Today I am delighted to welcome Rachel Lynch on to the blog with a brilliant guest post about her Top Ten Thrillers. Needless to say, I’ve added them all to my wishlist!
Top Ten Thrillers
For me, all thrillers- whether it be crime, legal or psychological to name a few, have to do several things. Firstly, I have to love the hero(es) and villain(s), though the protagonist has to ultimately win. Secondly, the pace, suspense, anticipation and thrills that send my emotions into overdrive have to keep me page turning. Thirdly, the twists and turns need to keep on coming. Finally, the book has to stay with me for a long time after I’ve finished. Like cowboy films, comic strips and cartoons; good always triumphs over evil, and it’s this concept that drove me to write my own thrillers, in the form of police procedurals.
Choosing ten books or authors that did this for me wasn’t easy, and I’ve chosen the ones that have endured the test of time, as well as those that have influenced my own work in some way. They are in no particular order.
1. None other than Alexandra Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo (1845). Edmond Dantes is a classic romantic hero but this never goes out of date. He endures hardship, tragedy, jealousy and incarceration, but waits to play out his revenge on Fernand Mondego. It is a work of classic human betrayal and the triumph of good over evil.
2. A book that had great impact on me in my early twenties when I was just getting in to thrillers, was Dean Koontz’s Hideaway (1992). The pace is thumping, the psychological threat terrifying and the concept genius. The eventual connection between the protagonist and antagonist (Vassego and Uriel) plays out in the battle between an ancient angel and devil through two men who were resuscitated by the same doctor after being pronounced dead, years apart. It’s the stuff that chews you up and spits you back out.
3. Here’s a curve ball, and a nod to my early love of horror thrillers. Dennis Wheatley: The Devil Rides Out (1934). Yes, it’s dated and utterly non-pc now, but forgive him that, and it’s a mighty supernatural, devil worshipping spin around Wiltshire with the Duc de Richleau, who stops at nothing to confront and defeat evil. There’s a comforting moral certainty that good will triumph in the end.
4. My favourite two books by Stephen King, and there’s not a lot in it; he’s one of my favourite authors of all time. For me, Gerald’s Game (1992) stuck with me, it was his use of isolation and terror the whole way through that gripped me and I think I read it in two days. Also, more recently, Finders Keepers (2015). The antagonist, Morris Bellamy, is a true low life and I gained great pleasure from watching the teenager Peter Saubers outwit him.
5. My favourite two books by John Grisham, and, again, I can read any of his books and finish begging for more. It inspires me that A Time to Kill (1988) was John Grisham’s first novel and that it was rejected by several publishers. It’s classic good vs evil and Jake Brigance is a lovable hero. Making us wait almost three decades for a resurrection of Brigance was a gap I was willing to overlook when I read Sycamore Row (2013). The legal thriller is something I intend to explore further myself.
6. John le Carre is also a favourite of mine, and of course, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) is an undisputable classic, but The Constant Gardener ((2001) stood out for me. From the unlikely protagonist, Justin Quayle, to the global elements of corruption, big pharmaceutical conspiracy and cover ups, he’s always an author who keeps me guessing. I’m intrigued by his foreign office background and the sheer depth of his story telling.
7. Two novels that impacted me when I was exploring the supernatural genre in thrillers were The Exorcist (1971) by William Peter Blatty and The Amityville Horror (1977) by Jay Anson. Like Koontz and Wheatley, they leave me unable to dispute a sixth dimension time and time again, and that’s scary.
8. This one isn’t a novel, it’s a play, but I can always read an Arthur Miller play like a book. The Crucible (1953) is the ultimate tale of good and evil, of persecution and retribution, of crowd politics and bullying, legitimised terrifyingly by the system. Written in the midst of the Red Scare, Miller himself was dragged in front of the House of Un-American activities, and it’s that age-old battle for truth that gets me every time.
9. I loved Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine. She was darker and more exploratory of the damaged mind. A Dark Adapted Eye (1986) stayed with me. The crafting of her characters and their frailty when faced by secrecy, jealousy, misunderstandings and tragedy, for me, underpin every good thriller.
10. Finally, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal (1999), the third Hannibal Lecter instalment. The controversy surrounding the apparent sympathy for a psychopath who eats his victims didn’t resonate with me, I never saw Lecter as the antagonist; more a vehicle of damage. He’s unique in that he guides the protagonist and so he’s neither the hero nor the villain, despite his horrific acts littering the trilogy. I have enormous respect for an author who can achieve this. The series is iconic.
About the Book
Kelly’s gut turned over as she realised the danger she was in. She heard no sirens. She knew that she was simply collateral. To these men who made a lot of money from the suffering of others, they’d have no problem snuffing her out.
After a scandal forces DI Kelly Porter out of the Met, she returns to her home turf in the Lake District. Crimes in the Cumbrian constabulary tend to be of the minor sort, but Kelly begins work on a cold case that shocked the local community – the abduction and brutal murder of ten-year-old Lottie Davies.
Meanwhile, Kelly is also investigating two seemingly straightforward crimes: a case involving an illegal immigrant, and a robbery following the death of local businessman Colin Day. But evidence comes to light that reveals a web of criminal activity beyond anything Kelly imagined. Behind the veneer of sleepy, touristy towns lies a dark and dangerous underworld. As Kelly threatens to expose those with much to lose, she risks paying the ultimate price to get to the truth…
Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.