(Thriller, plot driven, sensational life-threatening events…)




DUMAS, Alexandre   

The Count of Monte Cristo    1844

Huge (common) and coherent (rare) epic; Tolkienesque scope, Shakespearian vibe





ELTON, Ben   

Popcorn    1997

Clever, funny, incisive: works as a thriller and as satire


O’Brian, Patrick

The Fortune Of War (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 6) 1979    Historical Fiction/Action

Thoroughly enjoyable




DUMAS, Alexandre   

The Three Musketeers     1844

Action, flawed but heroic personalities, fascinating alternate historical values


O’BRIAN, Patrick 

Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 1)     1970    Historical Fiction/Action

Impressive sense of another (intriguing) time, people and place


Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 2)     1972    Historical Fiction/Action

Engaging and fascinating characters, settings and action






Hostage    1983   

More spy psychology than action, which enhances. And from an author with some idea of what he was talking about


COURTNEY, Bryce    

The Power of One            1989

Enjoyable, gripping. Boy to successful man story in apartheid South Africa



Casino Royale (Audio Book)        Action (Spy)

Well narrated, different composition to movies – more romance, less action, darker


HARRIS, Robert  

Fatherland      1992    Thriller / Historical Fiction

Filmic clichés, but able characterisation and pacing never sacrificed to novel Nazi hook



Wool   2013    SF/Action

Unapologetically formulaic, but cohesive and engaging



The Girl Who Played With Fire    2006

Capable thriller, at heart deeply conventional, but originally wrapped heroine


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (Millennium Triology 3) 2006    Action

A little repetitive, but impressively weaves a final story into the overstory



The Spy who came in from the Cold            1963

Dark, trendsetting, anti-heroic cold war machinations



The Call of the Wild (and other stories)   1903

Robust, Conan-style, over the top mythical dog stories



Tomorrow, When the War Began           1993    Novel/Action/Teen

Surprisingly workable war and teen romance hybrid; recognisable Oz kids


O’BRIAN, Patrick 

HMS Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 3)    1973    Historical Fiction/Action

Impressive weaving of professional and private lives in breathing historical context


TEMPLE, Peter               

In The Evil Day (aka ‘Identity Theory’)      2002

Stylish use of thriller conventions (except the daydream women)


SIMMONS, Dan         

Ilium    2003    SF

Starts pretentious, but becomes potent, epic and thrilling






The Judas Factor       1984    Action (Spy)

More reflective on the nature of the job and relationships than a thriller


BANKS, Iain  

Canal Dreams       1989    Novel/Action

Ably realised genre hybrid, but I admired this book more than I enjoyed it


BARRY, Dave      

Big Trouble    1999    Action/Humour

Professional, funny, but slick, filmic and disposable


DOYLE, Arthur Conan    

Sir Nigel    1906

The 14th century semi-quixotic adventures of a starry-eyed teen gaining knighthood



Queen Victoria's Revenge    1974    Action

Pleasant enough silly action pulp


FOLLETT, Ken    

Whiteout   2004    Action

Follett’s superwoman biff and soap-opera romance



 B        Forever and a Day     2018    Action (Bond)

Nah, stick to early Fleming writing Bond


KENT, Alexander      

The Flag Captain 1971

Adventure on the high seas. Not Patrick O’Brian, but not bad either


LUDLUM, Robert

The Bourne Identity   1980

Classic thriller. Amnesiac gradually realises he’s a super-spy



King Rat   1998    Action/(Urban) Fantasy

Cool, dark X-men action and mood, bit pretentious, really silly climax


MOORE, Brian

Lies of Silence     1990

Assured, professional, raises interesting questions, but not engaging


SMITH, Wilbur     

The Sound of Thunder (Sean Courtney series)   1966    Action/Historical Fiction

Engaging Boer war action, dubious ‘heroic’ character




BAGLEY, Desmond   

Windfall    1982

      OK start but descends to lazy farce


FORSYTH, Frederick

The Fourth Protocol 1984    Action (Spy)

Right wing bias damages stupidity filter


L’AMOUR, Louis

Sitka   1957

Slightly variant heroic Alaskan western



The Recruit (Cherub #1)  2004

Effective YA spy fare: not so much for older (or younger) readers who want texture in characters and settings



Captain Alatriste 1996 (trans. M.S. Peden, 2005)     Historical Fiction/Action

Disappointing: more jingoism than intelligent historical action


REILLY, Matthew       

Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves            2011    Action

Every action/war hero movie as text. That’s, unapologetically, it.





CLEARY, John          

The Safe House    1975

Particularly average



Second Skin   1995     Action

OK standard action novel with absurd philosophical pretensions




CLANCY, Tom     

The Teeth of the Tiger           2003    Action

Proudly stupid bigotry