The best books that destroy some devious scoundrel

Benji Carr Author Of Impacted
By Benji Carr

Who am I?

I believe that abuse – in all the forms it takes - doesn’t get discussed enough in real life, and some readers and viewers don’t even believe it should be explored in fiction, either. I think that abusers use shame as a way of perpetuating their wrongs, for victims who self-blame or stay quiet mean that this sort of activity can continue. It happened to me. I found stories where characters fought for themselves, even Ripley’s, to be satisfying. In my own novel, I wanted to depict a situation that might be abusive, but those abuses occur in a gray area, where the protagonist feels he cannot confide in others.

I wrote...


By Benji Carr,

Book cover of Impacted

What is my book about?

Impacted follows a character named Wade Harrell during a handful of days where his life goes to hell. He’s living in his mom’s basement with his girlfriend Jessa and their newborn baby, yet he’s having a secret affair with his dentist Dr. Emmett, whom Wade discovers is not the best guy. A breakup conversation with the manipulative dentist turns violent, and Wade finds his situation getting continually worse and more complicated. His secrets keep piling up, and he’s in fear for his life.

It’s a bit of a thriller with a dash of dark, dark comedy. But it’s also a Trojan horse of a book, full of twists that readers won’t see coming.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tess of the D Urbervilles

Why did I love this book?

This is my favorite classic novel, partly because I’m a fan of soap operas featuring long-suffering heroines. No one in fiction suffers more than Tess Durbeyfield, and no one deserves it less than she does. Tess is pure and good, yet Hardy assures she is never boring.

The doomed scoundrel here is an aristocrat named Alec D’Urberville, no relation to her. When she is sent to Alec’s doorstep because her dad thinks their families might be connected, it leads to a litany of disasters for Tess. There’s a rape, a scandalous pregnancy, and much misfortune. Because society in the 1870s blames Tess for the indignities she suffers, her doom is sealed almost from the start. Even when she falls in love with a good Christian farmer named Angel, things don’t turn out as expected.

By Thomas Hardy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tess of the D Urbervilles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is pround to present its new range of best-loved, essential classics.

'My life looks as if it had been wasted for want of chances! When I see what you know, what you have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing I am!'

Challenging the hypocrisy and social conventions of the rural Victorian world, Tess of the D'Urbervilles follows the story of Tess Durbeyfield as she attempts to escape the poverty of her background, seeking wealth by claiming connection with the aristocratic D'Urberville family. It is through Tess's relationships with two very different men that Hardy tells…

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why did I love this book?

My book was heavily inspired by noir mysteries, none more so than this classic. In this book, the Sternwood family hires sarcastic and fantastic Detective Philip Marlowe to protect them from a blackmail plot orchestrated by an evil bookseller named Arthur Geiger. Things turn sour quickly. Bodies pile up. The youngest Sternwood daughter Carmen seems wild and out of control, and soon Marlowe finds himself in danger, under suspicion of Geiger’s murder.

With my book, I tried to create a murder mystery wherein the detective never shows up, so my wild, out-of-control character has to fend for himself. Chandler pumped his book with a heavy amount of wit and sleaze. The Big Sleep is a delicious read.

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Big Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why did I love this book?

The scoundrel that gets destroyed in this novel is not the biggest scoundrel in the novel, but I still find the death of Dickie Greenleaf, a smug, spoiled, rich, fickle brat of a man, more entertaining than tragic. Maybe that says something awful about me, or maybe it just shows you how good Highsmith is at generating audience sympathy for scheming con artist and identity thief Tom Ripley.

Dickie spends the book avoiding responsibility, on perpetual holiday in Greece, relishing at being the center of his friends’ attention and devotion. That is, until he realizes that Tom is obsessed with him in a way that strikes him as parasitic and vaguely homosexual. Then, it becomes a bit of a game of when and how their “friendship” will end.

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…

Blackwater: The Complete Saga

By Michael McDowell,

Book cover of Blackwater: The Complete Saga

Why did I love this book?

This delicious saga of Southern Gothic horror is written by Michael McDowell, who wrote paperback horror in the 1980s and also penned the screenplay for Beetlejuice. Blackwater is his masterpiece, originally published as six separate books throughout 1983. Blackwater reads like an epic soap opera.

It follows 50 years in the life of the Caskey family in Perdido, Alabama, as two women battle for control of the family’s destiny. There’s Elinor, a red-headed schoolteacher who arrives in town during a river flood and eventually marries into the family. Her mother-in-law Mary-Love is a hideous scoundrel who rules the family with an iron fist.

But Elinor has some supernatural tricks up her sleeve, for she is an actual sea monster who eats people. It’s so much fun.

By Michael McDowell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido’s first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again…

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Why did I love this book?

The central mystery involving the Vanger family begins this book, and it feels like it’s going to build slowly into a rich story. But then comes Goth girl/genius hacker protagonist Lisbeth Salander, whose very presence suggests that this novel is a bit darker and more unhinged than the initial pages suggest.

Already traumatized by years of systemic abuse and misunderstanding, Salander’s situation becomes much worse when her beloved longtime guardian dies, and her newly appointed guardian named Nils Bjurman is a sadist who gains control of her finances and rapes her in a horrible scene.

When Lisbeth gets her revenge on Bjurman, the scene is completely insane, dark, violent, and unforgettably satisfying. And it kicks the novel into high gear.

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…

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