already happened
  • Often – not always – gives the reader more information about what’s going on than the protagonist has
  • Usually has action taking place in contemporary setting over the course of a short period of time (a few days or weeks)

 The group members had a variety of responses to See Jane Run by Joy Fielding – a story about a woman suffering from hysterical amnesia – and whether it did or didn’t succeed in keeping the reader in suspense, making the reader care about Jane, and maintaining tension. Whitney suggested that a more recent novel, Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson, takes a similar premise and does it better. Amy noted too many errors related to the Boston setting that showed the author didn’t really know the area well. Others commented that the action was too slow to call See Jane Run a thriller. As with all older benchmark titles, See Jane Run – published in 1991 – may suffer in comparison to later books because what was shocking at the time is no longer, and what seemed new and different to readers then, no longer does.

See Jane Run shows up frequently on read-alike lists for Mary Higgins Clark, an author of suspense without graphic sex or violence, including this If You Like Mary Higgins Clark book list from Overbooked, which the group was referred to.

Everyone shared and discussed their second titles in the suspense subgenre. If you haven’t posted your second title annotation on the blog yet, there’s still time. The second titles from the Private Investigators meeting have been posted.

A recommended resource for our mystery genre study, in addition to the ones listed on the MLS Readers’ Advisory LibGuide is BookList’s recent Fall Into a Good Mystery 1-hour webinar. (To watch a BookList webinar for the first time, you may have to download and install Network Recording Player software.)

Update: The first submissions of second titles in the suspense subgenre have been posted. There’s still time to submit your second title; they will be added as they come in.


Next Meeting of SE-RART is December 3rd

cover imageThe next Southeastern MA Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Carver Public Library, 2 Meadowbrook Way, Carver.
We will be continuing with our year-long study of the mystery genre (which we started in October with the Private Investigators subgenre) with a discussion of the Suspense subgenre. Everyone attending should read the benchmark title – See Jane Run by Joy Fielding — as well as a second title in the Suspense subgenre. Participants should be prepared to talk about both the benchmark title and your second title in terms of Joyce Saricks’ appeal factors: story, characters, tone, style, and pace.
Registered participants will receive an email with links to info to read before the meeting. Last time, most had printed their own, so we will only have a few printed copies at the meetings, as well. This meeting, there will be a printed agenda! Also more time for discussion of the info read ahead of time, the subgenre in general, and the second titles, with a little less discussion of the specifics of the benchmark title.
If you’re looking for ideas for your second title in the Suspense subgenre, we’ve put some here. Just click on the Suspense tab.
This Southeast Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) is open to all library staff members in the southeastern Mass. area. You do not have to be doing reader’s advisory in your current position, as long as you have an interest in it!
Please register for the SE-RART on the Massachusetts Library System website. We plan to meet every other month, October through June — not always on Wednesday — so feel free to register for any that you can attend. You don’t have to commit to attending all of the meetings to join the group! All the 2014-5 dates are on the MLS Workshop Registration calendar and here on the blog.
The SE-RART group is still new, so we’re all learning as we go. Thank you to Amy from the Carver Public Library for hosting in December and to Miki Wolfe of the Sharon Public Library for offering to co-facilitate. Thank you to Kristi Chadwick for helping us launch the group!
We are still looking for libraries with meeting rooms that hold 15-25 people to host future meetings.
Don’t forget to register! Continue reading