Q: My son is 17 and loves thrillers and crime novels. Can you recommend some classics that might appeal to him and some new titles, too?
Anonymous mother, Leicestershire
A: Peter Swanson is a thriller writer, whose latest novel, Rules for Perfect Murders, is published by Faber (£12.99). He writes:
Nothing makes me happier than hearing about a young reader who loves crime novels. I was once that 17-year-old, obsessed with books and mostly drawn to tales of suspense. And while these days I have trouble remembering what I watched on television last night, I do remember the books I read when I was a teenager, at least the ones that made a big impression. My favourites from that time were, in no particular order, the supremely chilling Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, the nonstop action thriller First Blood by David Morrell (better than the movie), and anything by Agatha Christie, but especially her masterpiece And Then There Were None.
My favourite series character was the Boston-based private investigator Spenser, written by Robert Parker. I particularly recommend the seventh book in the series, Early Autumn. Spenser is drawn into an ugly divorce case, and bonds with the teenage boy caught in the middle of it all. It’s a great example of how a detective story can also be an emotional journey. I loved it as a teenager and read it many times.
Other classics? Can’t go wrong with Dick Francis; I just reread Bonecrack and it was one of his best. And your son might enjoy Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, about freshmen at a New England college who kill one of their classmates. It’s wintry, sinister and romantic, and if it had existed when I was 17 years old, I would have been obsessed.
There are plenty of terrific modern thrillers out there, too. He might know Anthony Horowitz as the creator of the Alex Rider books, but Horowitz writes brilliant adult thrillers as well. I can recommend both Moriarty and The Word Is Murder. If he’d like something a little edgier, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is about a serial killer who travels through time. And there’s always Stephen King, if your son hasn’t dipped his toe in those waters yet. His book about the JFK assassination, 11.22.63, was a suspense masterpiece.
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