The best books that destroy some devious scoundrel

Benji Carr Author Of Impacted
By Benji Carr

The Books I Picked & Why

Tess of the D Urbervilles

By Thomas Hardy

Book cover of Tess of the D Urbervilles

Why 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.

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The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why 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.

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The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why 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.

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Blackwater: The Complete Saga

By Michael McDowell

Book cover of Blackwater: The Complete Saga

Why 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.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Why 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.

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