Morals can sometimes be synonymous with ethics. Morals are defined as a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. Degeneration is defined as a decline or deterioration. Thus a degeneration in morals is simply a decline in a person’t standards of behavior or beliefs that determine what he or she will or will not do. And live with it.
In the best thriller novels there is always at least one character who is willing to do anything. Sometimes this decision is forced upon a character. Sometimes it is the nature of the character. Oftentimes readers learn of this flaw in character at a late point in the story and sometimes a morally deplete character enters the story on the first page. It’s all up to the author.
In “Gone Girl” the story opens with a missing woman and the reader is soon led to believe that this woman has been murdered. A reader has to stay with the story to learn of the complete lack of morality in the characters appearing throughout the pages of this novel. And this fact made “Gone Girl” one of the best thriller novels that I have read in a long time.
In “A Moving Screen” the story opens with a woman strapped to a table, completely paralyzed, in an abandoned house with no idea how she got that way. This woman knows that she is about to die. A horrible death. The killer is in the room with her and there is absolutely nothing that she can do. “It was certainly nothing she had dreamed for her future. She tried to cry out, but her lips would not open, her tongue would not move. Only a low, hoarse, unrecognizable grunt came through. She screamed inside.” The killer in the room with her lacks morals. He is completely morally degenerate.
The best thriller novels have a strategic portion of moral degeneration and that leads to their success.
Unpredictability Trumps Predictability in the Best Thriller Novels.
Predictability is not exciting. When someone or something reacts or acts in ways that are expected the need to anticipate is removed. The outcome is known because it is the same every time. However, when someone or something is unpredictable a degree of suspense, even anxiety is added to the circumstances. One readies oneself because the outcome is not known. It could be anything, ranging from rational to irrational; dangerous or safe; dark places or places filled with light; peace or turmoil; happiness or sadness; etc. etc. Who knows? And it is that tendency that makes the best thriller novels fit into that category.
A murderer is always a good source of unpredictability. The mere fact that a killer acts on his on impulses; when the fancy strikes he or she responds accordingly. Thus all spectators have no idea who the life-taker will choose as the next victim. Hence unpredictability. An author who sits down to write the best thriller novel will often add a murderer to the cast of characters.
In “Child 44” the victims are children. Innocent children struck down before they have a chance to dream of a future. The killings span over time and place which makes the killer hard to track. Add to that some interesting Russian history and an instant best-selling thriller novel was born. No one can predict when or where the killer will strike next.
In”A Moving Screen” the victims are women. Young, blonde, fun-loving women struck down before they have a chance to chase their dreams. The killings span over three years and different jurisdictions near Atlanta, Georgia which makes the killer hard to track. Add to this an eyewitness who has no idea what has been witnessed and an instant thriller novel was born. No one can predict when or where the killer will strike next.
Imagine driving down a dark road in the middle of nowhere. All around you are trees and
undergrowth that prevent a clear view of the side of the road. All of a sudden you have to jerk the steering wheel to the right because a sudden sharp curve appears, your speed is too fast and you almost lose control of the vehicle. As soon as you are in control another huge winding curve appears. No signs on the road indicates that these sharp curves are coming up. You slow down for your own safety. Maybe you begin to pray. Your heart is beating faster as you grip the steering wheel with both hands. You are on the edge of your seat. Suddenly a huge figure emerges from the left, coming across the road in front of you. You slam on the brakes!
The best thriller novels are just like that dark road in the middle of nowhere with all the sharp curves and obscured views of the roadside. They heighten your senses and put you on alert. If you want to make it through to the end, you have to be ready for anything.
Consider the novel “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk. In this novel two guys meet and decide that life is more fun fighting at night with bare hands. Not each other. Other guys. And the first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club. There’s a big surprise waiting for the reader at the end of this novel. A twist made this novel such a success that a screenplay was adapted by the same name and the movie’s star was none other than Brad Pitt. “Fight Club” has wonderful twists.
“A Moving Screen” also has a twist. One that no one is expecting. One has to read the book to find it. Just like that dark road with trees and undergrowth on both sides to obscure the view, “A Moving Screen” throws a curve just when the reader feels he or she has it all under control.
All the best thriller novels have twists and are full of the unexpected.
In a Thriller mindlessness is invaluable. A mindless character will do anything without thought or consideration for others. Even if the character has to feign insanity, he or she will carry out a designed program. Take the film “Shutter Island” as an example.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the movie as the main character, Teddy Daniels, who is a widower and U S Marshal. Also starring are Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow. Teddy is with his new partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) on a ferry boat to Shutter Island when the story begins. They are going to Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. The suspense begins when Teddy discovers that there is no way the patient could have escaped a locked cell under constant supervision. We learn the patient is there because she killed her children. As the story continues we soon discover that everything is not as it seems. Insanity is running rampant and the climax is a twist on mindlessness. We are left at the end wondering just who is crazy. This film was adapted from the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane.
In the novel, “Shutter Island” the author used a mindless character in a terrible situation to illustrate how such a character can create the suspense to keep a reader turning the page in a thriller. The reader continues to read, not knowing what to suspect and in the end he or she is left to create their own ending. In other words, the reader has to use his or her own astuteness to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. I loved this story! It has everything needed to make it a best thriller novel. And an interestingly suspenseful thriller movie.
In “A Moving Screen” the mindless character is Michael. Michael is a serial killer who seems completely rational. As the reader turns the pages, he or she discovers that Michael has put a lot of thought into what he does. He is a killer with a purpose and a plan. It’s just that the reader doesn’t know the plan until the end of the novel, when astuteness is once again called for. “A Moving Screen” has everything needed to rank it among the best thriller novels. In the best thriller movies mindlessness trumps astuteness in a character.
You may say to yourself “It depends.” I agree! In a marriage lying is not a good practice. And parents need their children to be honest. So where or when does a liar trump the truth? In a thriller!
“Lincoln Lawyer” is a film adapted from a novel by the same name. Written by Michael Connelly, the main character, Mickey Haller is a Los Angeles lawyer whose office is his Lincoln Town Car. He is chauffeured by his driver, Earl, played by Laurence Mason. Haller is a defense attorney and his one fear is that he will one day send an innocent man to jail. He knows that his clients lie and sometimes he advises them to take a plea when the evidence is insurmountable. Out of the blue he’s cast into the net of Louis Roulet; wealthy, handsome, boy-next-door appeal, and who vehemently claims that he is innocent. Someone is lying. Either the witnesses or Roulet. And there you have the beginning of the suspense that carries you all the way to the climax of the story, when the liar is revealed. This novel would never have been the same without the liars.
Michael Connelly created these characters to make “The Lincoln Lawyer” one of the best thriller novels. He used all of the necessary ingredients for a suspense thriller and for dessert he included a bold-faced liar. And that liar made all the difference.
In Kris Allis’s “A False Start,” one character lives a lie. This character, Orella Bookings, is an alcoholic who is guilty of a hit-and-run accident in which a woman is killed. Orella flees the scene of the crime and conveniently hides her car and all evidence of the crime and goes back to living her life as if nothing has happened. But this liar was needed. It is her hit-and-run that creates a way for the main character, Anissa Brogdon, to escape an abusive relationship. “A False Start” has all the necessary ingredients for a suspense thriller. And in this novel it is the liar that makes all the difference in the story. As in all of the best thriller novels, a good lie trumps the truth.
The dictionary defines a bully as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. Synonyms for a bully are a tyrant or an oppressor. Because of his very nature, a bully is an unwelcome person in any venue. His or her very presence spoils the fun. A bully requires that attention be paid to his or her every move in order to ward off all advances. Protective forces need to be in play when a bully is in the room. In short, most people despise bullies.
However, in the best thriller novels a bully needs to be present in order for the hero of the story to shine through. In John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” the bully is Curley, a man so mean and despicable that he didn’t rate a first and last name. Just Curley. This is a diminutive man who suffers from the “little man syndrome.” As a result, in his position as son of the boss, he feels that he can bully the employees. He especially enjoys bullying Lennie, a mentally challenged worker. Had Curley, the bully, been left out of “Of Mice and Men,” the novel would have lost its intensity. A bully’s actions trumped kindness in creating the suspense in this novel.
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael, the serial killer is a bully. He uses strength and power to subdue his victims so that he can kill them in an unimaginably horrible fashion. He roams cities in the metropolitan Atlanta area for different jurisdictions to dispose of his victims, in order to keep police in the dark. Dennis Cane is a detective who is a bully when it comes to tracking and convicting murderers. Without Dennis Michael would continue to escape justice. He makes it impossible for anyone to stop him. The reader instinctively hopes that Dennis will. Michael is the spark of suspense and thrill needed to make “A Moving Screen” fit the category of a best thriller novel. The fact that the lead detective is a bully on crime makes life difficult for the serial killer in this novel. Bullying trumps complacency!
A good crook is hard to find in the real world and they are usually unwelcome guests in any civilized gathering. Creating a fictional one is a challenge, but worthwhile in a thriller novel. In real life the crooks oftentimes end up in jail. Sometimes they flourish, committing the same crime over and over again with impunity. In a thriller novel it’s up to the author whether or not the crooked are punished. But, the crooked are a necessary evil for a good suspense story. It’s boring watching a straight arrow go through everyday life doing everything just the way he or she should. Excitement comes when we read about a character who can do just whatever he or she pleases. And to add icing to the cake; this crooked character could care less about who or what is hurt in the process. A good crook is extremely selfish. And in novels they are welcome in any setting because they are vital to story lines.
In Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” most readers came to love Vito and Michael Corleone. They broke the law in all kinds of ways from murder to money laundering. But they were such great characters. They made the novel worth reading. So much so that a film by the same name was adapted to a screenplay. At least once a month this film is shown on one of the many television channels that we all are privy to today. Had Vito and Michael been straight arrows, the book would never have been as popular. “The Godfather” is an epic thriller novel.
In “A Moving Screen” an unknown subject is at work. He kills women and leaves no traces for the police to follow. He is definitely crooked. And yet without him, the book would not be a thriller novel. The whole story centers around finding the identity of this killer and stopping him. This killer makes the novel worth reading. “A Moving Screen” has all the ingredients of a best thriller novel.
Both of these novels can be purchased on amazon.com
Deception is the art of trickery. The skill of pretense. Slyness. Deviousness. None of these words are positive. Deception is the most grievous to the person or persons who are its object. As human beings we rely on the truth, until we read a work of fiction. In the most popular book in print it is written: The truth shall make you free. And yet, when we read a good novel, it is deception that will keep us turning the pages. The power of deception is that when it’s done correctly, no one sees it coming until it’s too late. And we like that as readers. A fiction novel is based on imagination, we understand. But a fiction novel that is based on truth could be boring. We need that character who goes one way when we expect him or her to go another. And the character who deceives himself is always a winner.
The novel “Gone Girl” is a master work of deception. The reader begins the novel and is led to believe one thing. As the story continues, everything believed at first is suddenly challenged. To top it off the reader learns that the main character is a clever master of deceit. This leads to the conclusion that such a character can never and should never be trusted. Ironically, it’s impossible to put the book down. With so much deception and only a tad of truth, “Gone Girl” was so popular that it was made into a film by the same name. This story should make every person think twice about infidelity.
The novel “A Moving Screen” is also a master work of deception. The reader turns the page trying to figure out who exactly is Michael. He is hiding in plain sight and getting away with one murder after the other. Rarely do we meet a murderer in a novel and still not know him or her when we encounter them in other parts of the story. So it is with Michael. The deception is a vital part of the story. But that’s what makes a good thriller a best thriller. The effective use of deception. Truth means nothing to a reader who is turning page after page to reach a climax in the story. Readers cheer when they are deceived.
Deception trumps truth in all the best thriller novels.
Insanity is characterized by extreme foolishness or irrationality. It is the state of being seriously mentally ill. Most normal people do not aspire to insanity. We are a world of people who take pride in intellectual superiority. However, those of us who enjoy reading are thrilled to encounter an insane character in a novel. Insanity breeds suspense. By the sheer nature of its definition, insanity creates anxiety and fear. The insane person is powerful in that he or she can rule any situation due to a severe lack of rationality. And the worst part of all is that most verifiable insane persons look normal. As normal as you or I. And therein lies their competence. They have the ability to act anyway that they want, say what they want, and do what they want. It’s allowed and overlooked because they are insane.
“Alice in Wonderland”, known originally as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” was written in 1865 by Lewis Carrol, an English mathematician. This book is notably fantasy and it has become popular with children and adults throughout the years since published. But I would definitely put it on the shelf amongst thriller novels by virtue of its content. A child falls into a rabbit hole where she meets talking animals. One of whom is referred to as the “Mad Hatter.” He is not called mad because he’s angry, but rather because he’s insane. Now imagine the fear this child experienced right from the beginning. She’s stoned, (the rocks turn to cake and cause her to grow), she’s ridiculed and gawked at, and she’s far from home. And then comes the Queen of Hearts who shouts endlessly “Off with her head!” This story would not have been the same without these characters who bleed instability and lunacy. Insanity at its best rules this story, along with suspense and mystery. Numerous versions of this novel have been adapted to film. In fact, “Alice in Wonderland” may be in theaters where you live today, starring Johnny Depp.
“A Moving Screen,” is a story of a serial killer. One who is obviously irrational and demented based on the way he chooses to take the lives of his victims. And yet his methods and knowledge of forensics border on genius. The reader will soon realize that every move that Michael makes has been thought out carefully. Not only that, Michael relies on the help of a power greater than himself for success of his mission. He is extremely competent, for the police have no clues to his identity or that he really exists. Only one police officer, Dennis Cane, has noticed his killing spree that occurs twice a year. Unfortunately, Michael is insane. He has to be! But the story would not be the same without his presence. Once again insanity breeds suspense, anxiety, and fear. And it definitely rules in “A Moving Screen.”
The dictionary defines despicable as deserving of hatred and contempt. Strong words! In the best thriller novels there is always a despicable character or two roaming through the story wreaking havoc. They must be there! Their presence is mandated. They make the novel worth reading. We can’t wait to see them get their just rewards. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But readers need to loathe them. In the best thriller novels despicable characters trump the wimpy, timid, and pleasantly nice characters. They just do!
Consider Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” What would that story have been without Nurse Ratchett? We needed her. She was so deliciously heinous!
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael is contemptible. He needs to be stopped and punished in the worst way.