For someone whose brain has been foddered by thrillers since it began to take interest in reading, writing a list of the top ten thrillers is as pleasurable as it is difficult. It makes me feel nostalgic of all those sleepless nights I spent turning pages, skipping meals and encounters with the outside world. And though it led to a weak vision and constant use of glasses (much to the disapproval of my mother), those books somehow led me to writing my own thriller. So here is my list of page-turning, hair-pulling and eye-popping (literally) thrillers, which somehow stayed with me even after The End (in no particular order).
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle): Sherlock Holmes is the granddaddy of all fictional sleuths. If anyone wants to start reading thrillers/crime, this is your starting point. This particular novel has been adapted on screen and in books numerous times, but the dark and desolate mood of the original is unparalleled.
The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown): Symbolism, art, ancient prophecies…Mr Brown single-handedly carved out the genre of mythological crime thrillers, giving a lot of writers inspiration to pick up ancient texts and put a spin of blood and prophetic killers on them.
A Pocket Full of Rye (Agatha Christie): The world can keep the moustached shorty Mr Poirot. My devotion lies with Miss Marple. This book is proof that you can write a taut thriller without giving readers nauseous crimes and gory details.
Tell Me Your Dreams (Sidney Sheldon): Long before M. Night Shyamalan gave us the bone-chilling Split, Sidney Sheldon gave us this gem of a book, with a central character suffering from split personality disorder. This book gives away its secrets in bursts, leaving us dumbstruck with each reveal.
Killing Floor (Lee Child): Jack Reacher’s debut novel. That attitude. That personality. For the first time, we had a central character who was part-investigator, part-vigilante, and a whole lot of grit.
The Client (John Grisham): An eleven-year-old witness to a high-profile suicide and his fierce lawyer are the underdog protagonists, up against the police, politicians, media, FBI, mafia and their own demons. Regina Love is one of those strong female characters that are seldom written.
The Day of the Jackal (Fredrick Forsyth): A cat-and-mouse chase involving false and multiple identities, fake documents and all the good ingredients which go into a spy thriller. Easily my favourite Forsyth novel, it ranks way above any spy novel. Here the antagonist is given a much cooler and better character sketch than the investigator.
Bad Luck and Trouble (Lee Child): By now you know that I have a crush the size of Reacher’s biceps on him. Apart from the plot, this novel gives you the camaraderie between the former colleagues, and then it slowly evolves into a revenge drama. Also, Francis Neagley is as badass as Reacher.
Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn): This is not just a novel. It is a study of a relationship that turned sour. The venom each central character feels for the other and the mind games they play add to the tight narrative. One of those few novels, again, where a female character is so complex and well written.
The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins): I will admit that it is one of the most depressing thrillers I’ve ever read, with a central character worth zero empathy. My instantaneous reaction after reading this book was to bury it in my cupboard and read a Tinkle Digest. But the narration from the point of different women and the timeline fluctuation is oh-so-engaging! The story unfolds so moodily, it complements the weather and nature of its premise. And long after you forget the misery of the characters, those are the things which stay with you.
The Enemy, 61 Hours (Lee Child) – Because.
Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
Coma (Robin Cook)
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is the author of ‘The Laundry Girl’, the story of Indira – a fixer, private investigator, thief and lethal street fighter rolled into one deadly package. Yamini’s first novel is expected later this year. She is a dentist by profession.