Summers are all about long vacations, blue skies, sparkling oceans, and sand wedged between our toes. And they're also about losing ourselves in great stories that leave us on the edge of our seat, so we can relax!
Whether that be reading a paperback at the beach, or a hardcover with a glass of Cabernet in the evening at home, summers are the perfect time to catch up on the best thrillers of all time.
Here are a few of my favourites...
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The Black Widow - Daniel Silva (2016)
Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.
The Black Widow is a riveting thriller of shocking prescience. But it is also a thoughtful journey into the new heart of darkness that will haunt readers long after they have turned the final page.
I have to admit I'd never read one of Daniel Silva's books until this one. Yes, call me late to the party. From the first page the story draws you in and doesn't let go. Time and time again, I kept saying to myself, "I wish I would've written that!" I'll be digging into more of Mr. Silva's work, as he is now one of my favorite authors.
10 of the Best Summer Thriller Reads of All Time
GUEST POST: D.J. Williams, the author of Waking Lazarus,
reveals his favourite thriller reads for the beach
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins (2015)
Every day the same...Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
Until today...when she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
If you're looking for a psychological thriller, this is one you have to read! With the unreliable narration, you're literally addicted to finding out what happens with each chapter. And the way the characters are intertwined will leave you wanting to read the book again. Genius writing by Paula Hawkins, and an inspiration to storytellers like myself to dive deeper into the characters until we reach the depths of their souls.
The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (2014)
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...
Confession, I read this book after the world discovered the author was J.K. Rowling. I was curious to see her storytelling prowess in a mystery thriller beyond the wizarding world. I read this book within a few days, so captured by Cormoran Strike that it was almost like being lost in the world, forgetting I was reading. Seriously, when I reached the end of the book I didn't want to leave. I've been a J.K. Rowling fan for years, and have read the Harry Potter series cover to cover. I remember taking The Deathly Hallows with me on a trip, and when I found my seat on the plane and removed the book I glanced down the aisle to see two college students, a mom, and an elderly woman in my row all with the same book. No one said a word the entire flight. Knowing that Cormoran strike is headed for TV is an added bonus!
Killing Floor - Lee Child (1997)
All is not well in Margrave, Georgia. The sleepy, forgotten town hasn't seen a crime in decades, but within the span of three days it witnesses events that leave everyone stunned. An unidentified man is found beaten and shot to death on a lonely country road. The police chief and his wife are butchered on a quiet Sunday morning. Then a bank executive disappears from his home, leaving his keys on the table and his wife frozen with fear. The easiest suspect is Jack Reacher - an outsider, a man just passing through. But Reacher is not just any drifter. He is a tough ex-military policeman, trained to think fast and act faster. He has lived with and hunted the worst: the hard men of the American military gone bad.
Jack Reacher is my kind of hero. He's not glamorous or flashy, but he's the guy you want on your side when the world is coming to an end. Lee Child is another author that I was late to the party in reading. And I refused to judge his books based on the first Reacher film. If you ask me, the movies are never as good as the books! Maybe that's just me. But if you're new to Jack Reacher, then this is a great book to get started. You'll find yourself flipping through the pages at a rapid pace. As Lee Child said in an interview, when he sits down to write he does it without an outline. He simply lets the story unfold. One draft only. Believe me, you'll feel like you're on a roller coaster as you try to keep up!
The Black Box - Michael Connelly (2012)
In a case that spans 20 years, Harry Bosch links the bullet from a recent crime to a file from 1992, the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots. Harry originally investigated the murder, but it was then handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force and never solved.
Now Bosch's ballistics match indicates that her death was not random violence, but something more personal, and connected to a deeper intrigue. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the "black box," the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.
I've read every single Michael Connelly book since the very beginning. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet with Connelly's agent when I wrote The Disillusioned. He offered a masterclass in how they were able to build on Connelly's writing career with his cornerstone character, Harry Bosch. In The Black Box, the story spans several decades, which I'm a sucker for, since my novel, Waking Lazarus, is a mystery that began in the1920's and unfolded through the eras to present day. To say that I've been influenced by Connelly would be an understatement. If you've never read a Connelly book, then this one is a must read. Believe me, you won't be disappointed.
Heartstone - C.J. Sansom (2010)
Summer, 1545. England is at war, and Matthew Shardlake is about to encounter the most politically dangerous case of his career. While a massive French fleet prepares to attack, every able-bodied man is being pressed into military service. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr asks Shardlake to investigate claims of "monstrous wrongs" committed against a young ward of the court. Shardlake's inquiries take him and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak, to Hoyland Priory and Portsmouth, where the English fleet is gathering. There they uncover a startling link between the ward and a woman incarcerated in Bedlam. With a fantastic backdrop of wartime intrigue and a dramatic finale onboard one of Henry VIII's great warships, Heartstone is certain to catapult this internationally bestselling series to greater prominence.
This novel has been said to be, "a sweeping historical epic," and I'd have to agree. It's definitely a thriller that's outside of my typical bookshelf, but I'm always interested to learn the craft of storytelling from different perspectives and C.J. Sansom doesn't disappoint.
The Hunt for Red October - Tom Clancy (1984)
Tom Clancy's rich imagination and his remarkable grasp of the capabilities of advanced technology give this novel an amazing ring of authenticity. It is a thriller with a new twist, a "military procedural" with an ingenious, tightly woven plot that revolves around the defection of a Soviet nuclear submarine―the USSR's newest and most valuable ship, with its most trusted and skilled officer at the helm.
A deadly serious game of hide-and-seek is on. The entire Soviet Atlantic Fleet is ordered to hunt down the submarine and destroy her at all costs. The Americans are determined to find her first and get her safely to port in the intelligence coups of all time. But the Red October has a million square miles of ocean to hide in and a new silent propulsion system that is impossible to detect. Or is it?
How many of you watched the movie? The cast of actors was remarkable. Sean Connery. Alec Baldwin. Scott Glenn. James Earl Jones. Sam Neil. And as I've said before, the book is even better. Tom Clancy is a master thriller writer as he keeps you gripped in the narrative, with intricate storylines, that only a true pro can pull off. Maybe you've picked up the Jack Ryan series further along, but I'd highly recommend going back to this one, and maybe staying out of deep water until you’re finished.
The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum (1980)
His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators—led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.
Spoiler alert...Jason Bourne is one of the best fictional characters in thrillers today! I've watched all the movies, and I've read all the books. In fact, one of the characters in my novel, Waking Lazarus, was inspired by the man who can't remember his past. The Bourne Identity is where it all began, and is the perfect summer read if you're willing to stay up late and sleep in the next morning!
A Time to Kill - John Grisham (1989)
In this searing courtroom drama, best-selling author John Grisham probes the savage depths of racial violence...as he delivers a compelling tale of uncertain justice in a small southern town...Clanton, Mississippi.
The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young man. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle -- and takes justice into his own outraged hands.
For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client's life...and then his own...
Okay, another confession. John Grisham is one of my top three favorite authors. I've read every single Grisham book, and never get tired of his storytelling. He has a way of drawing you in early, and then keeps you reading until you find out what happens to these characters you've grown to care about. A Time to Kill was Grisham's first, and I'd say it's still one of his best!
Those Who Wish Me Dead - Michael Koryta (2014)
When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he's plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.
The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.
The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.
Have you ever heard of a western-wilderness thriller? Great premise. Evil villains. Plenty of twists. And real suspense. The pace of this story is unrelenting. This story doesn't disappoint! And if you're a city boy like me, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat in the desolate Montana mountains, hoping you'll survive the Blackwell Brothers. Hold on, it's only fiction...it's only fiction...Okay, I feel better now.