Editor’s Note: We at Off the Shelf can’t pass up a juicy thriller. So we couldn’t pass up 23 thrillers from the bookshelf of bestselling author Linwood Barclay—just in time for the last installment the Promise Falls trilogy, THE TWENTY-THREE.
As the conclusion to my Promise Falls trilogy, THE TWENTY-THREE, hits bookstores, I thought I’d share my 23 favorite novels that, in one way or another, thrilled me. I know I’ve left some out, or forgotten one or two I will remember moments after I finish writing this, but these are all great books, for a variety of reasons.
So here goes…
I’ll concede that THE CHILL is neither the scariest nor most thrilling novel I’ve ever read, but it is the best of the Lew Archer thrillers, written by someone whose work has influenced me more than any other. Ross Macdonald was an equal to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
While not George Pelecanos’s most well-known novel, DRAMA CITY is the one I most like. Maybe because of its unlikely hero, an animal-control officer.
My favorite Robert B. Parker novel, in which his detective Spenser comes to the aid of a young man caught between warring parents. This one has so much heart.
A screenwriter and novelist, William Goldman was hard to pin down. He didn’t only write thrillers (for example, he wrote the movie “The Princess Bride” and the book it was based on). I’d never read anything like this book when I discovered it in my late teens. The first half dozen chapters appear to have nothing to do with each other. And then things start to stitch together.
As with some of the earlier books in the list, it’s hard to choose an author’s best, since they’ve written so many classics. That’s especially true of Elmore Leonard. But GET SHORTY works, as the cliché goes, on so many levels. It’s a great crime novel, but it’s also frequently hilarious, as well as a wonderful commentary on Hollywood. (A great movie, too.)
This is early Ken Follett, when he was turning out shorter, leaner thrillers. This one is a pure page-turner.
One of the greatest crime novels ever written, and yet, in the first paragraph, Ruth Rendell tells you who the victims will be, who did it, and why. And you can’t not read on. I can think of no one else who has ever pulled this off.
This is the follow-up to Don Winslow’s earlier novel about the Mexican drug cartels, THE POWER OF THE DOG. If Tolkien had decided to write a novel about the drug wars, it would have been this.
All of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels are great police procedurals, but this novel ups the ante in a flatout nonstop thriller where the stakes for Bosch are intensely personal.
Well, it really wasn’t Franklin W. Dixon. I have no idea who actually wrote this installment of the Hardy Boys. But it was one of the first in the series I ever read as a kid, and it helped hook me on mysteries.
Earlier Hannibal Lecter, and nearly as terrifying as the aforementioned SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Lecter may be crime fiction’s most notorious villain after Professor Moriarty.
Speaking of Moriarty, no list would be complete without this story where he goes up against Sherlock Holmes.
The Jack Reacher novels have placed Lee Child on the throne that was once occupied by Ian Fleming. They’re all great fun, but this one is a, well, personal favorite.