Sunday Special: My Favourite Thrillers

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Everyone knows by now how big a fan I am of thrillers of all types. Many people ask me to recommend some good thrillers, but there are so many that I can never make up my mind about which ones are the best. Sometimes it’s because I have forgotten a particular story, so I have to read it all over again, and in reading and rereading, never get the time to actually compile a list of my favourite thrillers. Even now, as I sit here trying to make a list, I find that I cannot make up my mind. I have tried to pick some of the books that I find exciting and would want others to read too. They are not in any particular order.


The Da Vinci Code

I became a Dan Brown fan after I read The Da Vinci Code when it was first published in 2003. Since then, I have read all his books, and even though I don’t like all of them, to me Dan Brown is one of the best writers of thrillers. I have never thought about leaving his books halfway even if they seem like a repetition of the old theme.

The Da Vinci Code was a book that turned everything I knew on its head. I had to keep reminding myself that this is fiction and has little to do with reality. It is set in Paris and London with a timeframe of just one day. Robert Langdon, an imminent Professor of Symbology at Harvard, is visiting Paris when he gets embroiled in the murder of a prominent member of a secret society.

As he is on the run, aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, he realizes that things are not what they seem, and he has to use all his knowledge and learning to figure out a centuries old mystery and save the day.

The strength of Dan Brown’s writing is that majority of artworks and places mentioned in his books are real. It is my dream to one day visit Paris and see all the things Robert Langdon talked about in this book.

This is one book I would recommend to all fans of mystery and puzzle solving.


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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When I first read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I was taken aback. I had never read anything like it before. Here was a heroine who was unlike any heroine that I had ever seen or heard of before. She was everything that a “good girl” shouldn’t be, yet she was the best kind of heroine. At the same time, the “hero”, Mikael Blomkvist was like any other hero, except that he was no saviour of the heroine. The heroine could not only save herself, she could also keep the hero safe from harm.

As Salander and Blomkvist are brought together in an unlikely pairing, to solve a forty-year old mystery, the challenges facing them are terrifying and seemingly insurmountable. No book review or discussion can do justice to the excitement or thrill of reading this book. It might not seem very shocking now, 10 years after it was first published in English, but at that time this book was the first of its kind. Even now, I find myself reading it again every time I hear about another sequel in this series.

There have been many similar books and characters in the decade since its publication, but nothing can surpass the brilliance and originality of this book. One of my most favourite books of this genre, recommended for all kickass females in the world!


Gone Girl

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The one book that single-handedly changed the face of the genre of Thrillers and gave birth to the contemporary Psychological Thriller. This book is so terrifying that I have been unable to re-read it in one go after the first time. I can only read it in parts and that too takes its toll on me. Every. Single. Time.

Nick Dunne is shocked by the disappearance of his wife, Amy, on their fifth wedding anniversary. Police investigation shows Amy was scared of her husband, and there are some strange searches on his computer. Nick is bewildered because none of it is true. He cannot understand what is happening to him, and where his wife would disappear to. Then there is Amy’s diary that clearly shows how unhinged Nick is.

As a reader you realize that you cannot trust Nick’s narration of the events because of the diary entries, but as you start reading Amy’s side of the story, you realize there is something wrong with her narration too! As you read further, you start questioning the sanity of all characters, and eventually your own for continuing to read this book! Yet, you need to find out the truth. You need to know how it all ends, how something this crazy can ever make sense.

This book made me so crazy the first time I read it, that I was suspicious of my own husband for a week after reading it!


Big Little Lies

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This book is what a good domestic thriller is all about. There are no over-the-top crazy characters, no out-of-this-world scary settings, yet it is gripping, mysterious, and full of secrets. It tells the story of a group of school moms and how something that happens in school has the potential to unravel into something much bigger, and lead to unthinkable circumstances, even a death.

When single mom, Jane, moves to the town of Pirriwee, she meets Madeline and Celeste who take her under their wings. All three of them have children in the same class, and the three of them seem to get on well together, so it makes sense for them to hang out. Then, on the first day of school, an incident causes friction between Jane and another school mum, Renata.

Things start spiralling out of control as adults start taking sides in what was essentially an altercation between two kids. As secrets start coming out, all the women involved can sense the impending catastrophe. It turns out that all three women have secrets of their own that they have worked hard to hide from everyone. The rumors start, and it becomes harder and harder to tell fact from fiction. It is only a matter of time before all this results in disaster.

The best thing about this book is the characters, who are so real and believable. As a mom with school going kids, I can vouch that I have met all the types of parents mentioned in the book. The incidents are all quite credible and you can see them happening to people in the real world. Though, I have to admit, there is a chance that women will like and understand this domestic thriller better than men.


The Good Daughter

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The Good Daughter is one of the best thrillers from 2017. The narrative is quite graphic, and not for the faint of heart. It grips you from the first chapter and you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.
The story revolves around a family torn apart by a tragic attack twenty-eight years ago, which leaves all of them with scars, both physical and psychological. Charlotte thinks that she has come a long way from her nightmarish ordeal almost thirty years ago. She is a good lawyer, not like her notorious father who is willing to represent anyone regardless of their guilt.
One morning, she gets caught in a school shooting that threatens to expose everything she has worked so hard to keep inside her. As things get worse, Charlie’s life starts to unravel around her and there is only one person who can help her become whole again. But they haven’t seen or spoken to each other in a long, long time, and there are some wounds that just refuse to heal.
There are some sequences that are truly horrifying and leave the reader close to tears. However, the solid narrative and story make it very hard to put the book down. This book contains assault and abuse, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, for true lovers of psychological thrillers, nothing can be a deterrent to them reading a good thriller.
Underlying the narrative is the theme of a father’s love for his daughters and how he believes, I think quite rightly, that everyone needs a different kind of love. Having lost my father soon after finishing this book, it hit me even harder how far a father can go to protect his children from pain and heartbreak.
One of the best thrillers that I have ever read. Definitely a must read for all lovers of this genre.

We Were Liars

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I never thought I would include a Young Adult novel in any list of mine, unless it is a list of Young Adult novels! We Were Liars is the book that proved all my generalisations wrong. Young Adult suspense thrillers can be as addictive as any adult book in this genre.

Cadence comes from a rich and privileged family, who owns a private island in Massachusetts, USA, where they go to spend summers every year. Cadence, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and their friend, Gat, are known as the Liars. They hang out together at the island every year and get into scrapes like normal teenagers.

Then, an accident changes everything. Cadence cannot remember what happened that night, and her family is not willing to remind her. She enlists the help of the other Liars who gradually help her piece together the events of that terrible night. We are taken on a journey through a summer where everything seems normal, but nothing is as it seems.

I even let my teenage son borrow this book to read, and he really enjoyed reading it too. A great book for ages thirteen and above.


The Silkworm

After Harry Potter, J. K Rowling found it hard to get out of her own shadow, and be taken seriously as a writer of adult books too. As a result, she decided to write another series under the pen name, Robert Galbraith. As it happened, her identity couldn’t remain hidden and by the time the first book came out, everyone knew who had written it. Still, it makes a difference seeing a new name on a new adult detective series, instead of a name known for writing Harry Potter.

I loved the first Cormoran Strike novel and was eager to read the second. In my opinion, the second, called The Silkworm, was even better than the first. We already knew the back story of Cormoran Strike, and had been introduced to his assistant, Robin Ellacott. This book not only cements their partnership, but also provides the requisite thrills in the form of their next case.

Owen Quine is a novelist who has gone off somewhere by himself, and his wife wants Cormoran Strike to find him and bring him back. However, as Strike probes into the disappearance, he realises that something is not right. The writer had recently finished a novel which revealed secrets about a lot of people. People who are influential, and who have a lot to lose if the book ever sees the light of the day.

And then Owen Quine turns up dead. The murder is brutal and just how Quine wrote it in his book. Strike is at a loss to understand the reasons or what the killer might do next, and it makes for a most exhilarating read. The whole book is like a roller coaster ride, and you never know what might happen next.

While it is better to have read the first book in order to understand the background of the two main characters, The Silkworm on its own is a stellar thriller. It shows the brilliance of J. K. Rowling, and her unique talent of creating unforgettable characters. A great book from one of the best authors of our time.


The Chalk Man

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Another excellent book that is a recent addition to my favourites. The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor is different in that it has a male protagonist and narrator. Here we have a middle-aged man, battling with his own demons, trying to appear as normal as possible, and failing to do so.
Eddie Adams is a British twelve-year-old in 1986, hanging out in his small town with his four friends, when their lives are changed irrevocably. Thirty years later, Eddie Adams, a middle aged, single, English teacher with a drinking problem, still living in his hometown, gets a letter with a piece of chalk. The letter has a stick figure drawn on it. Memories of that long ago summer have left their scars on everyone, and it all starts coming back to Eddie now. When an old friend’s drowned body is found, Eddie realizes that things did not end thirty years ago, and he has to find the truth before another body turns up.
The character of Eddie Adams is interesting. The way he narrates the book, you know you shouldn’t trust him along with anyone else in this book. That he is a kleptomaniac, is established early on in the book. On top of that, he is a sleepwalker who has trouble differentiating between his dreams and reality.
The book is fast paced and gripping. It makes you hold your breath and wait for what comes next. There are so many twists and turns that take you by surprise. Even if you’re able to predict some things, there is still a lot that makes you feel dizzy. For a fan of thrillers, this book is the perfect read.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the first crime thriller that became my favourite. Believe it or not, it was included in our school curriculum in grade 9. I read as soon as I got my hands on the syllabus books! It was and still is one of the best books that Agatha Christie ever wrote. And she wrote quite a few, since she is still considered the Queen of Crime.

When Mrs. Ferrars commits suicide a few months after poisoning her abusive husband, Roger Ackroyd starts suspecting that she was being blackmailed. She was after all the woman he loved. And then he gets a letter that might confirm his suspicion, but before he could finish reading it, he has been murdered.

Hercule Poirot has retired from his work, and is busy growing marrows in the village, when Flora Ackroyd requests him to solve the mystery of her uncle’s murder. Tired of vegetables and the slow pace of village life, Poirot decides to investigate this strange murder which seems to have little or no motive.

With the help of Dr. Sheppard, Poirot goes about digging into facts and stories, and reaches the truth. The truth, however, is stranger than fiction in this case. With a finale that is equal parts shocking and unexpected, this is Agatha Christie at her finest. A great whodunnit for all ages.


I would also like to add some other books, which are also very high on my list of must-read thrillers:

A Time To Kill by John Grisham

If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon

The Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

You Will Know Me by Meg Abbott

This list can go on and on, except that I cannot remember a lot of other books that I have read but don’t own. Maybe I can make a part two of this list when I remember more. Until then, add these books to your reading list and enjoy!

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