Thrillers and Killers: What Makes Us Keep Turning Pages?

Heart with splashes of red watercolor

(DGIwire)  Each year dozens of thriller novels, movies, and TV shows burst onto the scene, met with enthusiasm by loyal readers and audiences. Thrillers are typically defined by a few key elements: a fast-paced plot with lots of twists and turns, recognizable typecast characters (the hard-boiled detective/protagonist, the femme fatale, the villain), and of course, the inciting incident or crime. Perhaps a murder has been committed, or a person has gone missing. No matter how suave or interesting the protagonist/detective/cop may be, or how alluring our femme fatale, the character that usually sticks with audiences long after the credits roll, or the book has been closed, is invariably the villain.

From Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, to Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, villains have a way of stealing the spotlight from their well-meaning protagonist counterparts. In the case of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the protagonist and the villain are one in the same – not to mention the ruthless Lady Macbeth! They become the characters we love to hate even when their crimes are so gruesome and stomach-turning that we have to watch from behind splayed- out fingers as children do.

Have you ever wondered why so many of us are fascinated by these evil doers? Why do we actively seek out stories and characters that terrify us and even sometimes gross us out? For one thing, many fictional accounts of crimes are born out of real life horror stories. Some of the most notoriously evil serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Albert Fish have become so infamous that their horrific atrocities will go down in history and haunt people for years. It is no wonder, then, that authors Ellis, McCarthy, and Stephen King and dozens more have been inspired by their murderous acts.

However, today’s thrill-loving audiences are tired of the “same old” and are longing for a fresh, new take on the genre. Fortunately, that voice has arrived – and it comes to us from a respected surgeon.  Kelly Parsons, M.D. recently published his debut novel,  Doing Harmthe heart-pounding story of a hospital-based killer intent on playing a deadly game. Our protagonist is Dr. Steve Mitchell, a happily married man with two kids. He is in line for a coveted position at Boston’s University Hospital when his world goes awry. His over-reaching ambition causes him to botch a major surgery, and then another of his patients mysteriously dies. Steve’s nightmare goes from bad to worse when he learns that the mysterious death was no accident but rather the act of a sociopath for whom killing is more than a means to an end: it’s a game.

With its bold characters, fresh and inventive language, and a villain for the ages, Doing Harm might just be the perfect book to subvert your expectations of the thriller genre and keep you hanging on to every last word.  After you finish reading this book you will also be closer to an answer to why we all find this genre so fascinating:  the killer is never who you expect it to be, and even the most extreme sociopath or psychopath can appear as normal as the person next door!

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