The Next Chapter

Elisabeth de Mariaffi recommends 3 page-turning thrillers

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

This interview originally aired on March 23, 2019.

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, what's different. It's 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. Genre has opened up so much, especially for women writers and women screenwriters. I'm 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 male-dominated field. The story opens and we're 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. 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.

"The pacing is great. The dialogue is great, it's stylish. It's about comedy, so there's some laughs. Two weeks after I had put it down, I was still thinking about it. What I was thinking about was this 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 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. Frances is the original outsider. She's got a son with behavioural issues and she's worked 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 dark history that she alludes to, but doesn't feel comfortable narrating in the book. 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. In her previous life, one of them was the girlfriend of a murderer. It brings up a lot of these 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. 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 it might be fireworks or something like that.

"There's a big display of scarecrows that her son likes and As they're coming back to the scarecrows, she's thinking about how 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. Gin Phillips does this so well. She thinks that the wind has blown some of these scarecrows down. 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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