Thrillers shift focus to unhappy families

Thrillers shift focus to unhappy families

The domestic noir genre is moving its focus away from subjects such as toxic marriages into the realms of parents who are forced into extreme circumstances. While missing children have always been a stalwart of the genre, this year’s titles are exploring different angles, with teenage children and the impact of social media featuring more prominently. 

Piatkus’ superlead title for 2015 is Gilly Macmillan’s début, Burnt Paper Sky (August, £7.99). The book was acquired by Piatkus editorial director Emma Beswetherick from Nelle Andrew at Peters Fraser & Dunlop. Beswetherick only procures one title a year, and she said of the novel: “I think it’s the best psychological thriller I will ever publish.” 

Burnt Paper Sky opens with a mother letting her son run ahead to use the swings in a playground and arriving to find an empty, moving swing. Beswetherick said: “It’s not just about the police investigation, it’s about how the public turns on her for a mistake anyone could make.” The book features blog entries and newspaper comments as it explores the way the public responds to the parents’ mistake. 

Macmillan’s lead thriller is The Bones of You by Debbie Howells (July, £12.99), which tells the story of an idyllic village torn apart by the violent death of a beloved 18-year-old. Editorial director Trisha Jackson, who acquired the book from Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group, said of the title: “I loved the idea of what goes on behind closed doors, the secrets that teenagers keep from their parents. The fascination with good mothers is interesting—the smugness of parents who think they’re doing everything right and then it all goes wrong.” 

Sam Eades, Macmillan’s head of crime and genre publicity, said: “There is a real appetite for thrillers that focus on families in peril as they explore our worst and yet believable nightmares.” 

Constable is also publishing a title focusing on a missing teenager, Half the World Away by Cath Staincliffe [pictured], due for release in June as a £19.99 hardback. In it the parents of a gap-year student are forced to travel to China after their daughter stops posting on her travel blog and the Chinese authorities refuse to admit anything has gone wrong. 

Eva Holland, the winner of Good Housekeeping’s 2014 novel writing competition, also focuses on a teenage daughter in her forthcoming The Daughter’s Secret (August, £12.99). The novel centres upon a mother who has to come to terms with the release from prison of a schoolteacher who had an affair with her daughter, who at the time was a pupil at his school. Laura Gerrard, editor at Orion fiction, said: “It plays into that fear of ordinary people being thrust into extraordinary circumstances and the repercussions of one action.” 

Transworld’s offering is Sharon Bolton’s Little Black Lies (July, £12.99), which examines a friendship that is torn apart when one woman’s sons are killed while in the care of her best friend. 

Sarah Adams, publishing director of crime and thrillers at Transworld, said: “These novels ask such provocative questions about what you would do to protect your family. For me, the allure is that they disturb everything that is familiar and safe to us.” 

Michael Joseph recently announced the acquisition of Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin, which it will publish in hardback in August. It tells of a mother’s distress as she suspects that her teenage daughter is being sent messages by the man who was jailed for attacking her when she was 17 years old.

March will see the release of Faber’s missing child thriller The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer (£12.99), as well as a literary thriller from Bloomsbury in which a high school student is harassed via social media, leading to her breakdown (Weightless by Sarah Bannan, £12.99).