Domestic what, you ask? If you loved Big Little Lies, or Gone Girl, you probably have been reading it without knowing it.
A crime sub-genre, on the rise thanks to best-selling phenomenon such as Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, and more recently The Couple Next Door, Domestic Noir tackles the seedy underbelly of life, where supposedly safe settings (marriage, schools, workplaces) become alien, unreliable places where danger lurks in shadows. It is within these murky depths that people shed their skin, unleash their passions and allow themselves to be vulnerable. This genre takes those simmering feelings, hiding behind closed doors and takes them to extremes. The family is a caldron of misbehaviour, a melting pot of fractured relationships.
It is not quite thriller, not quite crime, but, in my view, harbours the best elements of both. It is relationships under strain that reveal true character, and Domestic Noir is what I love to read, and write.
Thrillers depend on building tension to a climax, a crescendo of suspense within the story that has readers holding their breath, skipping ahead to the final reveal. Suburban gothics, marriage thrillers, chick noir – whatever label variation you chose – rely on the tension within relationships; stained, rotten and ruined by lies, deception, and varying levels of physical or psychological abuse. Violence, mistrust, unreliable narrators, twists and turns – drama at its best is the core of this sub-genre, which is exploding in the market with no signs of slowing.
Is it new? The label is, but perhaps it was always there, just without the fancy-schmancy name. It’s for those that love suspense, but without the often-dry, predictable police procedures and crime-scene tape. These stories challenge the idea that the murderous villain is a stranger, not the woman who just dropped your kids to school. The normality in the setting only heightens the tension, forming part of the facade that hides the dirty deeds.
Who didn’t finish Gone Girl, without feeling far more confident in your own marriage compared to that delightful pair?
There is extraordinary in the ordinary, fascination in exploring long-held beliefs about women’s role in the home, and it is these sub-plots that are woven into the best of Domestic Noir.
Is it for you?
Read a sample of Australian Domestic Noir here!