23 Thrilling Novels from the Bookshelf of Linwood Barclay

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…

The Chill
by Ross Macdonald

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.

11/22/63
by Stephen King

A man goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. What amazes me, in part, about this recent book is that at a time in an author’s career when we might expect him to coast, this book’s scope and ambition are vast.

Drama City
by George Pelecanos

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.

Early Autumn
by Robert B. Parker

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.

I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes

This recent novel about an agent’s trail of a terrorist is without a doubt the best thriller I have read in the last five years. Epic, detailed, believable. Can’t wait for his next novel.

Marathon Man
by William Goldman

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.

The Children of Men
by P.D. James

P. D. James wrote so many great mysteries, but this one is different. It imagines a future where human reproduction is over. The people of the world are waiting for life to wind down. Stunning. (And once again, this was turned into an epic film.)

Get Shorty
by Elmore Leonard

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.)

Pet Sematary
by Stephen King

This was one of the first Stephen King novels I ever read and is perhaps still the most frightening because it gets you where you live: what would you do to bring back a dead child?

Eye of the Needle
by Ken Follett

This is early Ken Follett, when he was turning out shorter, leaner thrillers. This one is a pure page-turner.

A Judgement in Stone
by Ruth Rendell

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.

The Cartel
by Don Winslow

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.

9 Dragons
by Michael Connelly

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.

The Missing Chums
by Franklin W. Dixon

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.

Misery
by Stephen King

Unlike another of my favorites, PET SEMATARY, which has supernatural overtones, MISERY is a real-world thriller about an author’s psychotic “number-one” fan. Beyond terrifying.

Silence of the Lambs
by Thomas Harris

The most famous, and most disturbing, of the Hannibal Lecter novels. An important, influential novel that’s also an adrenaline-spiking read.

Defending Jacob
by William Landay

Magnificent. You don’t expect a legal thriller to take your breath away. This book did that for me, twice. It left me shaken.

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie

Perhaps her most famous novel. Agatha Christie didn’t just use plenty of the twists we’ve come to know in crime fiction; she invented them.

Red Dragon
by Thomas Harris

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.

The Valley of Fear
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Speaking of Moriarty, no list would be complete without this story where he goes up against Sherlock Holmes.

Casino Royale
by Ian Fleming

The James Bond novels by Ian Fleming defined the modern-day thriller, and this one set the tone for all that would follow.

The Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson

Okay, not a novel, but this true tale about a serial killer and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair sure reads like one.

Personal
by Lee Child

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.