The best thriller novels that break the mold, surprising you with their unexpected approach, characters and story

The Books I Picked & Why

The Ninja

By Eric Van Lustbader

Book cover of The Ninja

Why this book?

This was the first book I read twice. It was groundbreaking back in the ’80s. A mixture of cultures, assassins, adventure, thrills, love, sex, and passion. A huge bestseller at the time. His detail of Japanese philosophy, fighting styles, honor, and code in a modern-day world is beyond captivating.

While he went on to a huge success with dozens of bestsellers, nothing topped this. It was a lifetime of daydreaming and research that he poured out onto the page.

I read it in two days on the beach under the sun and stars. Five days later, I read it again. I couldn’t get the story out of my head.

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The List of Seven

By Mark Frost

Book cover of The List of Seven

Why this book?

A true original. Arthur Conan Doyle working -to solve a series of grisly murders. Released in 1993, it sucked me in with the first paragraph.

It mixes genres and the historical with the fictional. There are Sherlock Holmes easter eggs everywhere, the idea being this thriller informed his writing. The characters, both good and evil, flesh out the great detective in a thriller-paced adventure.

You may not have heard of the author, but you definitely heard of one of his TV shows: Twin Peaks, which he created and wrote with David Lynch. While the TV show’s known for its quirkiness, it has a fantastic underlying mystery that drove the story. Much like Frost drives the story in The List of Seven.

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The Bourne Identity

By Robert Ludlum

Book cover of The Bourne Identity

Why this book?

Amazing Book. Nothing like the Matt Damon movie. It is taught, intricate, yet never lets up. Imagine waking up and not knowing who you are? Think about that! Then slowly discovering you’re a killer of the highest order being hunted, yet still in the dark. This fast-paced novel is the favorite of so many thriller writers of the last three decades. Ludlum was the model for spies, assassins, and original thrillers. He’s a master author revered by today’s master authors.

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Absolute Power

By David Baldacci

Book cover of Absolute Power

Why this book?

You may have seen the movie, but the book blows it away. They chopped out characters and stories to make a sleek tight movie. The book is so much more.

It has one of the greatest openings I have ever read. I dare you to read the first chapter and walk away. You won’t walk far. This thrilling opening sucks you in from the first paragraph. I won’t summarize it here, I can’t. I want you to experience exactly what I experienced.

It was Baldacci’s first. He mashed up a thriller, a mystery, politics, twists, and turns into something I never expected.

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By William Goldman

Book cover of Magic

Why this book?

The best for last!

You may not recognize the name William Goldman but I guarantee loved at least one of his stories. An amazing storyteller, novelist, and screenwriter: Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, Misery (he adapted Steve King), Chaplin, The Ghost, and The Darkness, and… The Princess Bride. He’s a man who moves between genres with ease and expertise.

His book Magic tops them all. A depressed magician/ventriloquist heads to a lake house vacation. Murder, mystery, and thrills ensue all told in a shocking style that is truly original. I can’t say more without spoiling it. It’s a short novel, a fast read and it will leave an impression on you for weeks to come. After your mind is blown by Magic, look him up, you’ll be impressed!

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