imagesJust what you needed, right?  Another Christmas list.

Well, it isn’t for me.  It’s for you.  And I’m kind of thinking post-Christmas as opposed to Reindeer Express stuff.  That is, I thought it might be fun to toss out a few ideas just in case you find a new Nook or Kindle under your tree (of which there should be more these days, thanks to eBooks), or a gift card from your favorite book store (of which there are fewer these days . . . thanks to eBooks).

Understand that what I’m pitching here isn’t a “must-read” inventory, since I know such things are highly individualized.  My likes do not necessarily align with yours.  What I’m itemizing are a few novels in the thriller/suspense genre that have resonated with me.  They tend to be ones I might–and indeed, occasionally have–picked up and read a second time.  You might consider giving them a look, too.  But maybe you already have.

I’ll start with what I consider to be a couple of contemporary classics, by authors you probably recognize.  First, Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal.  If you haven’t read the novel, I’ll bet you’ve seen the movie.  The other title on this short list (no movie yet, and I don’t know why) is one of Nelson DeMille’s early books, The Charm School.  It’s an imaginative and hugely suspenseful drama set in the USSR ca. 1985.  It’s possibly my all-time favorite.

Let me move to the other end of the spectrum now, to a pair of authors with whom you might not be familiar, Alan Furst and Robert Wilson.

Furst has written a series of espionage novels set in Europe immediately before and during the early years of WWII.  These aren’t tales about master spies, but rather stories of ordinary people snared by extraordinary circumstances.  The novels are highly engaging and I have, in fact, read a couple of them more than once.

There are over a dozen Furst novels from which to choose, but I’d recommend starting with The Polish Officer or Kingdom of Shadows, and then go from there if his dramas pull you in.  I would hope you’d find, as I did, that Furst is pitch-perfect at capturing the zeitgeist of mid-20th century Europe.

Wilson is probably better known for his four-book series set in Spain, about Inspector Javier Falcon, and a couple of novels with a Portuguese backdrop, including A Small Death in Lisbon, than he is for the novels that grabbed me: the Bruce Medway series.

Bruce Medway is a unique character, a “fixer” for traders in Benin, Africa, an area once known as the White Man’s Grave.  I would suggest you start with the first of the line, Instruments of Darkness, and venture forth from there.  I gotta tell ya, I was really bummed out when the series ceased after only four novels.

I’ll post Part 2 of my list next week, highlighting a couple of novelists who have never disappointed me.  In the meantime, feel free to chime in with your own picks or challenge mine.

Leave a Comment