ryanphillipphank_theotherwomanDuring a tense scene of Happy, a play getting a rolling world premiere at several theaters across the country, including New Theatre in Coral Gables, an especially vile character is called an emotional terrorist.

I had never heard that term before but I immediately thought of how “emotional terrorist” perfectly sums up the tension, suspense and plot points of several mysteries.

The conflict between people whether that is spurned on by greed, revenge, love, lust, or power make for great mystery plots.

I imagine that, at one time or another, each of us has known people who love to plays mind games on others; people whose need to one up another makes for toxic relationships.

Hopefully, you have excised those people from your lives.

But, boy, do we love to read about them.

Here are some novels that revolve around emotional terrorists. I reviewed each of these books this past year and am quoting from some of my reviews.

Take Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On the surface, Nick and Amy Dunne have a perfect marriage. Then Amy disappears on their fifth anniversary and what some may see as a sublime life begins to crumble. The couple’s individual personalities emerge, especially showing Amy to be an emotional terrorist, overly obsessed with being perfect and having her own way. Flynn’s unpredictable plot of Gone Girl careens down an emotional highway.

omaratim_sacrificefly2.jpgIn Laura Lippman’s And When She Was Good, Heloise Lewis is a suburban madam who operates a successful prostitution ring, falling into the career because she felt that line of work was her only option. Confident, unashamed, and devoted to her son, Heloise, nevertheless, is a victim of an emotional terrorist who could destroy her world in an instance. Without glamorizing or judging prostitution, Lippman delivers an insightful character study of a woman who has learned self-preservation at all costs. To free herself of this terrorist, Heloise must realize that her options in life are limitless. Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere also features an emotional terrorist.

In Michael Connelly’s The Black Box, LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigates a 20-year-old crime. Harry comes across a set of villains who are bond together by an emotional terrorist. (The latest issue of Mystery Scene features a profile of Connelly.)

As a teacher in a tough Brooklyn school, Raymond Donne meets a lot of kids, and families, held together by emotional terrorists, as Tim O’Mara shows in his exciting debut Sacrifice Fly. Whether these “terrorists” use physical, sexual or verbal abuse, the result is often the same: Children who cannot move forward, families forever stuck in horrible situations.

mcdermid_vanishingpointA British reality show star becomes an emotional terrorist to all who come within her orbit in Val McDermid’s The Vanishing Point. Reality shows can be the consummate scam, as McDermid’s plot illustrates.

Several women are emotional terrorists in The Other Woman, the hardcover debut by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Politics, dirty campaigns and compromised candidates are acompelling plot foundations in any year, but especially in this presidential election year. Ryan combines both a timely tale and a suspenseful multi-layered plot. (Ryan was profiled in the Fall No. 126 issue of Mystery Scene.)

British author Elizabeth HaynesInto the Darkest Corner delivers a gripping psychological thriller that chronicles an abusive relationship, from its seemingly harmless beginning to a searing conclusion. Catherine Bailey is young, happy woman who parties nearly every night at a different club in Lancaster, England, and, yes, is sexually active. Then she meets a supposedly charming man who is the ultimate emotional terrorist.
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