Who can resist the lure of a domestic noir book, a style of psychological thriller that focuses on the dark side of intimate relationships? Novelist Julia Crouch coined the term in 2013 to describe her own books, calling them stories about unraveling, involving “the toxic marriage and its fallout.” As a psychologist who writes domestic noir style psychological thrillers, to me the phrase evokes the title of George Bach’s 1983 relationship guide, The Intimate Enemy.
In writing domestic noir thrillers like my latest domestic suspense novel, Suffer Little Children, I find it helpful to keep in mind these six psychological truths. I saw them play out time and again as a therapist, but writing my first domestic noir novel brought them to life.
- Domestic Noir is a “homegrown” genre born from women.
Unlike those popular psychological thrillers featuring assassins and serial killers as the baddies (like Silence of the Lambs), in domestic noir novels, the threat lies closer to – or often inside – home. The genre gets its juice from the ugly things that may lurk in our cellars – including hidden family secrets, lies, and betrayals. As crime novelist A.J. Waines aptly puts it, “The home is rife with buried secrets that come back to haunt us…home is the safest place to be – OR IS IT…?” Given the fact that violence is the most common cause of injury to women, domestic violence fiction stories have an underbelly that particularly resonates with female readers.
2. It’s very difficult to know how to break away from an abusive relationship.
Being the victim of a partner who controls the relationship through physical or emotional aggression feels shameful. You tell yourself things will get better, or that you’re partly to blame. And abusers are the most dangerous when the victim tries to walk away.
The list of Recent domestic noir novels bestsellers signaling fans with the words “girl, wife or couple” such as Gone Girl, The Wife Between Us, and The Couple Next Door, implies the relationship truths of this popular domestic noir category. Domestic psychological thrillers also abound in cinema, including classics like Gaslight, Midnight Lace, and Eyes Wide Shut.
3. A relationship may look great from the outside but carries an inside story.
Have you known a couple who seemed to have it all together and then stunned everyone by getting a divorce? There’s no knowing what goes on behind closed doors. In my new psychological thriller, Suffer Little Children, for instance, a fanatically devoted mother behaves very differently when nobody sees what she’s up to.
4. Relationships bring out the best and the worst in us.
To love is to become vulnerable. We’re emotionally exposed and deeply invested. We may act in ways that surprise ourselves and others. My protagonist in Suffer Little Children is a dedicated nurse who finds herself ready to violate medical ethics to protect the people she loves. You’ll have to read the book to discover whether she does. Click here to download a free first chapter. Even a young girl in the novel goes to extraordinary lengths to try and save a beloved friend.
5. We’re wired to hang in for an unlikely reward if we want it badly enough.
People buy lottery tickets and feed slot machines, even though the odds of a payoff are slim. If the reward is huge and improbable, it can pull us in like a tractor beam. Winning – in gambling or love – feels like fortune smiling on us. It may not seem logical or fair, but sporadic, unpredictable reinforcement is catnip. Maybe tomorrow…
6. No one is immune to domestic violence.
Domestic abuse cuts across all social, economic, and cultural categories. It’s not always a matter of smart women, foolish choices. We’re all human, capable of hurt and disappointment.
Domestic noir psychological thrillers are terrific escape reading about the truth in relationships. But the thrill comes from wondering, what if that happened to me…?
As a psychological thriller author, listening to patients’ stories over the years ultimately gave me knowledge and empathy for the strange, complex situations that go along with being human. To know that I can create convincing characters even if they’re warped is also part of this thrill.
Woo-hoo! It’s finally a reality! My upcoming psychological thriller Suffer Little Children is now officially available in both kindle and paperback (eek!) and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Take advantage NOW of a special sale for you: An ebook for only $2.99. Just click here!