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Feb 01

Why do women love thrillers?

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From the international bestseller The Girl on the Train to last year’s The Breakdown, the psychological thriller has become society’s favourite means of escape – and women have long made up the majority of readers. But their appetite for crime and suspense is no mystery, writes Rex Richards.

When it comes to literary thrill-seekers, women are at the front of the rollercoaster queue. But why the hunger for suspense when female characters are routinely killed off (or otherwise abused) at the hands of a male villain? To understand the attraction, let’s take a look at what makes a good thriller.

Lots of thrillers have the same basic plot: A beautiful young woman with the best years of her life ahead of her is brutally killed. Things go downhill from there until, finally, everything gets resolved at the end. Quite often, scary and perverted things happen in the interim, and in the most successful thrillers, there are insights into the killer’s mind that are just as chilling as the acts themselves.

I have to confess, in the new thriller I’ve written, The New Prophet, that’s exactly how it starts but not exactly how it ends. I see writing thrillers like baking a cake. There’s a basic recipe that it makes sense to follow, but why not sling in some chocolate too and maybe some chilli for a real surprise? Normally a thriller sets itself apart by the dreadful details of the killer’s acts. My book, The New Prophet is different to other thrillers because it’s also very funny in places, and full of social comment, taking serious digs at TV news and celeb culture. Of course, it’s got loads of suspense, amazing female characters and a seriously chilling bad guy who thinks he’s possessed by a living fire that tells him who to kill.

So, given the formula and the likelihood of a female victim, why are women so hungry for goosebumps? I think the obvious answer is because women are more creative thinkers than men. Men prefer to have things laid out for them, and see order restored. Women are more imaginative and artistic, and like to piece it all together themselves. In my book, The New Prophet, there are clues as to why the killer does what he does. I’ve written it in just such a way that your ingenious mind will start whirring early and wondering what the real truth about his childhood and background is.

Another reason is all the emotions. Women are generally more in touch with their emotions than men. The older men get, quite often the more rigid and closed-up they become, whereas women understand their emotions more as they travel through life. In my book, women can read the quiet despair behind my main character Jack’s life. Yes, he’s funny, but some men might just miss why he is that way; women will know. When there are moments of utterly concentrated experience, such as when The New Prophet kills his first victim, there’s an emotional intensity to it that some men might miss. Women won’t.

The final reason women love thrillers is because these twisted tales are so different to their own lives. Seeing the bad guy get away with something really naughty appeals to a side of all of us that wants to break the rules too. Who doesn’t want to escape from the monotonous routine of their day-to-day lives?

But it’s not just a spirit of rebellion that makes these stories so compelling. Reading about another woman coming to an unfortunate end plays on our own insecurities. We can lose ourselves in the intensity of it, imagine ourselves in that position, even wonder if the character deserved it, then we can come out the other side in one piece and back to our normal lives. Phew!

The New Prophet by Rex Richards is out now, priced £9.99 in paperback and £2.39 as a Kindle eBook. It is available for sale on Amazon UK

We have 3 copies of The New Prophet by Rex Richards to win. Just send you details to frostmagazine@gmail.com to enter.