The best books that feature villains you can’t stop thinking about

Who am I?

If only they made good guys as complicated and fascinating as the baddies, maybe I wouldn’t be so drawn to the dark side. I mean, I liked Luke, and Leia, and Han, and I even wanted them to win, but Darth Vader—now, that was an interesting dude. Perhaps because they do and are what most of us can’t and aren’t, these antagonists benefit from writers who, consciously or not, do their best work when they create singular villains. What makes the “bad guy” tick? Is it circumstances, or choices? Are they someone you cannot even imagine being, or someone you can? And what does that say about us?

I wrote...

Break Her

By B.G. Harlen,

Book cover of Break Her

What is my book about?

"The moment she woke up, her nightmare began..." What would you do if you awakened to find a dangerous stranger in your house? In your bed, next to you? Now your home has become your prison, and your body, a battlefield. How would you hold onto your sanity, your self-esteem, your very soul against someone determined to annihilate all three?

In the psychological thriller Break Her, one woman will find herself in this almost unthinkable situation, and one man will discover that he has finally come up against someone unlike any of those he has destroyed before.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pariah

B.G. Harlen Why did I love this book?

The author plays a clever trick on us to get us to identify with the villain in this book. It’s effective and horrifying, and results, in large part, in our seeing the world through a monster’s self-serving eyes. It’s not a pretty picture, but there’s no escape for his unfortunate victims, or for us. He reminds me of Bridget in the movie The Last Seduction, in the way some predators seem like a completely different species from us, their prey, while we assume they’re human, just like us. This is noir, only with an homme fatale (and a bit of publishing industry satire thrown in).

By Dave Zeltserman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Once part of the holy triumvirate ruling the South Boston Irish Mob, Kyle Nevin is set up with the Feds by head mobster, Red Mahoney, which leads him to a court case and a stretch in the slammer. Now out of prison, Kyle wants revenge on his old boss and mentor, and just as importantly, to reclaim his former glory.

A kidnapping gone horribly wrong leads to a major book deal for Kyle and a newfound celebrity status - but also brings about bigger problems for both himself and anyone unlucky enough to cross his path.

Pariah is a heady…

Book cover of Come Closer

B.G. Harlen Why did I love this book?

She’s either possessed by a particularly vicious spirit or just plain insane. Either way, I’ve never been able to forget the terrible things she does, although I read this so long ago, I can’t remember her name. It’s not gory; it’s eerie, and most of the horror is suggested rather than shown, meaning our own imaginations contribute to the impact. Ghost story or psychological horror, you decide.

By Sara Gran,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Come Closer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A dark, seductive cocktail of a thriller, with a splash of black humour and a twist of horror.' Francine Toon, author of Pine

There was no reason to assume anything out of the ordinary was going on.
Strange noises in the apartment.
Impulsive behaviour.
Intense dreams.
It wasn't like everything went wrong all at once.
There must be a reasonable explanation for all this.

'It will scare the pants off you. It is a perfect horror novel.' Paul Tremblay
'A short, sharp shocker . . . Relentlessly creepy.' Sunday Times
'Deeply scary.' The Times
'Terrifying.' Daily Mail…

Book cover of Nice

B.G. Harlen Why did I love this book?

Now these two main characters, both “villains,” are refreshingly human. When the evil archeologist in Raiders of the Lost Ark tells Indy that it would only take a small push to move him out of the light, this is the kind of thing he meant. For the woman in the story, being bad is an almost understandable way to cope with the particular situation she faces (that we’ve all faced). For the man, he’s been in the dark for a long time, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t need love. A serial killer/black comedy/love story about a hired killer and an inspired killer. Is it a match made in Heaven, or Hell?

By Jen Sacks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Grace is a nice girl. She can't stand the thought of hurting anyone's feelings. The problem is she usually wants out of her relationships first. So rather than break up with her boyfriend, she murders them. But one man is just like Grace. What happens when two murderers fall in love?

Book cover of The Girl With All the Gifts

B.G. Harlen Why did I love this book?

They never use the word “zombie,” but the main character might be one. And you’re on her side all the way. Some of the humans are so much worse. While others, though flawed, aim to be better. Melanie, still just a child, may save the world or be the instrument of its destruction. I consider this a perfect book: imaginative, tense, but not unbearably so, with several characters you can really sink your teeth into, and a heroine/villain you can’t help loving. The ending is exactly right.

By M.R. Carey,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Girl With All the Gifts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal million-copy bestseller that is also a BAFTA Award-nominated movie


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the…

Book cover of The Hunter

B.G. Harlen Why did I love this book?

Parker (first name? last name? nobody knows) is the classic ruthless antihero. We pretty much see the world from his perspective, but we never get inside his head. Trust me; you wouldn’t want to. But we can’t help rooting for him as he makes his vengeful way (in this first of a series) from nearly dead to the “one guy” at the top who can give him back his money (that he stole previously). They’ve tried to capture him on film. Mel Gibson’s Payback wasn’t too bad, but Lee Marvin in Point Blank comes the closest in spirit (though they softened his actions in that flick; in the books, people don’t just accidentally die around him; he kills when killing is called for). This is hard-boiled, brutally spare crime fiction at its best.

By Richard Stark,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hunter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You probably haven't ever noticed them. But they've noticed you. They notice everything. That's their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers' work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.They're thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They're pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you're planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is…

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At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…

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