Wednesday, August 11, 2010

NPR's Top 100 Thillers

The NPR audience nominated some 600 novels to our "Killer Thrillers" poll and cast more than 17,000 ballots. The final roster of winners is a diverse one to say the least, ranging in style and period from Dracula to The Da Vinci Code, Presumed Innocent to Pet Sematary. What these top 100 titles share, however, is that all of them are fast-moving tales of suspense and adventure.
And menace. Critic Maureen Corrigan, who served on the advisory panel of experts for this project, was surprised by how dark many of your choices are. "Even the [Agatha] Christie pick, And Then There Were None, is one of her creepier novels." Co-panelist, novelist and critic Patrick Anderson was more impressed with the overall quality of the choices: "The vast majority of these are very good books or classics ... Thomas Harris, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith — this audience knows good writing."
Of course, there will be arguments about whether some of these books truly count as "thrillers." (You know who you are, Shogun.) The many 19th-century novels, in particular, may raise eyebrows. But David Morrell, novelist and co-editor of the recent anthology Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, defends such choices. "A lot of people see 'thriller' and think 'spy book,' " Morrell says. But a book like The Last of the Mohicans is "unquestionably a thriller — filled with chases and derring-do." Morrell also mentioned Dracula ("take away the supernatural elements and it's a serial-killer novel") and The Count of Monte Cristo. "As long as you have that breathlessness and sense of excitement," Morrell says, "then they're in."

Who is the NPR audience's favorite thriller writer? It's the King, of course — Stephen King, who landed six titles in the top 100. Lee Child comes next, with four winning books. And, at three titles each, Michael Crichton, Dennis Lehane, Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson tie for third.
Polls can help us understand an audience — and even make predictions about it. Based on the some 100,000 votes cast in this survey, the following prediction seems a safe one: Armed with the list below, none of us will need to consult a psychic, supersleuth or Harvard "symbologist" to unearth pulse-quickening vacation reads during the rest of this summer and for many months to come.

1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson
4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. The Shining, by Stephen King
8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
9. The Hunt tor Red October, by Tom Clancy
10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
12. The Stand, by Stephen King
13. The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver
14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
15. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown
16. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
18. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane
19. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
20. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

21. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett
22. It, by Stephen King
23. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
24. The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
25. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
26. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr
27. Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris
28. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
29. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
30. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson

31. No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
32. Gone Baby Gone, by Dennis Lehane
33. Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
34. Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin
35. Subterranean, by James Rollins
36. Clear and Present Danger, by Tom Clancy
37. Salem's Lot, by Stephen King
38. Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
39. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carre
40. The Poet, by Michael Connelly

41. The Boys from Brazil, by Ira Levin
42. Cape Fear, by John MacDonald
43. The Bride Collector, by Ted Dekker
44. Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
45. Dead Zone, by Stephen King
46. The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon
47. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carre
48. The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
49. Tell No One, by Harlan Coben
50. Consent to Kill, by Vince Flynn
Joe Matazzoni (NPR)
If you want to see the other 50 winners see the article at

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