My daughter once accused me of reading like an assignment. This accusation, while it irritated me, also made me ponder over it. What made her feel so? The more I thought about it, the more it became clearer to me. My preferred genre of reading is crime thrillers – books by Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi and a few others – and I write crime thrillers.
It is quite possible that because of this, when I am reading crime thrillers, my mind, inadvertently moves into the evaluation space. i.e. I am constantly evaluating the books that I read. It is either, ‘Oh my god! Why couldn’t I have written like this?’ or ‘Had I written this piece, this is how I would have written. This doesn’t read as good as it should.’ Maybe that’s why when I read, it looks like an assignment. Continuously evaluating. Continuously learning.
Haven’t discussed this with any other author, so not sure if this ails the others too.
That said, I do read quite a bit. I read almost everything that comes my way. I am very adventurous with authors but not very, with genres. I am not a great fan of serious, heavy writing. I prefer simple, short sentences, light on prose. Over the last few months I have read a number of thrillers. Here is a short list of thrillers that I have read in the recent past and which are on top of my ‘recommended reads’ list.
- A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino : Manabu Yukawa, a physicist travels to a summer resort town to address a conference. While he is there, a guest from the hotel where he is staying lands up dead on the sea shore. The cops suspect that the guest had fallen off the cliffs but the autopsy throws up a completely different angle. The guest had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s when they begin a murder investigation. In his trademark fashion Keigo Higashino makes the reader a part of his journey as he unravels the mystery and solves the murder. A brilliant read. Keigo Higashino Special.
- Fool Me Once : Harlan Coben : While I read it a few months back, I have just got to know that this is going to be made into a Hollywood film with Julia Roberts being the protagonist. A brilliant thriller which silently treads into the realms of Psychological thrillers. A Harlan Coben special. A woman comes back home from work to see her husband turn up on her nanny cam, that she has installed for her kid. But there is only one complication. The husband was brutally killed two weeks ago. How is it that he is there on her nanny cam now? Harlan Coben takes you on this roller coaster ride where Maya has to unravel the mystery behind her husband’s sudden appearance. Unputdownable.
- Veerappan : Chasing the Brigand – By K Vijay Kumar : It is a true story. The problem with true story is that it is always challenging to keep the pace, the thrill and the intrigue at the highest level throughout the book. Vijay Kumar has managed to do exactly that in the story of a forest brigand who was a terror for everyone when he was alive. A high Octane thriller – a true story which reads like fiction.
- Flawless : by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell : One of the few howdunit that has intrigued me. In 2003, representatives of an Italian mafia, infiltrated the Antwerp Diamond District and conducted, what at that time, was the largest diamond heist ever- and made off with $108 Mn worth diamonds. Not a drop of blood was shed, no bullets fired, no one hurt. It remains a perfect heist to have ever been conducted. What makes it intriguing was the timing of the heist. It was conducted on a Valentines Day weekend. The authors, after meticulous research tell the story of what went behind the heist – the planning, the execution and the escape have been brilliantly laid out in a very intriguing, pacy, non-technical manner. To me, till date, it remains one of the best heist books to have ever been written.
- Conclave : Robert Harris : A quasi-political thriller which begins with the most tragic events the globe would ever witness. The death of a Pope. What follows is a series of political and religious manipulations, that take place between the time the Pope is pronounced dead to the world and the election of the next Pope. It captures brilliantly the aspiration of the cardinals, the behind the scene negotiations, the backstabbing, the lobbying and the angst caused by a few dramatic and unexpected events. Robert Harris plays a subtle political card here without being too brash about it.
- Found dead : By Shantanu Guha Ray : There is something about murders in high places that intrigues us, kindles our curiosity and makes most of us turn into shameless gossipers. Shantanu Guha Ray possibly wanted to pander to this part of the human mind when he wrote Found Dead. Whatever his intent, he has produced a brilliant book that has looked at murder most heinous, death most terrible and acts most shameless. Impeccable research, hours of interviews have gone behind the unraveling of the cruelest conspiracies in India. Investigations into the murders of high profile individuals – Sheena Bora, Ponty Chadha, Sunanda Pushkar, Neeraj Grover, Jiah Khan etc – form the backbone of the book. Stories behind the scenes, that possibly your newspapers never told you.
- Bookshots by James Patterson. : International Master of Crime Thrillers, one of the most successful and innovative writers ever, has come out with a series of Short Thrillers. These are 110-130 pages long, stories which can be read in a couple of hours. Never short on Adrenalin, these are high octane thrillers which you can complete in a couple of hours. While at the end of it, you will not remember the title of the book or the coauthor who has worked with Patterson, these books will thrill you to bits. I have read 11 of these books and I have loved each one of them. You cannot let go of them, once you have picked them up. Give it a shot… a Bookshot.
When I look back at the list, one thing strikes me. There are three true stories in there. Veerappan, Flawless and Found Dead. Believe me, it was not by intention. It only goes to show that if written well, true stories make better thrillers than fictionalized one. And there is a reason for that. The shock value of things when they happen in real life is exponentially bigger than when we read about it in fiction. We often dismiss things in real life while we are willing to accept them in fiction. For example, the murders that Shantanu Guha Ray talks about, were all unprecedented when they happened. The heist at the Antwerp Diamond District, one of the safest square miles in world, was unprecedented when it happened. Veerappan’s antics were unprecedented.
Well in life … everything is unprecedented till it happens for the first time. And that adds to the beauty of thrillers based on real life incidents.
This write up of mine was first carried by Timesofindia.com at http://toi.in/rx-z_a
Probably that is why it is said that:
“Truth is stranger than the fiction”
(Responded specifically for the last segment of this article).
And nonetheless, a nice list, I will follow it in due course for sure…