Thursday, August 25, 2011

5 Best Books: 5 Best Genre Reads

5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Cassandra at her blog, INDIEREADERHOUSTON Each week we're handed a new topic - this week, 5 Best Genre Reads.

Well, it's no big secret around here that my favorite genre is Mystery/Thrillers.

But I don't want to repeat myself and keep naming and talking about the same books over and over. We all know that my favorite mysteries list would begin with THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE and O JERUSALEM, both by Laurie R. King. (And probably THE MOOR, also by King.) The next would be THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES followed by any of the assorted favorites I normally talk about or list here at blog central - Agatha Christie or Rex Stout or Ngaio Marsh, or Robert Crais, the usual suspects.

So, to avoid constantly haranguing you with the same titles and just to keep things fresh, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick 5 entirely different titles -  favorite books I've hardly ever talked about before.

1) RIVER OF DARKNESS by Rennie Airth.

While England recovers from the insanity of WWI, a horrible crime is discovered in a small Surrey village - an entire household butchered. The police, baffled, assume the gruesome scene is the result of a botched robbery. But war veteran and Scotland Yard Inspector, John Madden thinks otherwise. Still grieving the death of his own wife and child, the soulful Madden suspects a madman may be on the loose.

With the help of a country doctor (who happens to be a woman), he learns about the new science of criminal psychology. RIVER OF DARKNESS has the somber feel of another book with a similar theme, THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr, but I think, Airth's book is a slight cut above. (Though I am a big fan of THE ALIENIST as well and would name it on any 100 Best List.)

2) THE EAGLE HAS LANDED by Jack Higgins.

'Eagle' is the code name the Nazis have given Winston Churchill. The British Prime Minister is the intended target of an ace group of German commandos who have been ordered by Hitler to either kidnap or kill Churchill. (A desperate attempt to reverse the direction of the war.) Now we all know that Churchill was never kidnapped or killed by anyone, but that doesn't lessen the intrigue and suspense as Jack Higgins unfolds this very clever story. One of my all time favorite WWII thrillers.

3) BOOKED TO DIE by John Dunning.

Tough guy Denver cop and rare book collector, Cliff Janeway debuts in the first novel - published in 1992 - of a series which I read as much for the book lore and collecting tidbits as I do for the mystery.

When a local book 'scout' (a person who has a talent for 'scouting' out the odd rare or collectible title among the dross then passing it on to dealers - a kind of middle man) is murdered, Janeway is sure he knows who the killer is. But 'knowing' and proving are two different things. When the frustrated cop goes too far in his attempts to hook a slippery local hood for the crime, he is summarily kicked off the force.

With his book expertise, what else is Janeway to do but open a bookstore and continue hunting for the killer? Makes sense to me. Especially when books from a famed and coveted collection begin popping up, not to mention more dead bodies.

This is a terrific series filled with all sorts of book tips and collecting info which, I find fascinating.

4) ORCHESTRATED DEATH by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

The book that introduced the stalwart and intrepid London police inspector, Bill Slider. This series is many books along, but since it's one of the best police procedurals out there (with a great cast of recurring characters), I suggest going back to the very beginning (1991) and just dive in. I've read every book except, I think, the very latest and can vouch for how plainly terrific they are. Harrrod-Eagles is a historical novelist, but some part of her, obviously, knows and loves gritty police work.

When murder upends the world of classical music in the form of a local symphony orchestra, Slider and his men and women are brought in to set things to rights and ferret out a killer. The laconic Slider has no clue that this is the case which will completely alter his life.

5) THE BOOK OF Q by Jonathan Rabb.

I always say that this is the book that the DAVINCI CODE should have been. Or, at least, if Jonathan Rabb had written the DAVINCI book, think how fabulous it would have been. Rabb is the writer Dan Brown isn't. Simple as that.

In THE BOOK OF Q, published in 2001, Rabb has fashioned a quixotic thriller which lures you into the secrets of the Catholic Church as a priest working at the Vatican must discover the truth about a recently found ancient scroll.  The Manichaeans, an early Catholic sect of zealots who advocated the supremacy of 'one pure church' were thought to be extinct, but apparently are not. Fearing that the sect has been revived and is seeking to infiltrate and take over the Church, troubled priest Ian Pearse works to solve the dangerous puzzle. Pursued by an assailant, he races against time traveling to the Balkans to find the answer even as the Vatican comes under a deadly attack.


  1. I think you went in a great direction for this list! I am particularly interested in The Book of Q. I just admitted in another comment that I read the Dan Brown books (well,not the most recent one), and while the story was intriguing, I'm not overly impressed with the writing. I think this could be the better alternative.

  2. Patti: You should love this. I also recommend Rabb's THE OVERSEER.

  3. Cassandra: Oh, definitely. It's interesting to me - I only read half of THE DAVINCI CODE and skimmed the rest - to make the comparison. A really good writer would have made DAVINCI CODE a classic thriller. The elements were all there.

    Read the THE BOOK OF Q and see if you agree with me. I also recommend: THE OVERSEER by Rabb.

  4. Yvette: I have read the first three and enjoyed them. With that record I am going looking for the last two books.

  5. Bill: Let me know if you read them, what you think. 3 out of 5's not bad. :)

  6. Um, I'm so glad I found your blog and this list! I'm adding all of these books to my wishlist. I listed mysteries and thrillers as well, and have a completely different list! This is probably because I'm not as much of a connoisseur of the genre as you clearly are. Thanks for the leads!


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  8. Jenni, for whatever reason your comment posted twice. I just removed one of them.

    Thanks for dropping by. I guess I am a 'connoisseur' - ha!. I've been reading mystery/thrillers for years so that's my excuse.

    I'm off to check your list.

  9. You and I are connecting again. I tried not to go with my usual mystery picks too.

    Loved Orchestrated's been a long time since I read it though, so it's a bit fuzzy in the memory.

    I've never read The Eagle Has Landed, but I did enjoy the movie version.

    Great Choices!

    Here are mine:

  10. Bev: I like Jack Higgins. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED is a classic. He's almost as good as Frederick Forsyth. Oh, I meant to talk about my all time favorite spy novel written by Forsyth, but forgot. Oh well...Next time around.

    I'm off to see your selections. :)


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