The best thrillers that make it weird (and weird makes it better)

Misha Burnett Author Of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar
By Misha Burnett

Who am I?

While I have often been described as a Fantasy author, I have never found the genre descriptions Fantasy and Science Fiction to be terribly useful. They describe things that exist in the story, and maybe where the story takes place, but not what the story is about. The designation Paranormal Romance lets the reader know that Romance is what the story is about, it's just romance with characters who go bump in the night in more ways than one. In the same way, my stories usually involve fantastic or futuristic elements, but the stories are the same as you'd find in mainstream fiction—Crime, Mystery, Adventure, Exploration, Romance. Only, you know, with dragons and wizards. 

I wrote...

Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar

By Misha Burnett,

Book cover of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar

What is my book about?

It's hard to hunt wizards and demons when all you have is a gun and badge. 

Erik Rugar is a cop in Dracoheim, a city built on magic and ruled by a dragon. He works for the Committee of Public Safety, the city agency that licenses commercial magic. Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts is a collection of interrelated short stories that show the dark side of the wizard business.

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The books I picked & why

The City & the City

By China Miéville,

Book cover of The City & the City

Why did I love this book?

The City & The City is a police procedural novel in the style of Joseph Waumbaugh or Ed McBain. The Weird setting supercharges the jurisdictional barriers that are a staple of police novels and increases the power of the mystery by positing a literal “unseen world” for the detective to navigate through. 

The twin cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma exist side by side, sharing the same real estate but separated by an epistemological divide. The inhabitants of each have learned to “unsee” the other, consciously suppressing their awareness of the nation next door. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Besźel Major Case Squad investigates the murder of an unknown woman and finds himself the target of an international conspiracy that exploits the cities' unique mental geography.

By China Miéville,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The City & the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, the multi-award winning The City & The City by China Mieville is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

'You can't talk about Mieville without using the word "brilliant".' - Ursula Le Guin, author of the Earthsea series.

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to…

Book cover of The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Why did I love this book?

The Man Who Was Thursday is a political thriller of the type that was common in the early 20th Century, much like The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Count Of Monte Cristo. The hero is a young man recruited to infiltrate an organization of anarchists that is dedicated to sowing chaos in the already unstable European monarchies. The Weird nature of the main antagonist increases the danger and the sense of paranoia that drives the story. What if the criminal mastermind you're pursuing really is something more than human?

By G.K. Chesterton,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Man Who Was Thursday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can you trust yourself when you don't know who you are? Syme uses his new acquaintance to go undercover in Europe's Central Anarchist Council and infiltrate their deadly mission, even managing to have himself voted to the position of 'Thursday'. In a park in London, secret policeman Gabriel Syme strikes up a conversation with an anarchist. Sworn to do his duty, When Syme discovers another undercover policeman on the Council, however, he starts to question his role in their operations. And as a desperate chase across Europe begins, his confusion grows, as well as his confidence in his ability to…

Book cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Why did I love this book?

A coming-of-age novel, dealing with the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood and the loss of innocence, combined with adventure in the style of Treasure Island and True Grit. The adventure that these boys undertake is Weird, a sinister and supernatural carnival that appears in town, out of season and bearing strange gifts. The nature of Codger & Dark's Pandemonium Show adds a deeper element to the danger, the peril in Something Wicked This Way Comes is not just physical but spiritual as well.

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Something Wicked This Way Comes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre.

For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all…

The Damnation Game

By Clive Barker,

Book cover of The Damnation Game

Why did I love this book?

Although it's generally listed as Horror, The Damnation Game is really Crime Fiction. We are introduced to the main character, Marty Strauss, as he is being released from prison on early parole, sponsored by a reclusive millionaire named Joseph Whitehead. Marty—a former semi-pro boxer—is told that he's being hired as Mr. Whitehead's bodyguard, but it soon becomes apparent that the job involves some very unsavory work. The Weird element is Mr. Whitehead's relationship with his former mentor, Mamoulian. Marty is forced to choose not only between going straight or returning to crime, but between Earth and Hell. 

By Clive Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Damnation Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



There are things worse than death. There are games so seductively evil, so wondrously vile, no gambler can resist. Amid the shadow-scarred rubble of World War II, Joseph Whitehead dared to challenge the dark champion of life's ultimate game. Now a millionaire, locked in a terror-shrouded fortress of his own design, Joseph Whitehead has hell to pay. And no soul is safe from this ravaging fear, the resurrected fury, the unspeakable desire of...


Declare: A Novel

By Tim Powers,

Book cover of Declare: A Novel

Why did I love this book?

A Cold War Era Spy Thriller that draws heavily on real historical events and persons, Declare ups the stakes enormously with the inclusion of Weird entities of devastating power. The spy game between East and West is often centered around new technological superweapons, but in this novel the weapons are literally apocalyptic.

In a world where no one is what they seem to be and allies may become enemies in the blink of an eye, Andrew Hale learns that not all of the players are human and that the real Great Game has been going on since the creation of the world.

By Tim Powers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a young double agent infiltrating the Soviet spy network in Nazi-occupied Paris, Andrew Hale finds himself caught up in a secret, even more ruthless war. Two decades later, in 1963, he will be forced to confront again the nightmarethat has haunted his adult life: a lethal unfinished operation code-named Declare. From the corridors of Whitehall to the Arabian desert, from post-war Berlin to the streets of Cold War Moscow, Hale's desperate quest draws him into international politics and gritty espionage tradecraft -- and inexorably drives Hale, the fiery and beautiful Communist agent Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga, and Kim Philby, mysterious…

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