The Next Chapter·Book List

Elisabeth de Mariaffi recommends 3 page-turning thrillers

The acclaimed author of Hysteria tells us why these recent thriller novels have stuck in her mind.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi recommends Gin Phillips's Fierce Kingdom, Amy Gentry's Last Woman Standing and more. (Knopf, Ayelet Tsabari, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

As a reader and a writer, Elisabeth de Mariaffi loves a novel where the stakes are high and the suspense builds.

After the success of her thriller novel Hysteria, de Mariaffi recommends three recent page-turners that will have you glued to your seats.

What makes an interesting thriller?

"I'm always looking to see what's being done now [in thrillers], what's different. I think it's just a question of the pacing. You can't beat a thriller for that propulsive page turn. I'm always interested to see who's doing what and how the form is being changed and what new things are being done within that genre. I think that genre has opened up so much, especially for women writers and women screenwriters. I'm so interested to see these new stories being told from a different perspective."

Last Woman Standing by Amy Gentry

Amy Gentry's Last Woman Standing focuses on the Austin comedy scene. (amygentryauthor.com, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

"It's the story of Dana Diaz who is an Austin-based stand-up comic. As you can imagine, comedy is a really male-dominated field. The story opens and we're actually in a club waiting for Dana to take the stage. We know that she grew up in Amarillo. She moved to Austin. She has a comedy career. She then went to L.A. with her lifelong best friend, a guy named Jason, who was not at any time her boyfriend. But, something goes wrong in L.A., and we don't know exactly what happened but we know that it caused enough conflict that she's now back in Austin performing at open mics again and quite keen to perform in some 'funniest person in Austin' competition.

"All the pacing is great. The dialogue is great, it's stylish. It's about comedy so there's some laughs and all of that stuff that we would expect from a thriller is there. Two weeks after I had put it down, I was still thinking about it and what I was thinking about was this sort of notion of who I am inclined to believe and why."

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

Her Pretty Face is a domestic thriller by Robyn Harding. (robynharding.com)

"This is about a friendship between two women in a really different milieu. Two outsiders in a world that's very familiar to lots of us, which is moms in the schoolyard. The story is told from a few different points of view, but we often come back to Frances Metcalfe, and Frances is the original outsider. She's got a son with behavioural issues and she's worked really hard to get him into this private school. She doesn't feel like she fits in with the other moms and she's got some kind of dark history that she alludes to, but doesn't feel comfortable narrating into the book. So we know that something went down in Frances's past that she's quite ashamed of, until she meets the other new mom, the other outsider, who is Kate Randolph.

"We know that Frances has a secret because she keeps saying, 'I have a secret.' What we find out halfway through the book is one of these women is not who she says she is. One of these women has, in fact, a very dark past and a different name. In her previous life, [one of them] was the girlfriend of a murderer... So it brings up a lot of these other questions around friendship."

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Philips

Fierce Kingdom is a thriller by Gin Phillips. (Ryane Rice/Knofp)

"The story opens at the zoo in the late afternoon with Joan and her four-year-old son. The zoo is one of the spots they go to all the time when kindergarten finishes at the end of the day. They're way back in the back corner of the zoo playing in a sandpit... Soon enough, it's time to go and she's a little bit worried that they're going to get locked in the zoo. She picks up her son and is so wrapped up in her own worries that she knows that she can hear a sound that is unfamiliar to her, but she thinks at first it might be fireworks or something like that

"There's a big display of scarecrows that her son really likes and, as they're coming back to the scarecrows, she's thinking about the fact that he likes them and maybe he'll get down and walk for while. All of a sudden she looks up and she has this great disconnect moment, and I think Gin Phillips does this so well, where she thinks that the wind has blown some of these scarecrows down. Then, she looks a little closer and she realizes that what's lying on the ground are not Scarecrow bodies. She looks up and there's a shooter."

Elisabeth de Mariaffi's comments have been edited for clarity and length.

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