"In Bed" with John Hart

July, 2011
John Hart Southern writer John Hart first practiced law before getting into the art of novel writing. Rather than working from his criminal defense attorney roots, the writer chose a more tangential path, producing character-driven mysteries set in North Carolina, his native state. This strategy has paid off with two recent Edgar Awards for Down River (2008) and The Last Child (2010), and his new novel, Iron House, again has a distinctly Southern element. When an orphaned boy-turned-mob enforcer flees his violent career in New York to return to North Carolina, he faces the remnants of his troubled past. Hart shares five great thrillers that "run deep"—books with characters who transcend the genre.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
"Anyone seeking to understand the phrase 'character is plot' should read this book three times. Dennis Lehane makes his people breathe from the page, makes them so real you feel that breath on your cheek, hear it in your ear. Actions and reactions match the characters in such perfect, subtle ways that the reader never doubts or disbelieves. The characters lead us on a seamless journey so that we arrive at the end of the book and say, 'Of course. Everything makes sense now.' It's as if the book could not have unfolded in any other way."


Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
"This is another beautiful and intelligent novel, a real game changer in which Scott Turow not only perfects the art of misdirection, but mines the English language to produce a genuine work of art. Character, plot, voice, prose. Twenty years later, it still sets the bar (and reminds me of my own years as a criminal attorney)."


In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien
"Once named Time magazine's best novel of the year, Tim O'Brien's masterpiece is perhaps the truest mystery ever written. I've read it twice and still don't know exactly 'whodunnit.' Rather than frustrate—as some might imagine—this bold and evocative novel leaves the reader moved and contemplative. Years after finishing it, I still debate what actually happened."


The Firm by John Grisham
"It's easy to forget that John Grisham was not always a household name, and easier still to mist over the incredible impact this novel made. It's one of two or three books that led me into this career, and I can still feel the noose tightening around Mitch McDeere's neck, the desperation and steadiness that made him such a perfect protagonist. This is a fire-breathing, plot-driven book, but the characters are still with me two decades later. As far as thrillers that stand the test of time go, that's a darn fine litmus test."


Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
"There's a reason Patricia Cornwell's career has been so remarkable, and all of those reasons are evident in this groundbreaking novel. Not only did she basically invent the forensic thriller, Cornwell did a remarkable job of making her characters' personal lives as compelling as the overarching plot itself. Other writers do similar things, of course, but Kay Scarpetta remains one of the strongest, most convincing female protagonists of all time, a living, breathing woman with the skills and courage to get the hard work done."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Thrillers



Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Sweeney I would overall agree with this author's assessment. I might even go back and re-examine the Patricia Cornwell book. I might also suggest that John Grisham's "Runaway Jury" was his best followed by "The Brethren" but clearly "The Firm" was an excellant read with an obvious appeal to any new young lawyer starting with a major law firm. With that modest caveat mentioned, I would certainly explore this author's material.


message 2: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Frisbie I have enjoyed all of these books but I must also say that I have really loved John Hart's books. More more more please!,,,


message 3: by Patricia (new)

Patricia I totally agree with Cindy's comments.


message 4: by Juha (new)

Juha Super. But I've still to read Tim O'Brien who now moves up on my list!


message 5: by Glenda (new)

Glenda I agree with all these books that Mr. Hart listed. Unfortunately Tim O'Brien's book is not available for the Kindle. Hopefully it will be soon.

John Hart is also an excellent writer and can be listed among these outstanding authors as well.


message 6: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Hours after reading this, I realized I read one of John Hart's first books (first one?), King of Lies, and enjoyed it.
And he must be smart, because I agree with most of this list. Haven't read the Tim O'Brien yet, either - never knew it was considered a "thriller." Patricia Cornwell...well, yes, I loved Postmortem and her first 8 or 9 books, but then started hating the direction they were going, and haven't read them for years. Too bad.
Instead, I read Kathy Reichs, and find those well-done (and except for the protag's name, little in common with the series "Bones," though I love it, too).


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