For me, the most important element of any thriller will always be the main character and how they interact with other characters. The Silence of the Lambs would not be as great without its “quid pro quo” agreement between Clarice and Hannibal.
There has to be character interaction, and oftentimes the weirder the better. I love when enemies become allies, such as in If Tomorrow Comes. I’m all about character—in my own books as well as others.
3 words: court room scene. I love this book for exploring the relationship between sisters, that love and loyalty that endures no matter what. Plus, it's just incredibly satisfying to read. One sister returns from a horrifying captivity only to find that her twin has been living in a prison of her own making.
Another book that has to do with sisters, love and loyalty. Also, a couple of resourceful women who refuse to be beaten down or destroyed. Toss in a sinister villain and a side of revenge and you have a book that I devoured in one sitting.
A classic. Clarisse Starling evolves from waif to badass, and that change has little to do with Hannibal Lector or dreams of screaming lambs. Clarisse's metamorphosis is much like the moth that has become so connected with the book and movie. Her relentless pursuit of Buffalo Bill transforms her into a strong, capable agent.
Related: The Most Badass Women in Mystery & Thriller
More sisters, though not quite the same kind of relationship as in Baby Doll and Pretty Girls. Gillian Flynn presents a troubled heroine who self-harms and tosses her back into the world where she first adapted that coping mechanism. I'm a sucker for a messed up heroine. I'm also a sucker for terrifying teenage girls.
The first thriller I ever read. Oh, how I wanted to be Tracy—so smart and cunning, not to mention gorgeous and brave. She goes from being a patsy to taking on—and beating—the mafia to controlling her own destiny as a con artist and thief. She even gets the guy. I mean, come on, what's not to love?