November 30, 2022
Five Reasons We Love Domestic Thrillers

Five Reasons We Love Domestic Thrillers

Why the domestic thriller genre impacts us so deeply
Maria Frankland

Domestic thrillers have long been shelved within the psychological thrillers section.  However, in recent years, runaway successes such as Gone Girl and Behind Closed Doors have allowed domestic thrillers to fly off that shelf, onto their own, to shine in their own glory. 

Once, when asked what we liked to read, the answer domestic thrillers would require further explanation… For example, they’re often set in the home, they revolve around a family or a relationship, etc, etc.  

 Nowadays, when we declare that this is our favorite genre, it’s often met with an ‘oooooh.  Me too!’

In no particular order of importance, here are five reasons why we love them so much.


1. We Love to Know.

Human beings are in essence, nosy.  We eavesdrop on stranger’s conversations, we glance through un-curtained, lit-up windows, and we can’t help but listen to a secret, or a bit of juicy gossip… and yes, if something really awful has happened, we’re compelled to look.  Yes rubber-neckers, I’m talking to you. (And me!)

Which is why we love domestic thrillers.  Not only are we invited into seemingly perfect homes, such as the beautiful home owned by Fi and Bram in Our House by Louise Candlish, we are also treated to being part of what’s going on in their relationships, hearts and minds.

The demise of the seemingly perfect life is a common trope in our genre and we’re treated to a ringside seat.


2. We Love to Relate.

 Domestic thrillers introduce characters we could know, and characters we could even be.  They also offer situations that could happen to any one of us.  Whilst we read, we can explore predicaments, whilst posing questions – what would I do if that happened to me?  How would I react?  The ‘what if’ is a central question at every twist and turn and as readers, we can draw comparisons between ourselves and the characters we are so emotionally invested in.

 The trope of ‘having in-laws from hell,’ as exemplified in Here to Stay by Mark Edwards, poses the aforementioned sorts of questions.  No matter how much you loved your spouse, could you stay in those circumstances?

 What goes hand in hand with this relatability is a sense of relief.  I defy anybody not to feel better about their own in-laws, no matter how turbulent the relationship, after reading Here to Stay. They will be almost saint-like in comparison!


 3. We Love To Feel. Really Feel.

 Ours is a genre that enables us to feel a broad spectrum of emotion.  Envy, love, fear, grief and hopelessness are examples of emotions which spring immediately to mind. Being scared to death for a character’s wellbeing, or weeping when it all goes horribly wrong are part and parcel of being a domestic thriller reader.  

The debut novel, The Edge by Lucy Goacher promises it will position us on this kind of ‘emotional edge’ from the title itself.  Then with the devastating loss that is revealed in the opening chapters, we are drawn into the main character’s gripping journey to uncover the truth, which is another popular trope.  We care, really care, and that is what keeps us turning the pages.


4. We Love To Predict The Twist. (Or At Least Think We Can!)

The twist.  What we spend the whole of the book trying to work out.  All the books mentioned so far contain a belter.  As readers, we’re dying to guess what the twist will be right from the start.  And whilst we might try to pick up on the author’s blind alleys and red herrings, really we don’t want to know. 

Then we need that twist to punch us right in the gut, and slap us around the face. It should make us reel.  But whilst, it should be revelatory, it should also have been expertly foreshadowed.  We want that sense of, oh yes, why didn’t I see that as we mentally review all that has gone before.

A novel where the twist is too obvious can be disappointing and a domestic thriller with no twist… well, we don’t want that!

5. We Love To Be Gripped.

A great domestic thriller should grab it’s reader by the throat from the very first page, and not let go until the end.  Whether that’s from the first line of chapter one, or the prologue is up for discussion.  Personally, I love a prologue in this genre – they often do an excellent job of foreshadowing a darker promise, especially when contrasted with a perception of perfection and normality in chapter one.

 Without us realising it, the author uses all sorts of tricks to keep us exactly where they want us.  Short sentences, short scenes, short chapters which cliffhang into the next.  How many times have you said, just one more chapter, only to be unable to put that damn book down!  This is what being gripped feels like! We might complain, but secretly we want disturbed sleep, to lose all track of time and to escape into a predicament we can abandon ourselves to.

We have to know what will happen.  We need to know what will happen.  We’re screaming at the characters to watch out or get out.  We care for them, deeply.  We’re trying to work out what makes the villain do what they do.  We want comeuppance, we want justice.  On some level, we want a happy ending, yet the intrigue comes from knowing that we’re unlikely to get one. And we can’t stop turning those pages. Every word sings for its supper, and an emphasis on what is happening drives us forward. 

Domestic thrillers are not the place for beautiful prose and scenic descriptions, they are the place where the author, drags us in, right into the heart of what is being said, done and felt. An awesome domestic thriller enables us to feel as though we are really there.  We are so connected, we could be one of the characters, whilst feeling all the thrills and chills from a place of safety.

Comments in book reviews such as ‘page turner’ and ‘I couldn’t put it down’ have become cliché in our genre but as readers, that’s exactly what we’re looking for in our reading.


What’s Not To Love?

Secret-sharing, relatable, emotive, gripping and with an-out-of-this-world twist. A great domestic thriller has all these attributes and many more.   No wonder there are so many book groups, both on and off line, offering space for plot discussions and book recommendation. 

It’s not surprising that authors in this genre are implored to write faster and release more books.  Our beloved genre is one which is exploding, not only in book form but on the screen too. I for one, am over the moon to be not only an avid reader of domestic thrillers, but a writer too.


About the Author


Maria Frankland is the author of a dozen domestic thriller novels.  She has a dubious internet search history and a very worried mother-in-law.

She loves to explore the darkness that can exist between people who are supposed to love each other from the safety of her fiction.

It intrigues her that the home, a place where we should feel at our safest, can be the place that poses the greatest danger.

You can join her ‘Keep in Touch’ list and receive a free novella by visiting or find out about her books by visiting 

maria domestic thriller author

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