The best political thriller books that dared to be different

Andrew Raymond Author Of Official Secrets
By Andrew Raymond

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with political thrillers since reading All The President’s Men when I was far too young to understand it all. What I did know was that at the upper echelons of society there were often shadowy conspiracies at play, and brave souls fighting to expose the truth. Something about Woodward and Bernstein’s quiet heroism and bravery in investigating a story that everyone told them to drop really stayed with me. That’s why I write political thrillers: in an attempt to tip the scales back in favour of good versus evil. And to make heroes of those who risk it all to tell truth to power.

I wrote...

Official Secrets

By Andrew Raymond,

Book cover of Official Secrets

What is my book about?

After a devastating political assassination, two journalists stand between the truth and a conspiracy that will shock the world.

Tom Novak and Stella Mitchell are covering the aftermath of a chilling terror attack on the British Prime Minister and the US Secretary of Defense. But the further the American and English duo investigate, the more holes they find in the official version of events. When they link the attack to a series of suspicious deaths the night before, Novak and Mitchell find themselves the next targets in an extraordinary conspiracy involving the White House, the British government, and a shadowy deep-state organization. On the run for their lives, Novak and Mitchell will find out just how far those in power are willing to go to preserve their secrets...

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The books I picked & why

All the President's Men

By Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward,

Book cover of All the President's Men

Why did I love this book?

I know, I know...non-fiction. But as far as I’m concerned, definitely still a thriller, and to this day, the quintessential political scandal. There are so many iconic facets to the story: the anonymous whistleblower Deep Throat’s invocation to follow the money; Woodward and Bernstein’s dogged refusal to drop the story, even when all appeared to be lost; the slow burn of revelation upon revelation.

This wasn’t about car chases and guns. It was about paper trails and getting sources on the record. 

The bravery of that never left me, and was always in my mind while writing my book.

By Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked All the President's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

50th Anniversary Edition—With a new foreword on what Watergate means today.

“The work that brought down a presidency...perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history” (Time)—from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Final Days.

The most devastating political detective story of the century: two Washington Post reporters, whose brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation smashed the Watergate scandal wide open, tell the behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened.

One of Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books, this is the book that changed America. Published just months before President Nixon’s resignation, All the President’s Men revealed the…

House of Cards

By Michael Dobbs,

Book cover of House of Cards

Why did I love this book?

We all know the Netflix adaptation that brought Dobbs’ story to Washington, D.C. But the original novel set in Westminster is the real deal. Where its cynicism once looked unrealistically dark, it now couldn’t be more relevant in a world of power-hungry politicos.

It pulled back the curtain on a world that a few of us suspected but were too afraid to believe could be real. Do we really still think that a politician has never been behind a murder or two? Dobbs will make you a believer.

What could have been overblown and fanciful ended up being chilling and scarily possible.

By Michael Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The acclaimed political thriller that first introduced the unforgettable Francis Urquhart MP and launched Michael Dobbs' No 1 bestselling career - now updated with brand new material.

Michael Dobbs' entertaining tale of skulduggery and intrigue within the Palace of Westminster has been a huge hit with the public. Its scheming hero, Chief Whip Francis Urquhart, who uses fair means and foul to become Prime Minister, is one of the best-known characters of the last decade - the politician we all love to hate.

Acclaimed for its authenticity and insights into a secret world…

The Constant Gardener

By John Le Carré, John le Carré,

Book cover of The Constant Gardener

Why did I love this book?

This is a thriller that took me somewhere I never expected (Kenya) and highlighted an enemy I hadn’t encountered before (Big Pharma). Until then, I had grown used to individuals and assassins being the antagonists in political thrillers when I first picked this up. Le Carré makes the Three Bees corporation at the heart of the corruption and cover-up and murder truly chilling.

One needn’t require a gun to prove menacing. Le Carré showed me that all you need is money and power. 

By John Le Carré, John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The book breathes life, anger and excitement' Observer

Tessa Quayle, a brilliant and beautiful young social activist, has been found brutally murdered by Lake Turkana in Nairobi. The rumours are that she was faithless, careless, but her husband Justin, a reserved, garden-loving British diplomat, refuses to believe them. As he sets out to discover what really happened to Tessa, he unearths a conspiracy more disturbing, and more deadly, than he could ever have imagined.

A blistering expose of global corruption, The Constant Gardener is also the moving portrayal of a man searching for justice for the woman he has barely…

The Ghost Writer

By Robert Harris,

Book cover of The Ghost Writer

Why did I love this book?

This one was a game-changer for me, taking thinly-disguised characters and events from real life – an obvious Tony Blair-type, fleeing prosecution for war crimes in a clear nod to the Iraq War – Harris wisely ushers us into the world of high-stakes politics via the innocent and unnamed Ghost Writer, hired to write a disgraced Prime Minister’s memoirs.

It’s a brilliant and clever mechanism that makes the reader feel at home. And when murder appears, puts you squarely in the shoes of a terrified man on the run.

As a technical piece of thriller writing, it’s stunning stuff. Harris’s decision to base a fantastical conspiracy around real-life events and characters was inspiring – and it’s something I use in every book.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Ghost Writer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An unputdownable thriller about corrupt power and sex' Sunday Telegraph

'Guaranteed to keep you awake' The Times

A body washes up on the deserted coastline of America's most exclusive holiday retreat. But it's no open-and-shut case of suicide. The death of Robert McAra is just the first piece of the jigsaw in an extraordinary plot that will shake the very foundations of international security.

For McAra was a man who knew too much. As ghostwriter to one of the most controversial men on the planet - Britain's former prime minister, holed up in a remote ocean-front house to finish his…

The Pelican Brief

By John Grisham,

Book cover of The Pelican Brief

Why did I love this book?

In many ways, this was the thriller that started it all for me.

Perhaps technically a legal thriller, the political dimension shines through in the shadowy forces tailing the fearless and unlikely heroine of legal student Darby Shaw as she uncovers a huge political scandal involving the US Supreme Court.

Its conspiracies may seem tame by modern standards, but for a fledgling writer trying to figure out what kind of stories he wanted to tell, this was thrilling and addictive stuff.

Grisham’s easy style appears effortless, but there’s true craft behind each chase, each plot twist, and each conversation. This book taught me how you really do it.

By John Grisham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Pelican Brief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two Supreme Court Justices are dead, their murders unsolved.
But one woman might have found the answer - if she can live to tell it.

Darby Shaw is a brilliant New Orleans legal student with a sharp political mind. For her own amusement, she draws up a legal brief showing how the judges might have been murdered for political reasons, and shows it to her professor. He shows it to his friend, an FBI lawyer.

Then the professor dies in a car bombing.

And Darby realises that her brief, which pointed to a vast presidential conspiracy, might be right.…

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