Some of literature’s most popular books are thrillers. These are books which give the reader a heady mix of danger and action, suspense and excitement.
Here are a list of the best thriller novels and information about the authors who brought them to life.
Central to many great thrillers is the lonely, poetic figure of a private eye. There are countless great examples throughout history but one of the best is Dashiel Hammet’s hardboiled classic ‘The Maltese Falcon’. Telling the serpentine tale of hard bitten San Francisco P. I. Sam Spade and his search for the precious statue of the title, it set the blue print which many dark toned detective stories followed.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s a writer came along who turned that blue print on its head. James Ellroy, an LA native with a crazy, criminal past, released a steady stream of harder than hard boiled fiction. Perhaps his most famous novel ‘LA Confidential’ is the best starting point for those looking to get into Ellroy. But be warned – a tale of racist police detectives in a bitterly corrupt post-World War 2 L. A. It pulls no punches and is not for the faint of heart.
Agatha Christie remains perhaps the most famous mystery writer in the world. One mention of her name is enough to get you thinking about illicit murder plots, small town poisoners and country house dinner parties where the host ends up with a letter opener in his back. One of her best novels is the chilling ‘And Then There Were None”.
Patricia Highsmith is another of the thrillers most famous proponents. Her novels were notable for how clearly she seemed able to depict and dissect the minds of dangerous, psychopathic thinkers. Her most famous creation was the ghoulish Tom Ripley, a strange, detached, charming killer whose exploits thrilled and chilled in equal measure.
Another of Highsmith’s best is her debut book “Strangers On A Train” which was later filmed by shock maestro Alfred Hitchcock. It told the tale of two men, one a famous tennis player, the other a rich layabout who lives fat off his parent’s money, who meet by chance on a train carriage and discuss the convenience of each taking care of the others problems by murdering the person causing trouble in their lives. The tennis pro laughs the encounter off, not realizing the rich layabout was also a deadly psychopath and, more importantly, 100% serious about the proposition.
After his death in 2004 Swedish thriller author Stieg Larsson went on to become one of the world’s most talked about writers. His Millenium novels concern the investigations of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist an investigative journalist with a chaotic personal life. They are some of the best-selling novels of the last decade.
Those three books represent a very contemporary shift in the tone and concerns of the thriller. They come with a strong feminist ideology and are rife with contemporary paranoia.
Without doubt they are amongst the best thriller novels the world has seen.
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