The best thrillers to educate, illuminate, and escape into guilt-free

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve also always been interested in the unexplained, which is why my thrillers usually have a blend of the political and mystical. Perhaps it’s the mixed background Russian/Polish/English, Jewish/Protestant, and being a global citizen I've felt compelled to illuminate these lesser-known corners of history. I find the thriller structure to be the most entertaining and accessible both as a reader and writer. I also write historical fiction and erotica as well as short stories. My original training was as a sculptor and writer for screen and stage, and I like to create as visceral and visual a read as possible for my readers. 


I wrote...

Sphinx

By Tobsha Learner,

Book cover of Sphinx

What is my book about?

A thriller set in Alexandria, Egypt in 1977 against a backdrop of political turmoil – when Oliver Warnock, a self-made English geophysicist working in the oil trade loses his marine archaeologist wife in an unexplained drowning amid the underwater ruins of Cleopatra’s palace he finds himself swept up in a quest for a mysterious ancient astrarium that transforms his life, his world and even the way he thinks about time.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Constant Gardener

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

Le Carre is one of the greats, for me, he is the perfect blend of great plot choices, dialogue, and brilliantly succinct description. This book is classic Le Carre, set in and around the emotional labyrinth of the British High Commission in 1980s Nairobi, the murder of a promiscuous young wife of a British diplomat leads to corporate corruption involving the Aids pandemic and big Pharma. As an author, Carre has always taught me the importance of in-depth characterisation and solid back-story. No one has written so grippingly about male menopause and the existentially exhausted world of post-colonial British spydom. It was also a political thriller that inspired me to take on lesser-known historical travesties using this genre as a way of telling the ‘silenced’ stories. 

By John Le Carré, John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Constant Gardener as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The book breathes life, anger and excitement' Observer

Tessa Quayle, a brilliant and beautiful young social activist, has been found brutally murdered by Lake Turkana in Nairobi. The rumours are that she was faithless, careless, but her husband Justin, a reserved, garden-loving British diplomat, refuses to believe them. As he sets out to discover what really happened to Tessa, he unearths a conspiracy more disturbing, and more deadly, than he could ever have imagined.

A blistering expose of global corruption, The Constant Gardener is also the moving portrayal of a man searching for justice for the woman he has barely…


Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

This book taught me that villains can be compelling protagonists. It is a wonderful portrait of an amoral aspirational underdog who, through the ability to mimic the pretensions and manners of the wealthy, successfully cheats his way into the persona of his obsession, after murdering him. And, despite the fact he lacks empathy, he is fascinating, his motive, even more disturbing, relatable. Highsmith taught me the importance of the back-story of characters to understand them psychologically. Once you have established that, you can take the reader anywhere and this book does. Part of the fascination and tension is reading how he’s getting away with it and the fact that he succeeds is pure genius and, in itself, a statement on society. 

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

19 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"…


Book cover of The Spies of Warsaw

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

I’ve always felt humanity could avoid wars and repeating itself through the study of historical cycles. And what struck me about this book is how it is the perfect depiction of the run-up to the 2nd world war. Furst creates an amazingly perspective on mid 20th century Europe in this regard. My grandfather was Polish and lost many of his relatives in the Holocaust; The Spies of Warsaw is a look into old Pre-Soviet Poland, its complex nationalism, and the run-up to Hitler’s ‘sudden’ invasion - the trigger to the 2nd WW. But, instead of broad historical troupes, Furst depicts ordinary, fallible people swept up in the machinations of survival and spy-dom. As a European of mixed heritage, this is understandable poignant to me. As an author, I have tried to tackle how people can get swept up into the political and how this ends up shaping their destinies – whether they like it or not. 

By Alan Furst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Autumn evening in 1937. A German engineer arrives at the Warsaw railway station. Tonight, he will be with his Polish mistress; tomorrow, at a workers' bar in the city's factory district, he will meet with the military attache from the French embassy. Information will be exchanged for money. So begins The Spies of Warsaw, with war coming to Europe, and French and German operatives locked in a life-and-death struggle on the espionage battlefield. At the French embassy, the new military attache, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, a decorated hero of the 1914 war, is drawn in to a world of abduction,…


Book cover of The Day of the Jackal

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

This book was a huge influence on me in terms of plot structure. Meticulously researched, it taught me the importance of priming your canvas – setting up the backdrop and backstory to create incredibly high stakes, so by the time Forsyth unleashes his protagonist it is totally gripping. A portrayal of the real-life assassination attempt on French President Charles de Gaulle instigated by a right-wing paramilitary group furious with the way he finally gave Algiers independence, Forsyth’s genius is the mix of historical fact and fictionalized psychology of the central anti-hero, a hired British mercenary. What I love about the character is his ruthlessness and utterly amoral use of his sexuality to get what he needs for the hit, it also encouraged me to write fictionalized accounts of real historical characters.

By Frederick Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Day of the Jackal is the electrifying story of the struggle to catch a killer before it's too late.

It is 1963 and an anonymous Englishman has been hired by the Operations Chief of the O.A.S. to murder General De Gaulle. A failed attempt in the previous year means the target will be nearly impossible to get to. But this latest plot involves a lethal weapon: an assassin of legendary talent.

Known only as The Jackal, this remorseless and deadly killer must be stopped, but how do you track a man who exists in name alone?


Book cover of Fatherland

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

Fatherland was Robert Harris’s first book and arguably one of his finest. A portrait of functional totalitarian evil, it is a projection of what might have happened if Hitler won the war - the first of this genre. I loved it for both the visceral atmosphere of Berlin under fascism albeit futuristic and also the very fallible moral quandary of the German detective protagonist. Originally recommended by a Dutch boyfriend of mine, I found it both terrifying - I genetically would not have existed under such a regime - and fascinating. The other thing I love about this book is the ironic manner Harris sets the actual real-life world leaders up in the 1960s and how they might have quite likely thrived under Hitler’s world dominance.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

_________________________
'The highest form of thriller . . . non-stop excitement' The Times

NOW AVAILABLE: THE SECOND SLEEP, ROBERT HARRIS'S LATEST NOVEL
_________________________

What if Hitler had won the war?

It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind,…


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Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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