Why I Like Suspense Novels

I recently read Joan Hall Hovey’s novel Chill Waters and it made me think of what it is about suspense novels that I like.

Why do I enjoy this stressful, sitting on the edge of my seat, my heart pumping with fear activity?  

Ok. Chill Waters, to be fair, is not all suspense. There’s the intriguing plot, and interesting smart female protagonist. There’s romance as well. But there’s a murderer to discover which I find stimulating – like intellectual exercise for my brain. I want to figure out the ending of the novel before I read it. There’s a great satisfaction when that happens.

Also, suspense novels, in particular, deal with a sense of justice. Rationally, I know that good will prevail. That’s the way these novels work. Yet, on a visceral level the concern is not so much that good will prevail but how. And, it is in Chill Waters protagonist’s chilling situation that the thrill took over and I found my heart rate rising casting rationality aside. Joan Hall Hovey has the skill to play on the readers’ emotions with her Hitchcockian imagination.

I have to admit that I had not figured out the true identity of the murderer but that no longer mattered as I’d already taken the thrilling, satisfying ride.

20 thoughts on “Why I Like Suspense Novels

  1. You’ve outlined some good reasons for which crime and suspense novels are so appealing, Carol. I think we do have an inner desire to impose order on our world, so that it makes sense. And that, to me, includes that sense of justice (whatever that may mean in a given situation) prevails. And I know what you mean about the intellectual challenge, too – I like that, myself.

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  2. Thank you for sharing, Carol. While in college I read mostly true crime and suspense novels. These days, I see nothing but crime at my day job, so I need my happy endings when reading. 🙂


    • I understand what you’re saying, Jill. When i retired from teaching criminology and supervising students in prisons, youth centers and half way homes I didn’t want anything to do with crime. All i wanted to watch on TV were comedies and light stuff. But as the years went by, I slowly came back to writing and reading about crime. I guess I needed the distance. Have a great weekend. xxx

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  3. Interesting what Jill said about happy endings. We all love a happy ending, but in real life, that doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. More often we get the kind of ending we have in Dr Zhivago. But there’s no harm in wishing for happiness. As for why we love suspense, I don’t know the answer to that, but I feel the same as you do, Carol. I love the suspense and guessing at what might happen.

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    • Ah, Jacqui whether the book is a suspense novel, a romance or a survival novel like yours are we the readers all want a happy ending. That’s another interesting topic for discussion: why do we want the novels we read to have happy endings when we know, as Anneli commented, it doesn’t happen in real life.


  4. I enjoy suspense novels for the same reasons. I definitely want some resolution at the end, preferably justice being served. I listen to a true crime podcast and often find myself disheartened by the reality of cold cases, missing persons never found. Fiction can be an escape from that.

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    • Yes, Marie…fiction is an escape at times from the harsh reality. I was listening yesterday to a true crime podcast of a case that was ten years old and how the journalist was so saddened that he and his partner weren’t able to resolve the case, especially for the family of the victim. Crime novels offer a hope for justice. Thanks for your comment, Marie.

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  5. Carol, excellent reflections on thrillers, why they are so captivating. I’m often torn between wanting to guess the murderer as well as wanting to be surprised! Seems it was the latter for you here. Chill Waters seems superb and the author must be beaming with your praise of ‘Joan Hall Hovey has the skill to play on the readers’ emotions with her Hitchcockian imagination.’

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  6. What a wonderfully introspective question! For me it’s the unexpected twist(s) that often happen near the end that create the “I did NOT see that coming” surprising thrill from the safety of my couch 🙂

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