The best books with exciting first appearances of serial thriller characters

The Books I Picked & Why

The Lincoln Lawyer

By Michael Connelly

Book cover of The Lincoln Lawyer

Why this book?

In the first of this six-book series, we're introduced to Mickey Haller. He's a struggling lawyer, reduced to using his Lincoln car as an office and taking the sort of cases others wouldn't touch, but there's more to this man than meets the eye. Haller is clever, experienced, devious, and kindhearted. What's more, he knows his way around the legal system. His clients may not be reputable, but they are grateful for his services, willing to repay the debt, and keen to keep their lawyer alive – even if it means breaking the law.

When a Beverly Hills rich boy is arrested for brutally beating a woman, Haller gets his first high-paying client in years. The evidence mounts on the defence's side, and Haller might even be in the rare position of defending a client who is actually innocent.

But then the case starts to fall apart. And neither the suspect nor the victim is quite who they seem, and Haller quickly discovers that when you swim with the sharks, you might just end up as prey...

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"A" Is for Alibi: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery

By Sue Grafton

Book cover of "A" Is for Alibi: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery

Why this book?

Sue Grafton is one of those authors who grafted for 15 years as a screenwriter and wrote seven novels before becoming an "overnight success" when the first of her 25 "alphabet novels" was published. I am amazed and inspired by her gritty tenacity. It's little wonder this quality is evident in private detective Kinsey Millhone, the character Sue Grafton features in each of the books. Written in the first person, Millhone is funny, irreverent, and caring, yet she is also insecure and emotionally vulnerable. It makes for a great combination.

"My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I'm thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind…"

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few cared. A slick divorce attorney with a reputation for ruthlessness, Fife was also rumoured to be a slippery ladies' man. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access, and opportunity, Nikki was their number one suspect. The Jury thought so too.

Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who really killed her husband. But the trail has gone cold, and there is a chilling twist even Kinsey didn't expect…

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Deal Breaker: The First Myron Bolitar Novel

By Harlan Coben

Book cover of Deal Breaker: The First Myron Bolitar Novel

Why this book?

This is the first of 11 books featuring Myron Bolitar, a hotheaded but tenderhearted sports agent. He is one of the most fascinating and complex heroes in suspense fiction.

Bolitar is poised on the edge of the big time. So is Christian Steele, a rookie quarterback and Myron's prized client. But when Christian gets a phone call from a former girlfriend — a woman who everyone, including the police, believes is dead — the deal starts to go sour. Trying to unravel the truth about a family's tragedy, a woman's secret, and a man's lies, Myron is up against the dark side of his business — where image and talent make you rich, but the truth can get you killed.

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The Monkey's Raincoat: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel

By Robert Crais

Book cover of The Monkey's Raincoat: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel

Why this book?

Introducing Elvis Cole, L.A. Private Eye, who, along with his business partner Joe Pike, features in 18 books. Cole is a literate, wisecracking Vietnam vet who is determined to never grow up. Pike is a former Marine, quiet, ruthless, and deadly.

When Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-Deco office, she's lost her husband and her young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower, Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs, sex, and murder.

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Killing Floor

By Lee Child

Book cover of Killing Floor

Why this book?

No list of serial thriller characters would be complete without Jack Reacher. In the first of his 26 Reacher books, Lee Child wrote the lead character in the first person, giving a fascinating insight into the inner workings of what makes his hero tick. 

Military policemen are trained to be better than the best killers the Marines can produce. Reacher was the best of the best, but now he's an unemployed drifter and an easy target for suspicious, lazy cops. Reacher was just passing through Margrave, Georgia, when he was arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didn't kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn't stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

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