100 books like The Instant Enemy

By Ross Macdonald,

Here are 100 books that The Instant Enemy fans have personally recommended if you like The Instant Enemy. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Presumed Innocent

Terry Lewis Author Of Conflict of Interest

From my list on legal thrillers with law and justice tension.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up watching Perry Mason on TV and have always enjoyed mysteries with a legal theme, what has become known as the legal thriller. My affection for this genre only increased when I became a lawyer and, later, a trial judge. I especially appreciate a novel that accurately depicts what lawyers and judges say and do and that highlights the tension between law and justice. Not surprisingly, that has been my goal for the four legal thrillers I have written.

Terry's book list on legal thrillers with law and justice tension

Terry Lewis Why did Terry love this book?

This one will always have a special place in my heart because it inspired me to try my hand at writing fiction. In my mind, it stands alone at the top of this genre. Why?

First, the premise: the tables are turned on a prosecutor when he finds himself charged with murder. Second, the story is told in the first person present. This gives the narration a sense of both intimacy and immediacy. Third, the prosecutor is the narrator and never reveals whether he is guilty, letting the reader weigh the evidence to reach his or her own conclusion. Fourth, Turow nails it when it comes to authenticity.

The dialogue and actions of the lawyers seem realistic, and the legal proceedings are accurate, making the story more believable. Finally, the legal process was properly followed, and a verdict was entered, but was justice done?

By Scott Turow,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Presumed Innocent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rusty Sabich is a prosecuting lawyer in Chicago who enters a nightmare world when Carolyn, a beautiful attorney with whom he has been having an affair, is found raped and strangled. He stands accused of the crime.

This 'insider' book by a Chicago lawyer was one of the great novels of the 1980s, selling more than nine million copies, and was made into a famous film starring Harrison Ford. It's a supremely suspenseful and compelling courtroom drama about ambition, weakness, hypocrisy and American justice.


Book cover of Ghost Story

Michelle Mellon Author Of Down by the Sea: and Other Tales of Dark Destiny

From my list on fate dealing its infamously fickle hand.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s natural for humans to wonder who or what might have power over our actions. We’ve clawed our way to the top of the food chain, channeled the power of the elements, and tamed much of nature to our whim. What if something out there was the architect—or more—of our successes and failures? It’s something I’ve explored since I first began writing: fed by the adventures of living as an “Army brat” with a new life every two years, in keeping with my natural inclination to solve puzzles, and spurred by my fear of death and the equally frightening possibility that someone is or isn’t pulling the strings…

Michelle's book list on fate dealing its infamously fickle hand

Michelle Mellon Why did Michelle love this book?

There are certainly many different types of lists on which this book belongs. I always tell people Ghost Story is the scariest thing I’ve ever read. I was fortunate enough to relay that to the late great Peter Straub at a horror writers’ conference many years ago. Though I’m sure he would have liked praise for a more contemporary work, there’s a timelessness in the terror he evokes in this book. But that’s not the reason I include it here. It’s because I think ghosts are a form of Fate. Violence, injustice, visceral reactions—these are the things we associate with ghosts, and these are the elements that are central to the story of the punishing hand of Fate in this novel. 

By Peter Straub,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past...
 
What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?
 
In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.
 
But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury…


Book cover of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

Burt Weissbourd Author Of Rough Justice

From my list on character-driven thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write character-driven thrillers, including my latest novel: Rough Justice. How did I come to write psychological character-driven thrillers? It began years ago when I went to Hollywood in 1977. This was the New Hollywood (1967 -1980), and I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. Working closely with these great screenwriters was a rare opportunity to learn how to create complicated characters and to see how these complex people enriched storytelling.

Burt's book list on character-driven thrillers

Burt Weissbourd Why did Burt love this book?

This is an unsettling, deeply disturbing book. I put it on my list because I worked with Bob Lifton (Robert Jay Lifton) in a tutorial for 2 years at Yale. He was a student of unthinkable disasters, atrocities (Hiroshima, Thought Reform and the psychology of Totalism, Nazi Doctors to name a few). For over two years, we met together regularly to discuss and try to understand what was happening in contemporary American culture, and how it was changing during the late 1960s, particularly among young people. We talked about political unrest, the Vietnam war and the Bobby Seale Black Panther trial in New Haven, the student strike and the May Day, 1970 rally, including memorable appearances by the Chicago Seven, thousands of Panther supporters, and observed by the 82nd Airborne Division. He, and his book, helped me sort out how unthinkable things could happen, and he helped me come…

By Robert Jay Lifton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his most powerful and important book, renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton presents a brilliant analysis of the crucial role that German doctors played in the Nazi genocide. Now updated with a new preface, The Nazi Doctors remains the definitive work on the Nazi medical atrocities, a chilling expose of the banality of evil at its epitome, and a sobering reminder of the darkest side of human nature.


Book cover of Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes

Burt Weissbourd Author Of Rough Justice

From my list on character-driven thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write character-driven thrillers, including my latest novel: Rough Justice. How did I come to write psychological character-driven thrillers? It began years ago when I went to Hollywood in 1977. This was the New Hollywood (1967 -1980), and I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. Working closely with these great screenwriters was a rare opportunity to learn how to create complicated characters and to see how these complex people enriched storytelling.

Burt's book list on character-driven thrillers

Burt Weissbourd Why did Burt love this book?

When I was thinking about the second book I wrote in my trilogy, I knew I had to learn about violence, particularly violence in prison. What causes it, its impact, and why some people hurt themselves in prison. My brother recommended James Gilligan, a prison psychiatrist, and his insights and understanding of it shaped the central character in my book. It’s troubling but fascinating reading for anyone who’s interested in understanding this.

By James Gilligan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An eye-opening, revisionist analysis of the social and psychological roots of violence argues that violence should be approached as a problem in public health and preventative medicine, rather than one of biological or moral origins, and that shame is the common denominator that links violent perpetrators.


Book cover of The Underground Man

Stephen Holgate Author Of To Live and Die in the Floating World

From my list on neglected mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

From Poe to Conan Doyle and Christie to the hard-boiled school of Hammett and Chandler and modern practitioners such as Louise Penny and Walter Mosely, I can gobble up mysteries like candy. Their appeal lies not only in compelling storylines but in their promise to restore order to our chaotic world, assure us that justice will triumph and evil geniuses will lose to intrepid paladins. As with wines, art, and sex, tastes vary. While reading various lists of great mysteries to jog my memory to make this list, I realized that few of my favorites were even listed, much less among the top ranks. Like a good detective, I’m determined that justice prevails.

Stephen's book list on neglected mysteries

Stephen Holgate Why did Stephen love this book?

To my mind, Macdonald is the greatest of American mystery writers, yet he appears to be all but forgotten. Writing in the tradition of Chandler and Hammett—and sharing their California setting—he surpasses them both as a writer and a student of human nature. I find his detective, Lew Archer, a believable and appealing character. A decent and compassionate man, he’s as tough as needs be, but no tougher. The Underground Man is Macdonald’s best, a complex and haunting story in which a routine search for a missing person leads Archer into a twisted family heritage of death and betrayal that has festered, hidden, for decades, and has now burst forth in deadly fashion. 

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a mysterious fire rages through the hills above a privileged town in Southern California, Archer tracks a missing child who may be the pawn in a marital struggle or the victim of a bizarre kidnapping.  What he uncovers amid the ashes is murder—and a trail of motives as combustible as gasoline.  The Underground Man is a detective novel of merciless suspense and tragic depth, with an unfaltering insight into the moral ambiguities at the heart of California's version of the American dream.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler,…


Book cover of Sleeping Beauty

Geoff Loftus Author Of Murderous Spirit

From my list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a thriller writer, I have a simple goal: I want to entertain. I'm not the kind of writer whose name is coupled with the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. I write the kind of stories people read to divert themselves on a rainy afternoon or on the beach or on airplanes. My hope is that I can divert and delight my readers. Help them forget the real world for a while. Give them an enjoyable reading break. If people have fun while reading my thrillers, I've done my job.

Geoff's book list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon

Geoff Loftus Why did Geoff love this book?

Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books were my introduction to the American private-detective novel. Macdonald’s work is psychologically and morally complex, with the sins of previous generations cascading through time to horrific, homicidal effects on Archer’s clients.

In Sleeping Beauty, Archer tries to help a wealthy family with more trouble than any single family should have to deal with—including a missing girl, an oil spill, a ransom demand, and a corpse floating off a private beach. As Archer works his case, he untangles long-lost memories, the results of arrogant decisions, and the pained, twisted relations between parents and children. Sleeping Beauty is gritty and taut. Terrific detective fiction.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sleeping Beauty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Sleeping Beauty, Lew Archer finds himself the confidant of a
wealthy, violent family with a load of trouble on their hands--including an oil spill, a missing girl, a lethal dose of Nembutal, a six-figure ransom, and a stranger afloat, face down, off a private beach. Here is Ross Macdonald's masterful tale of buried memories, the consequences of arrogance, and the anguished relations between parents and their children. Riveting, gritty, tautly written, Sleeping Beauty is crime fiction at its best.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it is Ross…


Book cover of The Moving Target

Ashley Clifton Author Of Twice The Trouble

From my list on literary novels masquerading as crime novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

Flannery O’Connor once said that all fiction is ultimately about the “mystery of personality.” I agree. In fact, I have always suspected that all good novels, genre-based or otherwise, are secretly mystery novels, if only in the psychological sense. Conversely, many so-called genre novels have just as much depth, insight, and realism as any literary work. I have read a lot of genre and literary fiction in my time, and I have long been fascinated by works that blur the line between the two. My favorite kind of book is one that feels like a genre novel (that is, it has a great plot) but also has the depth and vividness of a literary novel.

Ashley's book list on literary novels masquerading as crime novels

Ashley Clifton Why did Ashley love this book?

If there is one central defining quality of noir crime fiction, it is the main character’s struggle to preserve his moral center in a fundamentally corrupt and evil world. The best P.I. novels are able to render this kind of character in brushstrokes that are both beautiful and subtle.

One of my favorites is Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, first introduced in this novel. When Archer is hired to find a missing rich guy in a tony, Southern California beach town, he finds himself knee-deep in violence, greed, and deceit, uncertain of who is guilty, who he can trust, and even who is worth saving. A moving target, indeed.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first book in Ross Macdonald's acclaimed Lew Archer series introduces the detective who redefined the role of the American private eye and gave the crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity only hinted at before.

Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up…


Book cover of The Barbarous Coast

Marjorie McCown Author Of Final Cut

From my list on crime about Hollywood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been hooked on the magic of storytelling since childhood, always eager to go wherever imagination can take me. I think that early fascination led me to become a costume designer because costume design is about using clothing to help tell a story. I spent 27 years working on the costume design teams for films like Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Angels & Demons, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When I decided to take what felt like a logical creative step, to write my own stories, I knew I wanted to write murder mysteries. And I thought the world behind the scenes of a movie would make the perfect setting.   

Marjorie's book list on crime about Hollywood

Marjorie McCown Why did Marjorie love this book?

This twisty, hypnotic story by the great Ross Macdonald focuses on the dark side of the Hollywood dream.

Private detective Lew Archer is drawn into the search for a missing woman, Hester Campbell-Wall, who seemed poised on the cusp of success via an oblique connection to Helio-Graff Studios when she vanished after a frantic phone call to her estranged husband.

Against his better judgment Archer agrees to look for Hester, a quest that pits him against the powerful and corrupt studio head, Simon Graff. The book is full of complex characters who are neither all good nor all bad, despite their acts of betrayal, deceit, and even murder.

That’s what makes them so poignant and believable: in various ways, they are all broken by dreams that didn’t come true. 

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beautiful, high-diving blonde had Hollywood dreams and stars in her eyes but now she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Hired by her hotheaded husband and her rummy “uncle,” Lew Archer sniffs around Malibu and finds the stink of blackmail, blood-money, and murder on every pricey silk shirt. Beset by dirty cops, a bumptious boxer turned silver screen pretty boy and a Hollywood mogul with a dark past, Archer discovers the secret of a grisly murder that just won't stay hidden.Lew Archer navigates through the watery, violent world of wealth and privilege, in this electrifying story of obsession…


Book cover of The Way Some People Die

Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn Author Of Strange Markings: A Skylar Drake Mystery

From my list on golden age detective stories.

Why are we passionate about this?

Janet and I have traveled extensively and found inspiration and story ideas at every destination. As writers for more than 10 years and as fans of classic detective stories, we feel qualified to tackle this genre.

Will's book list on golden age detective stories

Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn Why did Will love this book?

Ross MacDonald is one of the classic detective series that features a damaged leading character who finds more trouble than he knows. Many people have told us our writing style is similar to his. If you want to read classic noir, read this book. His books are hidden gems that beg to be discovered.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way Some People Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a rundown house in Santa Monica, Mrs. Samuel Lawrence presses fifty crumpled bills into Lew Archer's hand and asks him to find her wandering daughter, Galatea. Described as ‘crazy for men’ and without discrimination, she was last seen driving off with small-time gangster Joe Tarantine, a hophead hood with a rep for violence. Archer traces the hidden trail from San Francisco slum alleys to the luxury of Palm Springs, traveling through an urban wilderness of drugs and viciousness. As the bodies begin to pile up, he finds that even angel faces can mask the blackest of hearts.Filled with dope,…


Book cover of A is for Alibi

G. Davies Jandrey Author Of The Law of Unintended Consequences

From my list on tough women crime busters who wouldn't be caught dead in heels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to read about strong, independent, imperfect women who are capable of getting themselves out of their own messes. That's why my female protagonists are strong, independent, imperfect women who don't need a man to save them.

G. Davies' book list on tough women crime busters who wouldn't be caught dead in heels

G. Davies Jandrey Why did G. Davies love this book?

Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator, says she is a nice person, but she’s twice divorced, kidless, petless, doesn’t even want to take on the responsibility of a houseplant, drinks cheap Chablis out of a coffee mug—for God's sake—and she’s a killer. Frankly, how nice can she be?

I like not nice, and I loved Kinsey Millhone. Happily, there are 23 more Kinsey Millhone mysteries in the lineup.

By Sue Grafton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A is for Alibi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I'm thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind . . .'

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few cared. A slick divorce attorney with a reputation for ruthlessness, Fife was also rumoured to be a slippery ladies' man. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access and opportunity,…


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