This is going to be a conversation with myself about thrillers, suspense, mystery and horror books. Yes I talk to myself sometimes. No I am not crazy. But then alcoholics don’t think they are alcoholics so maybe I really am crazy. I mean, who wanted to read about gruesome details and disturbing people, for fun? Who would stay up late just so she could find out Who Dunnit (even if it means going to work with just 2 hours of sleep?) Who actually took an anatomy class just because she would have a chance to dissect a cadaver? Granted, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist or CSI, so I thought that class might be helpful... but then I barely passed biology/chemistry/biochemistry, and I didn’t want to be the CSI or pathologist who missed a crucial clue because I was too dumb, and let the criminal get away. So I wanted to be a criminal profiler or detective or criminal lawyer instead... but then I didn’t want the bad guys coming after me or my family lol. Oh I’d better stop babbling since I haven’t even started asking myself questions yet! (And don't forget there is a Give Away at the end!)
Q: So, why do you like this genre so much?
I like solving puzzles. Crime is one of the most fascinating puzzles since it involves human and there are so many variables - it is both an art (human mind) and science (physical evidence)! I want to see if I could out-guess the author. I am not a competitive person at all - I don’t even like to play in team sports because I don’t care if we lose or win (and of course I don’t want to drag the team down) but I guess I am competitive intellectually with myself. I know there are many people smarter than I am, so I am not competing with others, but I like to test myself to see if I am observant or logical. I feel so dumb when I miss something obvious! I always wonder if cold cases can be opened to the public to try to solve (or at least those who are interested, but not wanting to be a cop or FBI or the like. I’d fail the physical for sure!)
Q: When did you start reading this genre?
I won’t bother with the books I read when I was a kid, as those books were written in Chinese (but yes, my interest in this genre went way back when). So I’ll start from my teenage years instead. I’d just moved to Australia from Hong Kong. Even though we learned English in Hong Kong, it was all text book English and I wasn’t very good at it. It was totally different when you had to speak the language everyday, all the while trying to translate everything in your head very quickly so the other person didn’t think you were slow. The people you spoke to also speak with an accent you had never heard before, and use slang that you had no idea about. While I had always loved to read as a kid, I hadn’t loved reading books written in English because there were just too many words I didn’t understand. Of course the school chose the most boring books ever (why do they always pick those symbolic books, or literary books where the author used 13 pages to describe what the flower smelled like), so that didn’t encourage me to find books to read in English.
Luckily, my friend introduced me to Christopher Pike. One book later, I was hooked! Even though I didn’t understand every word, I got the gist of it. I didn’t know reading English books could be fun, and not a chore! I pretty much read all his books I could get my hands on. Also read some R.L. Stine, but Pike was still my favorite. I remember we had library periods, where the whole class would spend the time in the library reading. We had to track what we read on Index cards. In no-time, I out-read everyone even though I was the only ESL (English as a Second Language) student. I think reading these books (among others) really helped improved my English, more so than the text books! I also learned about the western culture as well, like how western teenagers behave (okay, I knew getting murdered was not the norm :)
Q: So what happened next?
I found a lot of other authors I liked in this genre. Between 1992-2004, some of my favorite authors then were (not in any order) Mary Higgins Clark (a lot of you know who she is), John Saul (suspense/horror), Robin Cook (medical thriller), Elizabeth Lowell (romantic suspense), Jayne Anne Krentz (contemporary romantic suspense - she also writes under Amanda Quick for historical romantic suspense), Sandra Brown (suspense), Richard Layman (horror), VC Andrews (horror - well that’s how the library categorized her books anyway) and Patricia Cornwell. Since this was way before the blogging days (or the Internet days for that matter...), I “discovered” these authors mostly by browsing the library book shelves. I’d see which title or cover attracted me. I didn’t know a lot of them were famous or prolific authors until later.
My favorite “author discovery” from this period was, guess who, Jeffery Deaver! :) (if you didn’t guess it, you should go read my Thrill Questionnaire here :) Seriously, I still remember how and where I “found” him. It was like one of those where-were-you-when-Princess-Diana-die moments. I was in college then in Australia. We had a student union building and there was this cool library where it had fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels, and comfy chairs. They divided all the fiction by categories, so of course I was naturally drawn to the murder/mystery section. I seriously just read every book spine to see which title catch my eye! Granted it wasn’t a big library, but still.
Deaver’s books were located right at eye level (for those of you who didn’t have marketing classes, this is strategically the BEST retail location as you don’t have to crank up your neck to see, or kneel down). The title, A Maiden’s Grave (published in 1995), somehow got my attention. I hardly remember what that book was about, apart from some teacher and students got kidnapped, but I must have liked it enough because I kept seeking out his books. When I read the Bone Collector (1997), it was like nothing I’d read before because it included SCIENTIFIC details that explained the evidence (remember, I was a science major who wanted to be a CSI! This was before CSI was a TV show!) I think by that time, I had read Patricia Cornwell - while she usually does include some medical knowledge on how the victim died, Jeffery Deaver took it to the next level with the forensic details. You felt like you were part of the team catching the criminal because you were presented the evidence (and Deaver usually put the evidence nicely together for you in a summary, as that’s how Lincoln Rhyme wanted his assistant to show him as he is quadriplegic). Of course, I like the characters too.
This was all before the movie Bone Collector was made (1999) so I enjoyed the fact that I found him myself, not because of the media craze. Though I have to admit, Denzel Washington was not how I pictured Lincoln Rhyme. Well Angelina Jolie wouldn’t be my pick for Amelia Sachs either (I just noticed they changed her name to Amelia Donaghy in the movie? What?!) I don’t know who I’d have casted, I just had their images in my head and I couldn’t match a name to these faces (I read Hollywood gossip just for fun, but not a die hard fan, so I don’t know a lot of the supposedly famous people.)
Q: What happened after 2004?
I moved to the US in 2004. I hardly read for a while... I read some, but at that time I was working a full time job, building a photography business, and going to graduate school. I hardly had time to sleep, let alone read. It wasn’t until about 2007 that I got really interest in reading again because I found this fabulous mystery series. And for the life of me, I CANNOT remember what the titles were or who the author was, or what the character names were! I did some google search, I looked through amazon and I just could not find it. If I remember right, it is about this Caucasian male detective who went to China, and he partnered with a Chinese female detective to solve some crimes. One of the books was about these archaeologists digging something by a river in China and someone was found dead... freshly dead, not an ancient death (or something like that anyway!) Now, I didn’t like this series as much as some others, but they were engaging enough that my interest in reading was ignited once again. From 2008 onwards, I read about 100 books a year (you can find what I read here in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011). Not all of them were fiction of this genre, as I had started to explore other type of fiction, thanks to various book forums, and of course, blogs. But this genre still reminds one of my favorites (the others are dystopian and magical realism. Non-Fiction too!)
Q: So any other authors you forgot to mention?
Yes, if you could believe it! William Diehl, who wrote Primal Fear! Now, I actually watched the movie first (Richard Gere, 1996) and liked this movie a lot (probably liked it as much as The Six Sense). When I found out it was based on a book, I just had to read it, and the book was even better! This is more of a legal thriller, but I still highly recommend you give this one a try as I like it as much as Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme :) I had read a couple of other Diehl books, including a sequel to Primal Fear but it wasn’t as good. I just googled Diehl, and he actually passed away in 2006, no wonder I don’t see his name anymore. If you like legal thriller, Scott Turow and Steve Martini are others you should try. Though like a lot of other prolific authors, their earlier works seem to be better than the more recent ones... I think I had read one John Grisham only, so can’t really comment on his work.
I’d enjoyed Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington series, as well as Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli/Isles series. I also read a few Kathy Reichs (the TV show Bones was inspired by Riechs books) but for some reasons her books are just okay for me. I LOVE Bones, but the TV Temperance/Booth and the book Temperance/Booth are different (I don’t even think Booth’s name is Booth?), the amazing “lab rats” (the lab scientists) were also missing in the books (I think?), so I guess that’s probably why I don’t like the books as much because I like the TV characters much more!
Q: Any more fun tidbits?
For some reasons, sometimes I get Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen confused (probably because I started reading both series around the same time). I also get Harlen Cohen and Dennis Lehane confused - don’t ask me how! I think I had read one Harlen Cohen and enjoyed it quite a bit (forgot what it is called! That’s why I track what I read and blog now because I don’t remember!). I had read a couple of Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island - brilliant ending, Mystic River - I liked it when I read it, but hated the movie).
I much prefer contemporary novels, so while I had read a couple of Agatha Christie, she isn’t quite a favorite... though I do like that she set up the story and explained the clues. I haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes! But I LOVED the Young Sherlock Homes movie (1985) lol :)
Q: Any authors who didn’t live up to your expectation?
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I read Book 1 only, and it was just too chicklit-ish for me. I didn’t like Stephanie Plum and didn’t find this series funny at all. I can see why it appeals to many (just like Twilight - not my cup of tea but I understand its popularity). If you like her style, you may also enjoy Lisa Lutz’s Izzy Spellman mystery series.
I think these books are just “lighter” whereas I prefer the more gruesome, heavier stuff that may give others nightmare. I want the step-by-step on what the murders did, and how they were caught due to logical investigation. Not just The heroine turned around and oops, he had a gun in his hand, pointing at her. She couldn’t believe it! He was so nice! And he said, with a sad look, “I don’t want to hurt you, but why do you have to keep digging? Now I have no choice but to kill you because you know to much”. And miraculously, someone else would shoot the murderer and the girl would fall in love with the hero who rescued her.
Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was just okay to me. I read Book 1, then watched all 3 movies instead of reading the other 2 books. I think his strength was creating Lisbeth as she is a memorable character. But his plot isn’t as strong as others I’d read.
Q: Last question, since you had talked too much already. I know this is a BOOK blog, but what TV shows in this genre do you like? This way, our readers would know whether they should take your opinion seriously... (or did they just waste their time reading this Very Long Post?)
I used to watch CSI: Las Vegas a lot. Then I just stopped watching after I moved to the US as we don’t have a TV (we do have a DVD player to watch videos). I didn’t like any of the spin off (Miami, NY, anywhere else?). LOVE LOVE LOVE the forensic details. I like Bones (anthropologist), Numb3rs (using math to solve crime! VERY logical!), Boston Legal (legal cases... more on how to get away from crime sometime - hire a good lawyer lol!), Castle (using a writer’s imagination to solve crime), Lie To Me (body language), Prison Break (more like a thriller), Shark (another legal one).
I’d just started The Mentalist and liked it so far (this one deals with body language too). Watched a few Criminal Mind and enjoyed it also but hadn’t watched it for a while. So if you don’t like any of these TV shows, forget about all the authors I mentioned :)
I tried watching Dexter Season 1. I only lasted 1 episode. While he is an interesting character, the pace was just too slow... I heard that it took the whole season to find the killer? A friend also mentioned Season 2 is better, so maybe I need to try that instead. I had also read Book 1, and it was just an okay read for me.
Q: Anything else (maybe I shouldn’t ask...)
If you like to read non-fiction, or want to read about FBI criminal profiling, go read John Douglas’ books!
Q: Wait, what about the Give Away?
Ha, I want to see if you actually read my post first :) Or did you fall asleep? Leave a comment, and tell me if any author you’d like to try after reading this post? You’d win an Amazon.com $10 gift certificate! (now if you don’t live in the US, please check to make sure amazon ships to you). I will randomly choose a winner by Friday 9/9 when Thrill Week ends!
Q: Any famous last words?
Thanks Marce for hosting this bloody fabulous Thrill Week!
Also, check out the other bloggers who are going to be doing a post during Thrill Week!
Thursday, Sept 1 - Thrill Ride/Blog Hop (participate by linking your post!)
Friday, Sept 2 - http://teawithmarce.blogspot.com - Tea Time with Marce
Saturday, Sept 3 - http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/ - Mental Foodie - A Book and Food Lover (ME!)
Sunday, Sept 4 - http://www.redheadedbookchild.com/ - Red Headed Book Child
Monday, Sept 5 - http://thebestobooks.blogspot.com/ - Best O'Books
Tuesday, Sept 6 - http://boofsbookshelf.com/ - The Book Whisperer
Wednesday, Sept 7 - http://www.cafeofdreamsbookreviews.com/ - Cafe of Dreams
Thursday, Sept 8 - http://cat-bookmagic.blogspot.com/ - Tell Me a Story