What tugs us from chapter to chapter? What creates a sense of anxiety and suspense? What keeps us reading a book far into the night? Or, we say to ourselves, just one more chapter. You reach the end of the chapter, and there it is—the cliffhanger. The zinger! You have to keep reading to find out what happens next. Then it’s another chapter, then another.
As someone who has had a love affair with books most of my life, I can attest to the power of cliffhangers!
For an author, it is one of the more fun challenges to writing. Where to make that chapter break to tease and tantalize the reader as the plot twists and turns. I recently discussed cliffhangers in an interview. It prompted a thought about the ones I’ve included in my books. Here is a random sampling from my novels.
Murder’s Legacy; New Release, Book 2 of the Tori Winters Mystery Series
“The last time she did, it almost got her killed.”
“Tori, we found bones in the tunnel. I think they’re human. I’ve already called the police.”
The grim look on the men’s faces was her only warning.
What would prompt such a deep, dark secret?
With all the security in place, how could someone sabotage the house?
Someone was already inside, listening.
Deadly Keepsakes; Book 1 of the Tori Winters Mystery Series
It was the beginning of her descent into a living hell of fear.
The road was clear, and Tori was on her way to Texas. She had escaped.
It was an old house, and old houses creaked. She’d get used to it, she told herself.
She shut the bedroom door and picked up the chair, propping it under the doorknob. Better safe than sorry.
She jerked the wheel. The car slid sideways and started to roll.
An icy chill clutched at her. Elly was afraid. Elly died. And now she was afraid.
Sentinels of the Night; FBI Tracker novel
Witchy woman, if only they knew, since she wasn’t exactly sure herself what had happened today.
Just his luck she was a fed, then add in a corpse, and that ludicrous story about raccoons—hell, all good reasons to avoid Agent Cat Morgan.
JD rubbed his hand across the mirror, trying to wipe away the image as he shouted, “No, no, you can’t be here. You’re dead!”
Her hand instinctively reached for her gun. Oh, hell, how will I explain this?
It would be a long time before anyone found this one. Overhead, the owls circled.
Even as the sense of foreboding flowed through him, he wondered—why three birds, instead of two.
Going Gone!; FBI Tracker novel
Focused on the conversation, neither one noticed the dark car that pulled into the street two blocks behind them.
They could remain behind cover and pick her off. With the wall of the garage behind her, she had nowhere to go.
Ryan wasn’t sure what would happen if a round hit the gas tank, but getting trapped under the truck wasn’t the way to find out.
Au79; FBI Tracker novel
His arms stretched over his head, he turned and stared at Detective Harlowe and the gun pointed at his chest.
“The answer to that scares the hell out of me,” Adrian said.
He had the first piece of the puzzle, the detonators. His fear was the lack of time.
There must be a way she could get into the compound, and what the hell weighed 27.43 pounds?
Maybe he could tell the President a high fatality explosion wasn’t imminent.
Is this what it feels like to die?
Operation Navajo; FBI Tracker novel
As she trotted out of the alley, her hand brushed her chest. The package was secure.
“The least I can do, considering you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb.”
He tugged the box from the shelf and felt the hope he could no longer deny.
He didn’t believe in coincidences, not in his line of work. This was a whopper to swallow.
Not a single country would escape the impending economic destruction.
There’d be a bomb. But could he find it in time?
Not Dead; Paranormal Suspense
He didn’t need to hear her shocked whisper to tell him the case had gone from bad to worse.
The surge of adrenaline from his quick glance at the caller ID crushed the emotions the fog provoked and his need for sleep.
He’d forgotten about the doll as he turned off the light and walked out of his office. Behind him, a faint glow filtered into the hallway.
Before she could react, something struck her in the head. Her knees buckled, and she sunk into a sea of darkness.
Whatever hope Chad had—died.
Deadly Business; Crime Thriller
In stunned disbelief, she went over it a second time. The sinking feeling grew worse. It didn’t make sense. Why would her grandmother sell every head of cattle she owned?
He had to warn McKay, but how the hell could he do it without blowing his cover?
If she couldn’t prove Jen’s signature was a forgery, all she could do was wait for her to come out of the coma. Did she have the time?
The operation had just gone from local cattle rustling to a deadly case of financial fraud involving at least two states. And Piper McKay was square in the sights of whoever was running the show.
Davy’s voice rang out. “U.S. Marshal! Stop, or I’ll shoot.”
I’m always “On The Hunt” for new ideas. If you have a question or a comment, please let me know.
Anita Dickason is a retired police officer with a total of twenty-seven years of law enforcement experience, twenty-two with Dallas PD. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics officer, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.