Monday, 22 February 2010

The Ten Best British Thrillers....

by Matt Lynn

For the Headline crime blog, I've been compiling a list of the 10 best British thrillers of all time.

What are they? Well here's the first three. But for the rest of the list, head over to Crime Files....

One: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope: Even though it was published in 1894, Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda remains as exciting as the day it first rolled off the presses. The story of a rather foppish young Englishman called Rudolf Rassendyll caught up in the palace and political intrigue of the imaginary state of Ruritania, it has conspiracies, mysteries and femme fatales galore. Much of the story admittedly may seem antique to modern readers – and it has more than a touch of the ripping yarn about it – but this book is the start of the action adventure genre. It tears off page one at a hundred miles an hour, and speeds up from there. After this book, thrillers had to be genuinely thrilling.

Two: The 39 Steps by John Buchan: It’s an obvious choice, but The 39 Steps is still the template for any thriller writer. It has all the ingredients to cook up a great adventure story: an ordinary hero plunged into a global conspiracy: a fantastic chase sequence: and a puzzle that has to be cracked to save the nation. Dan Brown would kill for one of the Buchan’s riddles. And the book is written with an urgency and pace that still makes it seem very modern. Written in 1915, it gives the reader an insight into how the First World War was viewed by the people living through it.

Three: Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler: For me, Eric Ambler was really the writer who lifted the spy genre out of pot-boiler fiction, and up to a whole new level. He was a brilliant writer, who also explored the great themes of his day: think George Orwell, but writing adventure stories. Journey Into Fear is his most gripping book, a fantastic story of a fraught voyage from Turkey. The hero is cooped up on a ship, chased by menacing Nazi spies. It captures the tension of the first year of World War Two. It was written in 1940 and has a sense of brooding menace of that year, when the outcome of that war was still very much in doubt, and many people though they were facing decades of the Nazis dominating Europe.

Any suggestions for other books that should be on the list?

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