When we’re talking about good ol’ book reading, we readers all have our preferences for genre, style, and troupes. Those same plot devices or plot points that keep scratching a secret itch in our minds such as: locked room mysteries, witch cozy mysteries, or gritty FBI guy saves the day. These are all examples of popular plot points that readers gravitate toward when they’re picking up a book.
Some of my favorite troupes include:
Come on, if you didn’t know this, do you really read this blog at all?
Plots with serial killers have been my bread and butter since I was 11 and reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street series, particularly the Christmas, babysitter ones. Those ones stuck with me. Without a doubt, because of the memorable covers.
Some of my favorite books lately that make me ride hard for serial killers: You, NOS482, American Psycho, The Devil in the White City, and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.
People Trapped in a Remote Place
This troupe is kind of an off-shoot of a locked room mystery with the same similarities, i.e. characters can’t escape their fate because of weather, transportation, or being on a deserted island or a remote cabin in the woods. Either way, no matter the dire circumstances, each person has to grit through the terrifying, nightmarish realities that are about to befall them, simply because they have no other option.
These books tend to come with a side of sadism, I’ve always thought, and are particularly tense because you, as the reader, know the killer is one of those people on the page. Someone you’re getting to know intimately with every chapter–but you don’t know who it is yet.
Some of my recommendations for remote place mysteries are: Reckless Girls, The Hunting Party, An Unwanted Guest, One by One, and The Guest List.
Ah, The Talented Mr. Ripley or Single White Female category of books. A troupe where someone down on their luck decides to escape their circumstances by becoming someone else and taking on their identity. Craziness often ensues when the “villain” works their way almost imperceptibly into the protagonist’s life, bit by bit, taking on their clothing style, their friends, their family, and if they are super ambitious, murdering their once dear friend to consume their entire life.
These twisty books call out the crazy person from the word “go” and there is no questioning who did what, but a good author will keep you weirdly empathetic to the person who’s creating so much havoc. Their reasons are often relatable and sometimes it’s hard not to want to give them a nice hug and some cocoa.
Characters that took it too far include: Her Perfect Life, Always Remember, Just One Look, The Best Friend and The Wife
Okay, this troupe has skyrocketed in popularity since Gone Girl and continues to be a favorite among mystery and suspense readers because the plot device relies on a main character that for some reason or another can’t be trusted all the time.
Whether because of substance abuse, past trauma, or paranoia, these books delve deep into the psychological aspects of our main character and as readers, we know that their perspective is a little skewed. It leaves you hunting for puzzle pieces in the book. Questioning each new character and everything introduced from the character’s perspective, until you don’t know up from down.
Unreliable narrator novels that make my heart race: Fight Club, The Great Gatsby, The Silent Patient, Atonement, The Secret History, and Shutter Island.
Told Through Journal Entries
Books that are told in diary format have captured my attention since I was little because it’s an easier way to read through heavier subjects and feel a direct line to our main character’s empathy. Shorter chapters mean higher readability. And more instances for plot twists that make you keep turning the pages.
One of my most beloved journal entry horror thriller is none other than Dracula, who sucks us into his world through the pages of Jonathan Harker’s diary entries as he befriends and gets dragged down into the hellish world of Count Dracula.
Other books written in diary form that will keep you flipping pages include: Go Ask Alice, The Blind Assassin, The Boy Next Door, Diary of a Compulsive Madness, and I Capture the Castle.
One Big Bad Through Multiple Books
Yes, I know this popular troupe is used in all kinds of genres, not only thriller, suspense, or mystery books. But having a popular series where there’s one antagonist who keeps worming their way out of the main character’s hands over and over again creates a specific kind of tension that ramps up our primordial prey drive.
We can’t wait to see that m’f-er caught and we’re going to keep reading until he or she is or get many, many papercuts on our fingers from turning pages or carpel tunnel in our wrists from clicking our e-readers. A strong, adversarial antagonist keeps us locked into the story. We need to know why their so elusive, what have they got that our hero or heroine’s can’t beat?
Some big bad series that make my heart race: Merry Gentry Series, Alex Cross Series, Sookie Stackhouse Series, Eve Duncan Series, Stephanie Plum Series, and Wicked Charms Series.
Have you read any of these books or do they tickle your fancy? Do you have any recommendations for me in these beloved troupes of mine? What are some of your favorite troupes?
Sound off in the comments below! Or be quiet and make me feel lonely, I guess?
Keep Reading Book Fam,