Five Great Novels to Take to the Beach
You’ll find plenty of critics who will point out enduring classics that everyone should read in their lifetime. Sure, you’ll want to make time for twentieth-century masterpieces like The Great Gatsby,Rebecca, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman. But it’s summer. It’s time to put on your sun block, relax by the sea, and open up a thriller that you can’t put down. Here are my choices for five of the best examples of modern popular fiction. If you missed them, you’ll want to pick them up before your next holiday. If you’ve read them, these are books that only get better when you read them again.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
You could make an argument that Crichton, who died this year, invented the modern forensic thriller with his first novel. Without The Andromeda Strain, which deals with scientists trying to contain an other-worldy virus that killed all but two people in a small town, there would likely be no CSI and no Patricia Cornwell. What’s remarkable is how topical and prescient Crichton’s novel remains after almost forty years.
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Long before The Da Vinci Code, there was Neville’s mystical globetrotting tale of a missing chess set owned by Charlemagne that may hold the key to magical powers. Set both in the French Revolution and the 1970s, with cultural references that somehow tie together most of human history, it’s a thinking person’s answer to Indiana Jones.
In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson
The big names in detective fiction these days are people like Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin. Yes, they’re both terrific, but if you ask me to pick my favorite detective novel, I’d choose this novel by Robinson that ties a World War II mystery into modern-day England. Robinson uses the elements that I find most compelling in detective novels: a deep sense of character, twists and turns right up to the very last page, and a plot where the past creeps like a snake into the present.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Follett made a name for himself writing taut spy novels like Eye of the Needle. Then came this sprawling tome about the building of a cathedral in the Middle Ages. While it may be a departure for Follett, it’s his best book. Despite its length and scope (stretching over more than a hundred years), it’s a page-turner, rich in historical detail and just as sexy and suspenseful as any of his thrillers.
Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter
Sometimes you want an action thriller that’s driven by pure adrenaline. Hunter’s first novel featuring hero Bob Lee Swagger, which was made into a movie called Shooter, is pumped full of so much energy and surprises that you may forget about eating and sleeping until you finish it. It’s also got two of the best twists you’ll find in a suspense novel – a terrific courtroom surprise and a "hidden" twist that many readers may miss altogether.