- Thriller novels have villains, suspense, and action in settings such as espionage, medicine, crime, politics, and high tech.
- They often involve life and death situations and have high stakes, like the control of the world or the possibility of widespread death or destruction.
- Many times innocent people are victimized, stalked, or caught in situations that are beyond their control.
- Characters have to overcome obstacles, either alone or with a small group of people, and stop some catastrophe from happening.
- Thrillers usually have a happy ending.
- Psychological thriller novels deal with people who are insane or disturbed. The emphasis is on the character as much or more than the plot. The inherent danger in a psychological thriller is mental rather than physical, and mental resources are needed to overcome obstacles.
- Mystery thriller books focus on the actions of a character as he tries to solve a crime by using clues and deduction. Sometimes the reader knows "who did it" at the beginning and follows the sleuth on his journey to unravel the truth. Other times, the reader does not know the perpetrator until the character does.
- Spy thriller novels deal with the world of espionage and the actions of secret agents.
- Sci-Fi Thrillers add the world of science fiction to the mix.
- Military thriller books are sometimes based on real war stories. Some good authors of this kind of thriller are: Paul Brickhill, Lee Child, and Stephen Hunter.
- An example of a spy thriller novel is The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré.
- An example of a sci-fi thriller novel is Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain.
The definition of a thriller novel is a novel that uses suspense, excitement, apprehension and exhilaration to tell a story.