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17 Thrilling Reads for 2017 as Recommended by James Phelan

James Phelan is the bestselling, award-winning author of twenty-eight novels, including Dark Heart. From his teens he wanted to be a novelist but first tried his hand at ‘a real job’, studying and working in architecture before turning to English literature, spending five years at a newspaper and obtaining an MA and PhD in literature. James has written five titles in the Lachlan Fox thriller series, and the Alone trilogy of young adult post-apocalyptic novels. The ex-CIA character of Jed Walker was first introduced in The Spy, which was followed by The Hunted, Kill Switch and now Dark Heart. James has also written a fourteen-book adventure series,  The Last Thirteen. He has been a full-time novelist since the age of twenty-five, and spends his time writing thrilling stories and travelling the world to talk about them. Dark Heart is available here.

Even though he had a hard time whittling them down, James has revealed 17 thrilling reads he recommends for 2017:

Timeline by Michael Crichton. A group of history students travel to 14th Century France to rescue their professor, combining quantum and multiverse theory to a thrilling narrative.

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré. By far his best-written work – it’s as if he gave away the pretence of “writing” and just let the words fall where they should.

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy. I first read this aged 15; this is the book that got me hooked on thrillers – and made me want to be a thriller writer. I loved that Clancy’s writing and plotting was prescient, and having Jack Ryan’s family in jeopardy keeps you turning pages.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Because, James Bond.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. The best first book by a thriller writer.

Fatherland by Robert Harris. Atmospheric crime novel set in a world where Hitler won the war and is still around in the mid-60’s, while Joseph P. Kennedy is president.

The Poet by Michael Connelly. Connelly’s stand-alone novels have a different narrative engine to Bosch – think less police procedural and more creepy suspense. This one is a cracker.

61 Hours by Lee Child. I think this is peak writing style for Lee, and he continued it unchanged until Night School. This is a brilliant yarn… except for the “To be continued…” at the end of Australian/UK editions (for the record, Lee hates that they did that).

The Firm by John Grisham. Great concept and well executed – you really care for the McDeere’s from page one to the end.

The Osterman Weekend by Robert Ludlum. His best work, a masterclass in tension.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I re-read this every couple of years – and put on a few kilos in the process, as all that Italian cooking gets me hungry…

Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane. Probably the best thriller writer going around.

Life or Death by Michael Robotham. A great read by Australia’s best thriller writer. Confession: most of his other books are too scary for me.

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson. Introduced the world to Alex Cross – and so began the uber brand that is Patterson: not just the biggest selling thriller writer ever, but the biggest selling author – period.

Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn. This came out around when Flynn and I became friends, so it holds a special place in my memories. Flynn was one of the good ones.

A Girl in Time by John Birmingham. All his books are that perfect mix of explodey, tech porn, and fun – and this one has it all. A time travel thriller, and it’s like your favourite road movie, buddy comedy, and Dr Who episode fell into a transporter and got fused into something even more awesome.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Takes a critical look at the debacle that was the hastily-thown-in civilian “leadership” of the American reconstruction project in Iraq. I had to have a non-fiction on here, as that’s more than half my reading. This book should be required reading for all of those working in government and policy.


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