I'll start with a couple of caveats. Firstly, there are other books I might have chosen instead if I’d felt the field was an open one but because this is being written for Crime Thriller Hound I felt that the dangerous love needed to be within the context of a serious crime.
And secondly, this is very much a question of personal taste. Just because I like these novels, it doesn’t mean everyone will but if the list persuades a few people to try a book they might otherwise have overlooked, I’ll be more than happy.
So . . . in ascending order:
no.1 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (2012)
OK – I cheated. No way would Gatsby be considered a crime novel in the traditional sense but it does contain a murder, a suicide and a death caused by drink driving so I figure I can get away with it . . . and I’m the one at the keyboard anyway. Forget the recent film – Di Caprio is to Jay Gatsby what I am to George Clooney. Robert Redford probably came closer to it in the 70s version but even he couldn’t hope to capture the essence of a character who is meant to be mysterious beyond definition.
In case you’ve never heard of him, James Gatz is a penniless soldier about to head off for the front when he falls for socialite Daisy Buchanan, who is a million miles out of his league. Several years later he has reinvented himself as Jay Gatsby, a fabulously wealthy tycoon who lives in a huge mansion and throws lavish parties for total strangers in the hope that at some stage Daisy might come walking through the doors one evening. When she does, she is married to boorish Tom Buchanan and the scene is set for a beautifully constructed tale of longing and, ultimately, self-sacrifice that you just know is going to end tragically. I’ll always be haunted by the picture of Gatsby standing on the edge of the dock at night, gazing across the bay at the light which twinkles at the end of Daisy’s property.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster. Stretch out our arms further . . . And one fine morning –
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Please read it if you haven’t.
no.5 Notes on a Scandal – Zoe Heller (2003)
Sheba Hart is grateful to her more experienced colleague Barbara when she takes up a new teaching post. What she doesn’t realise is that she is filling a hole in Barbara’s life and that her new friend’s interest in her is bordering on the obsessive. When Sheba embarks on a relationship with one of her students, she confides in Barbara and events spiral out of control. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003.
My top 5 books on dangerous love
GUEST POST - G J Minett
no.4 The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M Cain (1934)
It’s been filmed at least twice to my knowledge so many may not have actually taken the trouble to read the original novel but it’s well worth it. Nick Papadakis takes on a drifter to help him and his wife Cora with the running of their roadside diner. Frank Chambers seems to be the answer to his problems but before long he’s started an affair with Cora and together they plot to murder Nick and take over the running of the business for themselves. There’s genuine quality in the plotting which builds up the tension and makes fantastic use of irony in the way the novel unfolds. Excellent.
no.3 The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith (1955)
One of the classics. Again, many will have seen the film with Matt Damon as the deeply disturbed Tom Ripley but to be honest, good as it is, the movie doesn’t put us inside Tom’s mind as effectively as the novel does. We first encounter Tom in New York where he is trying out an ill-conceived confidence trick in a bid to cover his mounting debts. When he’s asked by wealthy businessman Herbert Greenleaf to travel to Southern Italy to persuade his son Dickie to return home and take up a position in the family business, the all expenses paid trip seems like the answer to his prayers. But once Tom meets Dickie, he realises that there are other possibilities to explore that certainly don’t involve Dickie returning home. I’ll say no more in case you haven’t read it yet but I promise you the journey through Tom’s twisted mind is well worth experiencing. Brilliant writing.
no.2 The Collector - John Fowles (1963)
Again, it’s been filmed with Terence Stamp in the lead role but the novel is so much better. Fowles is probably better known for The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman but the writing here is pitch perfect. Frederick Clegg is a loner who works as a clerk and collects butterflies. When he wins the pools and buys a remote house in Sussex, he decides to pursue a butterfly of a different sort and kidnaps Miranda. It’s a fascinating examination of the relationship between kidnapper and victim – well worth a read.