There’s this Scottish doctoral student who is writing his dissertation on contemporary crime fiction, and he has asked me in the past to answer participate in interviews and fill out questionnaires. Recently he asked me to name my five favorite crime novels of all time. I’m not good with picking “favorites” or naming “bests” since I’ll always think of things I should have picked or I like better, but after providing that caveat, here’s the list I sent him:
Bodies Electric by Colin Harrison. Honestly, I think this may be the best thriller ever written. Harrison is simply a fantastic writer, and his real gift is focusing on the tensions and terrors of ordinary people rather than focusing on big, political issues.
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. I tend not to read a lot of historical fiction for my leisure reading — it feels too much like work — but this is a great historical novel as well as a great crime novel. I recommend it to everyone.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. To put it bluntly, every book should be this book. Smart, engaging, compelling, and suspenseful — it has it all.
Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Finder is the master of the (non-historical) business novel. He’s also a great writer, and at his best when he’s writing in first person from the perspective of an engaging narration in over his head. This book plays to all of his strengths, and every page is a pleasure.
Diamond Dogs by Alan Watt. This one remains one of my all time faves. A masterful story of a teenager who accidentally does something terrible and has to hide his crime from his father, the town sheriff. Perfection.
Feel free to post with your own picks.
By the way, writing about Diamond Dogs prompted me, as I do every few years, to see if I could track down Alan Watt on the internet and try to find out if he ever plans to write another novel – which is something I’d like him to do. This time I made contact, and he seems to be a nice guy. The internet is truly bringing us all together.