I'm trying something totally new and writing an eco-thriller serial for the website of an ethnic museum/organization I'm connected with.

I'm more of a traditional mystery gal and my favorite reading tends to be in this subgenre. So I need some help from your thriller fans out there--do I need to show my nemesis doing his nasty deeds early in my story? Or can I slowly reveal his identity further into the story? I'm commissioned to write 12 installments, so I was thinking of at least introducing him in maybe the second or third installment, but not really showing how he's behind a food poisoning epidemic until much later.

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Good one! :) It could of course have been an old family axe that had great significance to the perpetrator. There's an opportunity here to delve into the past.
I can see a literary justification for building it slowly...but from a pragmatic POV, you're going to be dealing with editors who are looking for the bad guy/gal right up front.

This sounds like a slightly different proposition - an online serial - but I still think it's a good idea to put your bad guy in the first installment, even if he's not in the very first graf.
Really? I was thinking about "classic" thrillers I have read (which have a lot in common with "classic" mysteries") - the bad guy doesn't get revealed till very close to the end. GORKY PARK and THE MOSCOW CLUB are two examples (yes, I admit my reading is limited in this area). In the latter, especially, the protag is busy trying to save his own life while figuring out who killed his colleagues and is still after him.

Of course, those are two older examples. But more recent ones would include Julia Spencer-Fleming's "cozy-cum-thrillers." I think if it's well-done, depending on whether it was supposed to be a "whodunit" type thriller vs. a "howget'em" type, editors won't care where the bad guy shows up.
Like I.J. said, you can show what he's up to while maintaining some mystery about his identity. Maybe he has a nickname for himself, like "The Storyteller" in James Patterson's Mary, Mary. In that book, we get to see the dirty deeds from the villain's POV, but are still surprised by his identity in the end.
Hmm. None of the examples I mentioned do that (that I remember). Is it a new thing in the genre? Am I confusing my mysteries and thrillers to too great an extent?
If you're releasing the story in installments, you've got to hook your reader right away and leave them with a hook at the end. Some of the early film and radio serials were great at doing this. Anyway, I'd show the poisoning right away, but you don't have to explicitly point out that Suzie/Stevie Q is the nemesis until a bit later.
Thanks to you all for your comments. You've pushed me to consider putting the nemesis in the first installment. I think that I'll put him at the end, but make the specifics of his intentions, etc., a little mysterious.

To tell you the truth, I don't know if it's going to make a lick of sense (sorry, Vonnegut) because I'm going to be jumping in time and place. That's the beauty of this lickety-split serial writing. It's a nice complement to slow germination of the novel (I'm using six different POVs in that one with each character with her own alternating chapter--again, thanks for the advice).

I'll be posting details on the serial on my page in mid-September, so come visit if you're interested in what I come up with.
I don't think you need to reveal him, but I think you need to show him. And there are a lot of ways to do that. A car speeding from the scene that the protagonist loses in traffic, some hint as to his identity but not enough to figure it out.

At the very least I think there needs to be something showing him in the beginning. It sets the stage for the wider conflict between him and your protagonist.


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