Thriller/Mystery Novels – What makes a good novel?

I love the thriller/mystery genre.  Anything that gets me thinking, wondering what will happen next, who did it, what interesting trait will appear in the main character or villain, and the added touch of horror or fear. 

My favorite authors are Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child combo, James Patterson, John Sanford, and some independent authors that I’ve recently become acquainted with, Michael R. Hicks and Robert Cornell of which I’ve read many of the In Her Name series and Season of Harvest (Hicks) and Red Run (Cornell).  Excellent writers all.

I’m hoping to join the list with my new Flashback series.  It is currently in the editing phase, but I’m hoping by March of 2012 to have the first in the series, Flashback to the Dragon,  published so that readers can begin the journey with the main character, John Carpenter, helped along the way with his special trait, his family, and friends.

What makes a good novel? 

I like the story to move.  For me this usually occurs when the characters are developed and the storyline is extended through the use of shorter chapters.  Sometimes I’ll follow a certain character through a story for a while, skipping chapters until I understand that I have to bring the rest of the characters up to the same level as the one I’m interested in, so I go back and read the chapters that I skipped over.  Love having that ability. 

I also like some details, enough to explain the story or the characters’ actions, but not so much that I get bogged down in the explanation of something that I’m not really interested in, nor ever will. 

I like the hero to survive.  It may be a rocky road to get to the end of the story, but the hero should make it after all the struggles. 

I like the villain to have a story that may halfway explain why they do what they do. 

There has to be an element of fantasy or a suspended belief element in the story.  Something that I know can’t realistically happen, but I believe it for this particular story.

So my question to you, the reader, is, what makes a good novel?  What keeps you reading?  What elements are you looking for when you are reading?

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