The best books where the hero beats the odds, the villains and personal demons

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to stories of good versus evil and watching a hero overcome a great struggle to beat a villain and win the day. I feel it’s innate in humans to want to hear such tales ever since the days gathered around the campfires thousands of years ago, and when it’s done well, it can be a story that inspires you in your own life. Hopefully, these novels can do the same for you! 


I wrote...

Nine Lives

By Tom Barber,

Book cover of Nine Lives

What is my book about?

26-year-old Sam Archer has just been selected to join a new counter-terrorist squad, the Armed Response Unit. And they have their first case. A team of suicide bombers are planning to attack London on New Year’s Eve. 

The problem?

No one knows where any of them are.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Without Fail

Tom Barber Why did I love this book?

The atmosphere is a crucial element for me in a good thriller, and this book is one of the more underrated and forgotten Jack Reacher stories from Lee Child. The sense of dread builds slowly and slowly, with some very unpleasant villains in the shadows and some vulnerable lead characters waiting for them to appear.

The action is maybe more sparse than in other Reacher books, but when it happens, it’s just as shocking for the reader as it is for the characters. Hopefully, with the TV show now running on full steam, they’ll consider adapting this for a future season.

By Lee Child,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Without Fail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jack Reacher takes aim at the White House in the sixth novel in Lee Child's #1 New York Times bestselling series.

DON'T MISS REACHER ON PRIME VIDEO!

Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast-because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They've planned well. There's just one thing they didn't plan on: Reacher.


Book cover of Vertical Run

Tom Barber Why did I love this book?

I love a good hidden gem, and this book was recommended to me by a friend as a return gesture after I got him to watch Die Hard. This book mostly takes place within an office building in Midtown, following that theme, and is very inventive as the lead character finds himself suddenly plunged into the worst day of his life, with almost everyone he meets trying to kill him.

Some of the plot arguably gets a little bit shaky in places, but there is enough here to satisfy fans of the genre.

By Joseph R. Garber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Vertical Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You think YOU had a killer workday. . .
Get ready for the FASTEST thriller of the summer!

Each morning in his 45th floor executive office, David Elliot savors the quiet
moments until the workday begins.

Until today, when his boss walks in and aims a gun at him.

For the rest of the day, he will be trapped in his midtown office building, and
everyone David Elliot meets will try to kill him.

He has 24 hours to find out why. . .

In Vertical Run, you can escape into a world on fast forward, a drama
that plays…


Book cover of Midnight Falcon

Tom Barber Why did I love this book?

This pick is slightly out of left field, coming from the heroic fantasy genre, but it is possibly my favorite novel. The story is loosely based on a Celtic-esque society and follows the central character, Bane, who is the bastard son of the most powerful king of their era. Angry and hurt but with signs of goodness in him, Bane leaves on a hero’s journey, where he ends up becoming a gladiator in the allegorical version of Rome.

I’ve reread this book so many times and still love it dearly. The choices of right and wrong, becoming a strong man, fighting for what you believe in, and defending those who can’t defend themselves are foundations of other authors’ work on my list, and David Gemmell is a worthy addition. 

By David Gemmell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Midnight Falcon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They called him Bane the Bastard - though none said it to his face. Born of treachery, his name a curse, he grew up among the warriors of the Rigante. They valued his skills in war, but they feared the violence in his heart. And when, as a Wolfshead and Outlaw, he left Rigante lands, they breathed sighs of relief. But Bane would return, the destiny of the Rigante in his hands, the fate of the world resting on his skills with a blade. Midnight Falcon continues the tale of the Rigante, which began in Sword in the Storm, and…


Book cover of Voices

Tom Barber Why did I love this book?

Another slightly left-field pick, but the atmosphere in this author’s books is just as compelling as in Without Fail as mentioned above. In a snowy, cold Iceland, a beleaguered detective investigates the murder of a local man who was once a shining light as a child. 

Lost potential, old vendettas, and evil preying on the weak are all elements here, in a very unique setting, with a dogged lead who refuses to give up. Slower and colder but just as gripping.

By Arnaldur Indridason, Bernard Scudder (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Detective Erlendur encounters memories of his troubled past in this gripping and award-winning continuation of the "Reykjavik Murder Mysteries". At a grand Reykjavik hotel the doorman has been repeatedly stabbed in the dingy basement room he called home. It is only a few days before Christmas and he was preparing to appear as Santa Claus at a children's party. The manager tries to keep the murder under wraps. A glum detective taking up residence in his hotel and an intrusive murder investigation are not what he needs. As Erlendur quietly surveys the cast of grotesques who populate the hotel, the…


Book cover of The Black Echo

Tom Barber Why did I love this book?

Hollywood is a fascinating, exciting place in many people’s imaginations, and I was immediately pulled in by following along with Detective Bosch in the neighborhood’s Homicide division, seeing the crime under the veneer of glamour. This book has a lot of ties back to Bosch’s past (and demons) from his time in the military, and I enjoyed watching him work on a murder investigation. Observing a sharp mind at work is one of the joys of this novel style, and Connelly does a great job crafting that here.

Amazon Prime viewers will also recognize the story as having been adapted for their show. 

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Black Echo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


An LAPD homicide detective must choose between justice and vengeance as he teams up with the FBI in this "thrilling" novel filled with mystery and adventure (New York Times Book Review).

For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal . . . because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys…


You might also like...

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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