Murder, the TV and film industry would have us believe, is common and frequented by dastardly criminal types and . The truth, happily, is that in real life, it is not as frequent as it might seem. As we all know, murderers inhabit the pages of whodunits and mystery novels like the opening night of a big screen blockbuster! The best example in English TV is the small quiet leafy village of Midsommer where murders – usually more than one - happen every week! The focus of these plots is the hero/heroine (usually a clever detective) who solves the murder and catches the killer.
In thrillers, unlike mystery and ‘whodunit’s’, a murder is often not the main plot line. But a killing will often serve to raise the stakes for the hero/heroine i.e. a woman desperate to save her child (and the rest of the world maybe) has to accept the kidnappers mean business when another child is found murdered. In a race against time, Killings along the way may be viewed as acceptable losses. Some murders are even inconsequential – strange though it may seem. For instance the multitude of deaths in war stories, blockbuster disasters and action movies.
The best thrillers, though, often have a murder somewhere in them, even if it is only a bit player (e.g. The Da Vinci Code and other search/quest thrillers). A murder lifts the story from ‘so so’ to an elevated level where more important characters are under threat. The tension and anxiety for the reader thus ratchets up a level. This, of course, is where thrillers come into their own for they are all about rising tension and cliff hangers at a mile a minute speed.