As a noun the word trump is most often used in card games. The trump is defined as a playing card chosen to rank above the others. As a verb it is defined as to surpass or outdo.
In a thriller novel, as in all novels, there is an antagonist. The antagonist is often referred to as the villain. For a thriller to succeed the villain must be someone that the reader loves to hate. So much hatred is built up for the villain that the only way the reader will be satisfied is if this hated one suffers a horrible fate. Thus in the best thriller novels hate trumps love. Allow me to give some examples.
In 1667 a novel entitled “Paradise Lost” was published. The villain in this novel is of course Satan. According to biblical history, Satan, a beautiful angel, was thrown out of heaven and since then he has walked to and fro looking for those he can destroy. Satan is fully deserving of hatred. Hate trumps love.
In Steig Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a man called Nils Bjurman is appointed guardian of Lisbeth Salander. Instead of caring for her needs, he rapes and sodomizes her, and refuses to give her the right to withdraw her own money unless she does what he demands. And what he demands is horrible. Lisbeth comes to hate him. When he gets what he deserves, readers are extremely happy. In Bjurman’s case, hate definitely trumped love.
In the novel “Phycho,” by Robert Bloch, Norman Bates is off his rocker. He spends time arguing with his mother, and he kills an unsuspecting woman who checks into his hotel. When the reader learns that Norman’s mother is dead and that he killed her, a sudden desire for vengeance is created. Norman hated his mother because she loved another man, and readers come to hate Norman because he is a psychotic killer. Hate trumps love.
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael has killed two women in June for the past three years. As the novel begins the reader witnesses his first kill. He gives no reason why he does what he does. And the way these women die is unmercifully horrific. The reader instantly hates Michael and turns page after page in anticipation of his making a mistake that leads to his capture. Once again, hate trumps love.