Why Literary Suspense?


The genre question keeps raising its head. And once again, with marketing for book 2 of the Limbo Trilogy underway, and  the revamp of my author’s blog on WordPress I had to reconsider my options.

I’ve done a lot of ruminating on this topic. It’s all about different storytelling styles.

Thriller implies a fast-paced thrill ride with a climactic finale. Mystery gets going  after the crisis event. Suspense creates drama before the crisis event. These are of course simplistic categorisations and separations because there are overlaps – Mystery and Suspense are often two sides of the same coin – and many books straddle the divides.

I’ve had plenty of doubts – ‘Literary’ sounds so affected and irrelevant doesn’t it? – but I’ve moved away from ‘Thriller’ to ‘Mystery’, and finally settled on Literary Suspense for the Limbo Trilogy. That’s the term that will be used in marketing and promotional blurbs henceforth, including in the main tagline for my author’s website, because it seems to best accommodate the genre-bending style.

Suspense fiction focuses less on frenetic action scenes and more on letting readers wonder with a kind of suspenseful fascination how characters will respond to life-changing situations that are out of their control.

In the Limbo Trilogy dramatic events unfold in a hazardous world full of hidden peril. To engage with dark forces is to discover who one is. To be haunted by matters of the heart  is to be human.

The trilogy could of course just as easily (but inaccurately I now feel) be categorised as Mystery Suspense, or just Mystery, but the devil is in the detail, and by using the description ‘literary’ I hope that readers who enjoy the unpredictability of cross-genre fiction will be more likely to investigate books 1 (Lady Limbo), 2 and 3 of the Limbo Trilogy

But on Goodreads they keep it broad and accessible, and on that well read and popular site the Limbo Trilogy would best fall together with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – into the Mystery Thriller genre category.

It was Larsson’s brilliance that helped a vague story in my head fall into place one icy Winter as I waded through the whole trilogy in a Swiss ski hamlet. In my view he writes ‘Literary Suspense’; his trilogy crosses so many genre boundaries that it can hardly be pinned down and accused of using time-worn tropes. And across three books there is inevitably a change in mood and tempo and gravitas. I’ve seen it happen between books 1 (more mystery) and 2 (more suspense), and book 3 in the Limbo Trilogy is already just itself.

Some fantastic books on the Goodreads Mystery Thriller page with amazing covers!

The Limbo Trilogy will be in good company.

P.S. On Goodreads books featured as ‘Suspense’  appear to be more high-octane high-death-rate novels, for the hard-core thrill seekers. Literary suspense fiction is something more nuanced, more about character and growth than about climactic fire power finale.



Suspense is a combination of anticipation and uncertainty dealing with the obscurity of the future.

Research Source: Goodreads | Mystery Thriller Books 

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