(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


LE CARRÉ, John  

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


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


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





The Teeth of the Tiger      2003     Action

Proudly stupid bigotry