There is nothing like being consumed by the world of crime, gore, and murder. The kick of reading an exhilarating thriller book is like no other.
Been there, done that. Mystery and thriller are two of the most popular literary genres. Some authors are synonymous with the word “mystery.” These writers have consolidated an empire in the realm of literature, and their books are still being read posthumously. Here are some of the best works of mystery/thrillers I have come across.
‘The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd’ by Agatha Christie
The brilliant Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, having sold 3 billion copies of her books and being second to only William Shakespeare when it comes to fiction. She was awarded the title of Best Crime Writer for her novel “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” which was first published in 1926. It was also enumerated in the Howard Haycraft’s list of most influential crime novels ever written.
Hercule Poirot, Agatha’s very own Sherlock Holmes, has a mystery to solve once again when his friend Roger Ackroyd meets his demise at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. Poirot meets some peculiar inhabitants of Ackroyd’s home who have suspicious alibis. All seem to have motives to kill Ackroyd. But what happens when there is more to the murder than what meets the eye? Poirot interviews these characters and attempts to unravel the mystery encircling the murder. He makes the acquaintance of his neighbor, Dr. James Sheppard, who assists Hercule Poirot with his investigation. The story concludes with an unbelievable twist.
Shortly after the publication of this book, Miss Christie disappeared for eleven days. When this tabloid story broke, a wild manhunt ensued wherein many police officers and volunteers were deployed to search for the best-selling author. A multitude of airplanes was put on the job of her search. Many people suspected this to be an organized disappearance as a publicity stunt for “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” However, Agatha Christie swears to have no recollection of what happened during the eleven days or what prompted her to leave her house on the night of December 3rd, 1926. To this day, her disappearance remains unsolved. It seems like a mystery that only someone like Hercule Poirot himself could solve.
“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown
This groundbreaking novel, published in 2003, has received a lot of backlash for its controversial take on the church and history. But more than that, it has gained adulation for its blunt theme. It not only questions the church but also several prominent historical figures such as Issac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci himself.
The book opens with the murder of the curator of the Louvre Museum. Due to the nature of his death, Havard symbologist Robert Langdon and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu are brought in to investigate. They race against time to solve his murder. What they don’t realize is that the closer they come to deciphering the hints left by the curator, the nearer they find themselves face-to-face with a much bigger conspiracy. The answer to the riddle will not only shake their lives but the fate of the entire world. The book explores the secretive nature of the Catholic Church and many secret societies such as the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei and implies rather interesting facts about them.
The master blend of fact and fiction of “The Da Vinci Code” is going to stay with you for a long, long time. The revelation of the novel is quite scandalous, or I might say even blasphemous. The book has been banned in several countries. However, Dan Brown prefaces the book by letting the readers know which parts of the book are factual; the rest is considered fiction.
“Defending Jacob” by William Landay
Extensively considered crime drama fiction, this work has all the characteristics of a perfect mystery and thriller. “Defending Jacob” was published in 2012 and has recently been adapted into a series by the same name starring Chris Evans.
The Barber family has been leading quite a content life, all things considered. But everything turns upside-down when 14-year-old Jacob gets prosecuted for the murder of Ben Rifkin, his bully classmate. Andy Barber, Jacob’s father, and an attorney, begins investigating the murder to clear his son of all charges. Jacob swears innocence, and his parents completely believe him. But the question remains, to what extent?
As the book progresses and new pieces of evidence are unearthed, Jacob falls deeper and deeper into the pit of incrimination, even in the eyes of his mother. There seems to be no salvation in sight for Jacob, other than his father. Andy has unwavering faith in the innocence of his son and is ready to make the world believe it too, as long as he does not let his past relationships hinder his objective. Oh, and by the way, the boy on the show creeped Stephen King out. So that should explain a lot.
“The Unexpected Guest” by Agatha Christie
“The Unexpected Guest” is perhaps one of the most underrated works of Agatha Christie and easily my favorite mystery. It is a play written in 1958, which Charles Osborne later novelized.
A stranger finds a remote house when his car runs into a ditch. Uninvited, he enters the house in search of help, and to his surprise, stumbles upon the dead body of a man in a wheelchair. While looking intently at the man, the stranger soon notices a woman standing across the room (who turns out to be the man’s wife) holding a gun and confessing to killing him. The stranger, after taking pity on the assumed ordeal of the woman, comes up with the plan of pinning the murder on the long-forgotten enemy of the deceased. But the story takes a twist with every turn of the page. When you think yo have figured out the mystery, Miss Christie pops up with a “Wait! Hear me out.” By the end, you are completely befuddled by the brilliance of the story and come to an understanding of why Agatha Christie is known as the Queen of Crime.
Despite the suspense and plot twists this book enshrines, it is not recognized enough as one of Christie’s best work. However, Miss Christie wonderfully managed to keep me on the edge of the seat the entire time. I believe this remains the best crime book ever, and no other book has come close to changing my mind about it.
“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides
“The Silent Patient” is the debut novel of Alex Michaelides. Published in 2019, it was an instant number-one New York Times bestseller and became the recipient of Goodreads Choice Awards, which it undeniably deserved. It was well-received by various book critics and newspapers and was lauded for its exceptional plot-line and story-telling.
Alicia Berenson seems to have a perfect relationship with her beloved husband, as her diary entries suggest. So why did she shoot Gabriel, whom she loved more than anything, five times in the face and never speak again? And why did she paint a self-portrait right after the murder and title it “Alcestis,” after the name of a Greek heroine? The tabloid story naturally caught the attention of the public, but most notably of Theo Faber, a psychotherapist who is convinced that he can get Alicia to talk again. He begins investigating the events leading up to the murder and tries to get into her head through one-on-one therapy sessions, which are mostly futile because of her silence. But when she does speak, is it something he wants to hear?
The ending of the story gives off a hint of a classic Agatha Christie mystery. I am convinced that if this Michaelides continues with such brilliance and picks up consistency, he may emerge as the 21st century Christie, which most of us murder mystery fans would die for. A book that edges more towards psychological thriller, this work possesses everything expected from a perfect thriller book.
“The Girl on The Train” by Paula Hawkins
This work made me realize the horrors of severe mental illnesses and just how much it can damage an individual and the people around them. “The Girl on The Train,” published in 2015, is undeniably one of the best psychological thriller books I have read. It gives a peek into the life of Rachel Watson, a woman who finds solace in train journeys. She suffered from acute alcoholism that had far-reaching consequences on her broken marriage with Tom and her professional life.
Rachel suffers from a condition where she has frequent blackouts, during which she physically assaults Tom, having no recollection of such events thereafter. This has driven Tom away from her and into the life of Anna with whom he has a daughter. This seems to trigger her violent behavior due to her infertility. Her frequent train journeys give her a peek into Tom’s new life as his house passes her train each day. Due to her dipsomania, Rachel gets into a pickle now and then, which makes her frequently a subject to hate and criticism by others. But things seem to be completely different from what they appear to the readers and Rachel herself.
This story, with an unbelievable revelation, quickly took its place in the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list in 2015 and retained its position for 13 consecutive weeks. In 2016, it was adapted into a movie starring Emily Blunt and Luke Evans. Still captivating many readers, the intricacies of the ending never fails to astound the masses.
If there is a genre that will never go out of style, then that is a quintessential murder mystery. These are the titles that all book lovers will enjoy, regardless of their personal preferences. So kick back those shoes, make yourself some coffee, and prepare to be blown away.