What Kind of Thriller is ‘Baby Grand’?

“What kind of book is Baby Grand?”

I’m asked that all the time. And my answer?

It’s a thriller.

That seems to have satisfied everyone — including myself — but over the past few days I’ve been doing research and reading lots of thriller flap copy, and it seems that many (virtually all) thrillers are defined more specifically. And that got me wondering: What IS Baby Grand?

A “thriller,” by definition, uses suspense, excitement and tension as its main elements and uses literary devices such as plot twists, red herrings and cliffhangers. My novel, for sure, fits in there. But beyond that, it gets murky (note: subgenre categories from Wikipedia):

  • Conspiracy thriller: The hero/heroine confronts a large, powerful group of enemies whose true extent only he/she recognizes.

Hmmm, don’t think it’s this one.

  • Crime thriller: This is a suspenseful account of a successful or failed crime or crimes, often focusing on the criminal rather than a policeman.

Yes, there is a crime in Baby Grand. A kidnapping. And I do focus on the criminals, as much as, or perhaps more than, the police. This is a definite contender.

  • Disaster thriller: The main conflict is due to some sort of natural or artificial disaster, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, etc.

Uh, no.

  • Erotic thriller: Think Basic Instinct. ‘Nuff said.

Uh, no. Actually… Well, not really.

  • Legal thriller: John Grisham is the guru of this subgenre in which the hero is a lawyer who confronts enemies both inside and outside the courtroom.

One of my favorite legal thrillers was Primal Fear by William Diehl. (The last line of the book still stays with me.) Let’s see: There are two lawyers in Baby Grand, but I would not consider it to be a legal thriller.

  • Medical thriller: The heroes, of course, are in the medical profession here.

Michael Crichton sucked me into this genre long ago. But no doctors in Baby Grand. Well, there is, but he’s such a minor character.

  • Mystery thriller: ???

This subgenre was always bit murky to me, because “mysteries” and “thrillers” often overlap or go hand-in-hand. It seems a bit redundant to say “mystery thriller.” Am I wrong? Someone, please set me straight…

A Writer’s Digest article separates “mystery” and “thriller” this way: “A ‘mystery’ follows an intellectual protagonist who puts together clues to solve a crime after it’s been committed, and a ‘thriller’ details the prevention of a crime before it has been committed.” I don’t know if I buy that. That would make The Da Vinci Code a mystery, not a thriller. And Baby Grand too. No way.

I hereby relegate this category to the Scooby-Doo Mysteries until further notice…

  • Political thriller: The hero must ensure the stability of the government that may or may not employ him.

Hmmm… Phillip Grand is governor of New York and plays a leading role in Baby Grand, but the stability of the government? Nah, doesn’t apply.

  • Psychological thriller: The conflict between the main characters is mental and emotional, rather than physical.

There is a definite psychological component to Baby Grand. Perhaps this is our winner? But when I think of psychological thrillers, I think of The Silence of the Lambs. Or is that a crime thriller? Help!

  • Religious thriller: The plot is closely connected to religious objects, institutions and questions.

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons fits nicely here. Baby Grand? Nope.

  • Supernatural thriller: This subgenre brings in otherworldly elements, from aliens and ghosts to weird psychic or superhuman abilities.


  • Techno thriller: Sophisticated technology plays a prominent role.

Unless you consider Facebook sophisticated, then this one is a definite no.

The verdict? Can you believe, I’m still not sure. But I guess if I were forced to choose – you know, if I had a gun to my head – I’d pick crime thriller. Otherwise, I’m back to thriller. Plain and simple.


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