COLUMN: Finding the next big thrill(er)

We love to be scared, especially when fear is vicariously enjoyed, an antidote to the mundanity of the day-to-day.

We love to be scared, especially when fear is vicariously enjoyed, an antidote to the mundanity of the day-to-day. Enter the thriller, where the mundane is absent and the author’s intent is to scare the pants off you.

Mark Nykanen has just such intent. Our resident thriller-writer comes by his stories honestly: the four-time Emmy-winning journalist once covered heinous crimes for NBC News. Now he is the acclaimed author of tense psychological thrillers written under his own name and the pen name James Jaros.

One reviewer described Mark Nykanen as “a master of knowing what scares us deep down.” All of his seven novels — including The Bone Parade, Search Angel, and Primitive — attest to this. As James Jaros, Mark explores the apocalyptic potential of climate change. Yikes.

I asked Mark for his scare-the-pants-off-you fiction suggestions — and he emailed them to me in the middle of the night.

Mark suggests Children of Men by P.D. James (mysteries and thrillers tend to cross over). “Her wonderfully subtle yet harrowing dystopian novel still resonates for me about twenty years after I read it,” he says.

He recommends Christine Falls by Benjamin Black. “I’ve really enjoyed John Banville’s forays into crime fiction under his pen name Black. To be frank, though, nothing of his gripped me as much as The Sea, written under his own name, which I consumed on a single rainy Sunday.”

As well, books by Richard Price are “gripping, complex fiction with strong narrative drive and social over — and under — tones.”

I reached out to our library’s thriller readers, who always surprise me by their calm demeanours; I somehow expect their hair to be standing on end.

“Jeffery Archer never disappoints his fans, and his new novel Be Careful What You Wish For continues the Clifton family saga of power, romance, betrayal and intrigue that will have you reading late into the night,” says Cheryl Elliott.

Cheryl also recommends Vince Flynn as “a master at writing thrillers. Political intrigue and international black ops missions have his CIA operative Mitch Rapp solving problems all over the world. There are 14 novels and if you haven’t read any of them start at the beginning — and I envy you!”

Cheryl describes thrillers by John Lescroart, Jeffrey Deaver, and Catherine Coulter as unputdownable.

Alan Rayment suggests J.A. Nance as a thriller-writer who doesn’t disappoint. “Turbulence is about a rotten airline and dangers in a flight — all fiction but with an uncomfortable similarity to the real world of airlines,” he says, a good edge-of-your seat story along with Pandora’s Box, “about suspected disease on a plane that no country wants to have land.”

With the current Ebola scare, could Nance have been prescient? That’s the thing about thrillers — the scariest ones feel like they could really happen.

Sandra, who wanted just her first name used (thrillers do tend to make you look over your shoulder) suggests John Sandford’s Stolen Prey and John Grisham’s The Firm as serious page-turners, as well as “what at times can be a rather dark series by James Lee Burke with his Dave Robicheaux character that takes place in Louisiana.”

Janet McGuire describes a classic thriller-reader’s scenario. “The first Lee Child book I read was called Worth Dying For. Three days later, I was sitting out front of the Nelson library at 9:45 a.m. waiting for it to open so I could get my hands on another Jack Reacher thriller!” If you get started on this series, says Janet, “be prepared to stay up all night.”

And with this reading list, you just might. Remember that with downloadable eBooks, you can borrow books 24/7 — and you may never sleep again.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to

























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