Dark Suspense Horror

What is the Dark Suspense Horror Subgenre?

Action packed thrills with chills around every corner. This is just a taste of what you will get in the genre known as dark suspense. Dark suspense is essentially an action, or suspense novel, with aspects of horror thrown in. This subgenre is closely linked with mystery and is often referred to as a thriller. Action and intensity mount throughout the story., and no matter where the protagonist may run, danger will always find him or her. Danger, in this subgenre, does not come from ghosts, ghouls, monsters, or other supernatural entities. In fact, dark suspense contains very little in the way of supernatural terror. Instead, scares are a lot more true to life, and there are few supernatural elements to be found at all. This is the subgenre of serial killers, psychopaths, natural disasters, or even deadly diseases and animals.

Settings in dark suspense will reflect its more realistic appeal. Instead of haunted houses and small, isolated towns, expect to see more modern and urban settings in dark suspense, similar to what you'd find in dark mystery, noir, and psychological or crime horror. These subgenres are all similar to dark suspense, though they lack the action-packed feel of the subgenre.


Dark Suspense Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization in dark suspense will be moderate to high. Relatable characters are important to this subgenre, but it is the action that propels the reader forward.

Level of Plot: Expect high to moderate level plots from this subgenre as twists and turns in the plot up the chances for thrills and chills.

Level of Supernatural: Little to no supernatural elements are involved in dark suspense. So, the level of supernatural for this subgenre is very, very low.

Level of Scary: The level of scary in dark suspense varies, but expect scares to be moderate to high and balanced by action and adventure.

Level of Violence: The level of violence is another variable element in dark suspense, but given that this is a genre known for its action, expect violence levels to be on the high side.

Typical Setting: Typical settings for dark suspense will be modern and urban to give the stories a more realistic feel.

Related Horror Subgenres

Serial killer, crime horror, psychological horror, and noir horror are all easily related to the dark suspense subgenre, as are dark mystery, or as it is more commonly referred to, noir. Actually, dark mystery and dark suspense are frequently confused with one another. The difference between the two is that dark suspense focuses more on action elements. Also, man-made horror could be related to dark suspense in the case of tales of disease.

Don't Read Dark Suspense Horror If You Dislike…

Action and adventure. Dark suspense takes horror on a thrill ride. So, if you like supernatural, atmospheric or spooky scares, this subgenre is not for you.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- When Mikael Blomkvist and his research assistant, expert hacker, Lisbeth Salander, look into the disappearance of a wealthy young woman, they stumble onto the trail of a serial killer.


The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris- Clarice Starling is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter, an erudite and cannibalistic serial killer, in what she believes is a profile on serial killers. In reality, she has been sent to enlist his help in tracking down another murderer. Lecter trades clues about the killer for details about Starling's own disturbing past.


Intensity by Dean Koontz- When a young woman vacationing in Napa Valley finds herself in the sights of a "homicidal adventurer", she must do anything she can to survive and prevent him from claiming his next victim.


Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King- A former detective is on the trail of a mass murderer when he receives a message from the killer. Will he be able to identify the killer before the bodies pile up once more?


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- Following her divorce from her cheating ex-husband, Rachel becomes increasingly unstable, depending upon alcohol. She fantasizes about the life of a couple that she sees from the train every morning, until the woman's sudden disappearance. Worried that she may have had something to do with it, Rachel investigates.


Black Evening: Tales of Dark Suspense by David Morrell- Morrell is best known for his action-thrillers, like First Blood, but this book of 16 short stories packs in the horror with several award winners from the Horror Writers Association.


The Hot Zone by Richard Preston- This nonfiction thriller details the history of viruses, such as the Ebola virus. If you are scared by things that could actually happen, this is the book for you.


Rules of Prey by John Sandford- Lucas Davenport, a dedicated cop who, in his spare time, invents video games, is on the trail of a highly intelligent serial killer who seems to kill only for fun. The killer enjoys creating puzzles and obstacles for police, but has he met his match in Davenport?


Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman- Two little girls are kicked out of a friends party for bad behavior when they discover an abandoned baby in a stroller. Taking it upon themselves to save the baby has disastrous consequences that each girl faces, even years later when more children end up missing.


Nerve Damage by Peter Abrahams- When sculptor, Paul Valois, learns that he is dying, he is curious to find out how he will be remember and turns up an already written obituary in the New York Times. There's just a small discrepancy concerning Paul's late wife, Delia. As Paul struggles with treatments, he struggles to make sense of what he knew about his wife.

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