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Best Thrillers of All Time
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Hughes delivers an unnerving plot, following a doctor whose travels in the Southwest lead to involvement in a murder investigation. But Hughes also incorporates larger sociopolitical themes, turning a gripping story into a social indictment. A corrupted chaplain with a mysterious past provides hideous insight into the nature of evil while stalking his juvenile prey.
The character Phyllis Nirdlinger renamed Phyllis Dietrichson in the movie , who coerces an insurance agent into a deadly scheme, is emblematic of the femme fatale archetype so often seen in thrillers. But tragedy awaits anyone whose wishes are so wicked. Set in a Harlem that at once feels larger-than-life and authentic, A Rage in Harlem introduces Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones to a rough and tumble world of grifters, prostitutes, and dangerous vendettas.
Manchette blends tense scenes of underworld life with satirical depictions of small-town mores. The result is an upending of familiar genre tropes, delivered in a potent distillation.
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While Nordic noir existed long before the late Stieg Larsson introduced the world to a misanthropic hacker named Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo brought the genre to an international audience in a way few others have. An enchanting mystery infused with nostalgia and suspense, The Other Lady Vanishes is as fascinating as the historic era that it resurrects.
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Green claims to have written Orient Express with the intent to get the book made into a film. Y sees private investigator Kinsey Millhone embroiled in an unnerving mystery centered around a decade-old sexual assault and murder at an elite private school. Amidst this twisted drama, Millhone finds herself matching wits with a volatile sociopath who holds a longstanding grudge against the private eye.
Raymond creates an atmospheric, almost tactile sense of place here. With 19 th century New York City as its colorful backdrop, The Alienist introduced readers not only to the brilliant and driven psychologist Laszlo Kreizler, but also to a New York City populated with larger-than-life characters, seedy neighborhoods, and all manner of graft and vice. Tom Clancy has made himself synonymous with the tech-savvy military thriller.
The Hunt for Red October is where it all started and remains one of his best. The novel is a well-hewn game of cat-and-mouse in which Jack Ryan tracks down a high-tech Soviet submarine and its crew of defectors. The women become more than coworkers when Yayoi, the youngest of the four, seeks out their help after she murders her abusive, compulsive, gambler of a husband. In addition to his hefty literary career, Coben has also written two crime drama series or television.
The Shadow of the Wind incorporates a host of elements that could each sustain a thrilling read: a young man caught up in a conspiracy he barely understands, an investigation of a mysterious death decades later, and the horrific authoritarianism of Franco-era Spain.
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Here, all of them are interwoven with the history of a mysterious novel — one that obsesses some and drives others to murder. It also introduced readers to George Smiley, an unassuming and methodical man as far removed from the likes of James Bond as one could imagine. With its twisting narrative, duplicitous machinations, and devastating conclusion, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold remains the standard against which all other espionage fiction is measured.
With Bones, Reichs amps up the tension and danger while adding new dimensions to her well-hewn heroine. Set in the post-World War II period, Devil in a Blue Dress follows Rawlins, a black veteran living in Los Angeles who embarks on an unexpected career as a detective, unearthing long-buried secrets and corruption along the way. In American Tabloid , he moved from the local scene to the national one, describing a series of interwoven conspiracies leading up to the assassination of John F.
While your first instinct may be to scoff at the idea of a high school-set thriller centering around the cutthroat world of competitive cheerleading, do yourself a favor and ignore that. Megan Abbott is an Edgar Award-winning writer who knows her way around both a good mystery and a good thriller. Dare Me is a subversive, nuanced look into insecurity, casual cruelty, and ruthless ambition.
Gorky Park established Smith as a powerhouse in the thriller genre, and with good reason; this masterpiece of Cold War-era espionage inspired two follow-up novels and a film adaptation. David Peace made a powerful first impression with this, the first novel in his Red Riding Quartet, which follows a host of corrupt police, sinister criminals, and haunted locals grappling with an interwoven array of crimes and conspiracies. Nineteen Seventy-Four follows a journalist investigating a murder, who gradually becomes convinced that there is more to it than meets the eye, setting in motion a series of unsettling events.
A bloody postmodern fairy tale, Drive will certainly keep you under its spell. Can our basest instincts be suppressed?
Perhaps best known for inciting a nationwide Halloween panic decades after its original publication, H. Meanwhile, the extreme violence of the aliens serves as both an existential parable for the uncaring cosmos and a cruel reminder of the inherent viciousness of war. He realizes later one of the women in the family he befriends bears an eerie resemblance to the woman in white. After WWII, a doctor visits a decrepit old house inhabited by a similarly aged family who find themselves in dire straits, claiming the house is haunted. Diverting from her other work on the lesbian experience, The Little Stranger is a compelling thriller that at its heart, like all great ghost stories, is a fascinating allegory of a rapidly changing world.
The story behind the idea for Frankenstein is nearly as fascinating as the novel itself: Mary Shelley was said to have written it one stormy night after a dare from Lord Byron. While her finished product was undoubtedly terrifying, creating one of the most recognizable and beloved monsters in Western civilization, the themes about creation have more in common with the experience of motherhood than they do with playing God. Frankenstein is a deeply felt thriller that could have only been written by a woman familiar with the devastating and dangerous risks of creation. Benchley was criticized for the lack of characterization when it came to the human characters, but readers praised the intense scenes featuring Jaws himself.
Years later, Benchley expressed guilt over giving sharks a bad name, insisted Jaws was fiction, and became a passionate marine life conservationist. John Grisham is the undisputed king of the legal thriller. As both a former practicing attorney and politician, he brings a fascinating sense of authenticity to the high stakes schemes that populate his thrillers.
This shattering tale of racial tensions, vigilante justice, and horrific crime is as thought-provoking and unsettling as it is thrilling. The personal and the political intertwine in this courtroom procedural. Hoag may have started her career as a romance writer, but the tight prose and deeply dynamic characters of Prior Bad Acts proves her adeptness in more than one genre. Set in Houston in , the story centers on Jay Porter, a strip mall lawyer who deals mostly in personal injury cases. An evening boat ride with his wife takes a desperate turn after Porter saves a woman from drowning.
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