Just browsing through my LibraryThing catalog I see Mo Hayder (Tokyo) and Lisa Unger (Beautiful Lies) that ought to qualify. Throw in Jenny Siler while you're at it, though I haven't put her in my catalog. (What's up with her these days? I really loved Iced.)
Women who write very successful thrillers (though they aren't ones I particularly enjoy) include Cody Mcfadyen and Lisa Gardner. Lisa Scottoline writes legal thrillers if you like that sort of thing. Oh, and there's Theresa Schwegel (dysfunctional cops) and Gayle Lynds (spies), M.J. Rose (sex)....
I think Sara Gran is unlike anyone in the market, in a wonderful way (Dope is terrific). I also like Val McDermid. Laura Lippman: is she thriller? Or mystery? Or suspense? Whatever. I enjoy her stuff, a lot.
Frankly, I'm not sure when a book goes from mystery to suspense to thriller. Some of Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky's earlier mysteries were certainly suspenseful and thrilling in the last few chapters. For that matter, a master like Ruth Rendell is often "thrilling" in her own way. And some workmanlike, old-school writers (Evelyn Piper comes to mind, with Bunny Lake is Missing and The Nanny) would certainly qualify as thriller penners.
And I don't like to slag anyone, but I would cite someone like Harlan Coben as a "thriller" writer whose stories are unnecessarily padded, resulting in something flabby and less than thrilling. But that's more a function of the modern publishing industry, where a successful author is writing to a predetermined, contract-dictated word count . (Frankly, nothing makes me madder than a talented writer who starts with a kickass premise, then meanders around for 60,000 overly discursive words and finally tacks a faux-"thrilling" ending on the whole mess. It's the opposite of thrill.)
The whole genre thing...it's hard for me to put my pudgy thumb on it. Which writers would you consider pure "thriller" writers? Maybe then I could come up with some distaff equivalents.
Thriller? Or is "suspense" enough? I'm not sure I know the difference. I'm not sure anyone does. But my favorite female suspense writer and favorite suspense writer are one and the same: Patricia Highsmith. Yes, her books were uneven. Yes, they grew a bit odd toward the end of her career. But go back to the 1950's and 1960's for such gems as Strangers On A Train, Talented Mr. Ripley, Suspension of Mercy, Those Who Walk Away, Two Faces of January, etc. I could list more. She's dark. She takes you deep inside the head of unusual and tortured people. You live with her characters and their quirks and anger and hatred. The endings can be wonderfully surprising and quite dark. Andrew Wilson just published a great biography of her, "Beautiful Shadow," which portrays her as the pure, true artist that she was. Highsmith...one of a kind.
Agree enthusiastically with the mentions of Patricia Highsmith, Val McDermid and Ruth Rendell (her darker psychological thrillers tend to be written under the name Barbara Vine). Also would suggest Denise Mina (Garnethill trilogy set in Glasgow)
Cody McFadyen is also excellent but he is male. Jenny Siler's latest book here in the UK was the Accidental American (2005) which here in the UK was written under the name of Alex Carr. I agree about Jan Burke and Zoe Sharp. I would however also add Meg Gardner to the mix as well.
I just posted a related question on my crimespace site:
I don't see any mention of Leslie Glass in the recent discussions (women writers, etc.). I happen to like her books quite a lot and think they are terrific police procedurals. They have a lot of suspense coupled with great character development, both within the books and from book to book. Any comments? Any other takers/fans of April Wu? I find these books to be thrillers- they have extreme suspense, clear psychological motivation and pathology, and time factors that make the difference between life and death. The rush to the end is a thrilling ride.
By the way, on the subject of women writers, I also have to say that I've only seen Steel Guitar mentioned once on this site, and no other work by Linda Barnes referred to anywhere (OK, I haven't done an exhaustive search). I find Carlotta C. to be entertaining, with an excellent cast of supporting characters. Again, these are stories that, at least in the latter third, approach the intensity of a thriller, even if they wouldn't be classified as such.
I must also add that all of this classification into genres and sub-genres can be very misleading. In particular, it helps wedge apart the genres from "straight literature" (whatever that is; it is just defined by the fact that it isn't labeled by a sub-genre). It may help some aspects of marketing to have an easy, one-word description of a book. It may also do a disservice the the author in the long run, cutting off potential connections with new groups of readers who don't realize the high quality of writing that the genres can provide. Crime fiction can be the best fiction! OK, c'est fine
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