The Psychological Thriller

I know you’ve heard of “gaslighting.” The phrase comes from an old movie with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. It came out in 1944, long before most of us would have seen it. Charles has a secret he’ll do anything to protect, including trying to convince his newlywed wife she’s crazy. One of his stunts is dimming and brightening the gaslights in the house.

To be honest, I’ve never seen it, but I know the title has become a catch phrase for trying to convince an innocent victim that she (it’s almost always a woman) is crazy.

I do remember a kind of similar situation in a movie I saw as a teenager in 1960. It was called Midnight Lace and starred Doris Day and Rex Harrison. Again they are newlyweds, and he’s trying to make everyone, including her, believe that she’s nuts so he can kill her and pretend she committed suicide. Then he can get her inheritance to replace the money he stole from his business.

The psychological thriller has always fascinated me. And I used the “convince her that she’s loony” idea for Hunting Moon, currently available in a very cool collection called Dangerous Temptation – Dark Passion, along with novels by other talented authors who specialize in the paranormal.

In Hunting Moon a gangster is sure that dancer Tory Robinson knows where another gangster has hidden his money and hires a disreputable psychiatrist to get the information out of her. They whisk her away to a fake sanitarium in upstate New York where all of the other patients are actors who are in on the plot to make Tory so unstable that she’ll spill everything she knows to the manipulative doctor.

But unlike the helpless victims in the movies I noted above, she knows what’s going on and is determined to resist. One of her tricks is switching her drugged glass of orange juice with an innocent one intended for another patient—so that the wrong woman goes bonkers during a “group therapy session.”

Tory is afraid she can’t resist forever, but werewolf Brand Marshall is prowling around the sanitarium and knows she’s in trouble. Back in his human persona, he rescues her; but his plans to drive her to safety are thwarted in a hail of gunfire. The two of them end up in the woods, running for their lives and hiding out until the werewolf can dispatch the hired killers sent to kill him and recapture Tory. And then they have to deal with the gangster who set the whole plot in motion.

Are you a fan of psychological thrillers? If so, point me to some of your favs.

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About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.  View website

10 Replies to “The Psychological Thriller”

  1. Rebecca –

    I found your post on gaslighting both interesting and timely. In this internet/social media age, one often sees the term “gaslighting,” but I would venture to say that many people don’t really know what the term means, or how it originated. I am fortunate, in that I have had the opportunity to see both “Gaslight” and “Midnight Lace” (both on TV). And might I add – who knew that the oh-so-elegant Charles Boyer (Gaslight) and Rex Harrison (Midnight Lace) could be so creepily venal. Both of those movies gave me chills – as do some of today’s romantic suspense thrillers. As for favs – I can’t give titles – there are too many – but my favorite romantic suspense authors are Nora Roberts, Karen Rose – and, of course – Rebecca York.

  2. Interestingly, Amazon Prime has a gripping new original psychological thriller with Julia Roberts. Homecoming is a program that supposedly tried to integrate psychologically damaged vets back into society after they were battle-scarred. Julia plays a therapist. In the past. Present day, she’s working as a waitress in Florida and when confronted about the program by an investigator can’t remember anything about it…

  3. Intriguing post, Rebecca. My hub and I often watch movies about gas lighting, their premises are the best. Some of our favorites are the Hitchcock suspense movies like Rear Window. Just one of our faves, there’s another with Cary Grant, the flick on the train with James Mason. Thanks for the memories. XOXO

    • Thanks. Good suspense suggestions. But I wouldn’t exactly call Rear Window Gas Lighting. It’s more about a guy who thinks he can pull off a murder without getting caught. And James Stewart happens to be watching. It turns into “cat and mouse” as Stewart figures it out and the guy figures out that Stewart knows.

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