Mystery Month: Five Authors Reveal Their Favorite Death Scenes

At Thrillerfest 2011 we surrounded ourselves with mystery, suspense and thriller authors. And with so much murder-minded talent in attendance, we took a few minutes to ask five of our favorite authors about the most unique ways they have ever killed off a character.

Legendary author Margaret Atwood’s most memorable death actually takes place off of the page. She quotes the opening sentence from her 2001 novel The Blind Assassin for the death scene she likes the best. “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” 

RT Managing Editor Liz French and Author Margaret Atwood

Two death scenes came to Michael Palmer’s mind. The first was from The Sisterhood where he says, “I defibulated a character with paddles on the side of their head.” Then in The Second Opinion there was a wheelchair loaded with sharps which was “wheeled toward a victim chained to an MRI machine.” Gruesome!

For her pick, Brenda Novak doesn’t site a killing scene, but a near-death experience from her recent release Killer Heat. When Novak’s PI shows up at a junkyard and sees what she thinks is a dead body, she must race to get away from the property’s owner. The author calls this an “intense scene to write and to read.” 

Author Phillip Margolin jokes that he has killed so many people that it is hard to keep track. But he does say that one scene that stands out for him is in Wild Justice when a narcotics officer knows there is drugs in a cabin but doesn’t have enough evidence for a search warrant so he illegally breaks in. While looking around for drugs, he opens the refrigerator and finds two human heads. “It was totally unexpected to find a serial killer on a drug bust. And the worst part was that there were body parts all over, but because they were found illegally the evidence couldn’t be used.” 

Authors Michael Palmer, Brenda Novak and Phillip Margolin

Jon Land said that the most interesting way he has ever devised to knock off a character is one that he just wrote for his 2012 novel Stone Revenge. In the book, a “saintly assassin” named Guillermo Paz kills a villain by making him swallow a nitroglycerin-like liquid that, when it reaches 98.6 degrees, makes the person blow up from the inside. So what did the villain do to deserve this grisly death? “He ordered Caitlin [Strong]’s death.” Consider us warned!

So readers, we are dying — pun intended — to know what's your favorite way an author has ever killed off a character? Tell us in the comments below and you will automatically be entered to win our five-book prize pack of new mystery novels. To learn more about the giveaway and follow along with the rest of Mystery Month click here.