The best thrillers that will also make you laugh

G. Craig Vachon Author Of The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley
By G. Craig Vachon

The Books I Picked & Why

The Road to Gandolfo

By Robert Ludlum

Book cover of The Road to Gandolfo

Why this book?

I have always loved spy thrillers (Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum, John le Carre, Jason Mathews) because of the plot's intellectual twists and turns, and with the characters' struggle and moral flexibility necessary to survive. But in most spy thrillers, you know who the good guys are supposed to be. Ludlum’s The Road to Gandolfo (and sequel The Road to Omaha) takes an absurd (but plausible) turn on that contention. The characters are loveable and the comedy (plus thriller are equally) fast-paced. I laughed until I cried on more than one occasion while reading this (these) book(s). 


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Slow Horses

By Mick Herron

Book cover of Slow Horses

Why this book?

When my editor (Harvard University’s Randy Rosenthal) first read my debut novel, his feedback was that my characters lacked enough significant flaws. “Readers want to share common ground and empathize with the characters in your novel. No one ever fell in love with a perfect character.” Herron’s novel has abundant characters with egregious flaws. And those flaws do make them so very intriguing. The plot is thick with manipulation and humor. Perhaps the best spy thriller written in the last 20 years. 


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A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why this book?

Towles' elegant prose is simply beautiful. I got lost in the deep relationships between his multi-layered characters. And his humor is understated, but wonderful. I’ve never wanted to meet a fictional character more than the protagonist in this terrific literary thriller. Having travelled to Moscow extensively, this novel’s setting was perfect.


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Cryptonomicon

By Neal Stephenson

Book cover of Cryptonomicon

Why this book?

Neal Stephenson makes his readers think and learn. I love the complexity of the plot. The shifting timelines. The assorted and wildly different locales. And Neal doesn’t let his characters take themselves too seriously. There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout his thriller.

My absolute favorite endorsement of my novel was a thoughtful comparison to Cryptonomicon. Such very high praise.


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Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary's Book One

By Jodi Taylor

Book cover of Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary's Book One

Why this book?

Time travel thrillers are fun because of the incredible imagination they take to make them feel real. Ms. Taylor does an incredible job making it feel not artificial, with all the warts, giggles, and feels that we humans all experience. Her historical research is impressive (as is her prodigious chocolate consumption, or so I am told). This series (and the characters therein) is thoughtful, intricate, and damn funny. I had a hard time putting it down, (and then bought the entire 13 book set). 


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