A while back I did a post on my favorite detective novel series, but I am also influenced by TV shows and movies (which I will cover later) in writing my own procedural noir, the John Simon Thrillers. Here are the five current detective shows I can’t stop watching:
1) Bosch-Hands down on of the best and most accurate procedural shows ever made, this one is based on Michael Connelly’s bestselling books about LAPD Detective Heironymous Bosch, with Connelly helping write and produce. Shot on location in L.A., it is gritty, realistic, and utterly compelling with great plotting and characters, despite deviations from the also excellent books. One of the best police shows ever made. Currently airing on Amazon Prime with 5 seasons released and 2 more to come.
2) Lincoln Rhyme: The Hunt For The Bone Collector-Based on Jeffrey Deaver’s bestselling books about the quadraplegic genius detective Lincoln Rhyme and his female partner who works the streets, this one is even better than the prior movie adaptation with Denzel Washington in the title role. Russell Hornsby, whose sidekick role on Grimm left him underappreciated, rocks the lead role here and the supporting cast are stellar as well. Utterly compelling and fascinating with a good inside look at the forensics and how all the little pieces come together to make a case.
3) Shetland-is based on novels by Ann Cleeves, an award winning British crime writer, set and shot on the Shetland Islands which the lead actor also calls home. Shetland has 5 seasons out now on Netflix and two more in production so far and followed Deputy Inspector Jimmy Perez and his team as they investigate crime within the close knit island community. Being an isolated and inhospitable environment, the team are forced to rely on unique resources and skills in policing and the result is utterly compelling noir television at its finest.
4) Luther-Starring Idris Elba and set primarily in London, Luther has 5 seasons so far with a 6th in discussion. The noir detective story follows John Luther, a flawed hero and detective who is a genius at policing. His cases often involve serial killers whose minds he has a knack for getting inside of. His methods, personality, and troubled private life often cause him trouble both on and off the job thus leading many to question whether he’s worth the cost. Compelling and well made noir. Another look at British law enforcement.
5) Stumptown-This one is still growing on me as its first season nears its end but I keep tuning in, episode after episode, because the actors give riveting performances despite their very flawed, sometimes unlikeable characters. Based on Greg Rucka’s graphic novels with Rucka involved in the show, the series followed female P.I. Dex Parios, a Marine Gulf War veteran whose life is a bit of a mess despite her skills at investigation. Her relationship with the owner of the Bar that serves as her makeshift office and her Downs Syndrome brother who works there is the heart of the show and the cases are interesting and sometimes involves ties to the nearby Indian Reservation. Set in Portland, Oregon.
Those are my top 5 at the moment, what are yours? Feel free to tell us about them in comments. I’d love to discover some new ones.
To read the series I write inspired by these shows in part,click here.
Now that I’ve introduced the world to my first thriller, Simon Says, I thought it’d be fun to look back at the thrillers that most inspired my love for the genre and have stuck with me over the years. Here are the top 10. All highly recommended.
1. The Brotherhood of The Rose by David Morrell—a classic espionage thriller about orphans taken in by a politically connected spymaster and raised as assassins and special agents who work all over the world taking out undesirables for their “dad” and his powerful friend. An amazing thrill ride with great twists and turns. This one is so good I like to reread it every few years. It was made into a weak TV movie and never got the same respect as the author’s more famous Rambo books.
2. The Firm by John Grisham—actually Grisham’s second book but the one that put him on the map. Published in 1991 2 years after his debut A Time To Kill went almost unnoticed, this one sold millions and put Grisham on the map, also inspiring a hit 1993 film starring Tom Cruise. This is the book that really established Grisham’s legal thriller formula with an idealistic hero finding himself caught up in a corrupt system that winds up threatening his life and everything he believes in. A great read, one I couldn’t put down, it remains a great example of great pacing, plotting, and characterization, whatever you think of the author’s simpler literally style.
3. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly—One of the great first novels of a truly great series. It may be popular fiction but has all the literary style of a classic. Mixing supernatural horror with noir detectives, it tells the tale of a private detective haunted by the murders of his beloved wife and daughter who takes on the case of a missing girl at the request of his former partner and finds himself drawn into a world where the ghosts of the dead haunt the living, and thirty-year-old killings shrouded in mystery and lies haunt the survivors. Truly a stunning read with unparalleled characterization and lyrical prose. Winner of the Shamus Award for best first P.I. novel.
4. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly—another great debut, this novel introduced thriller fans to LAPD Detective Heironymous Bosch of Hollywood Division, who’s haunted by the death of his mother, as he investigates the murder of a homeless vet that seems connected to a spectacular underground bank robbery and finds himself drawn to FBI agent Eleanor Wish who’s assigned to the case. Winner of the Edgar Award for best first novel, it also loosely inspired season 3 of Amazon’s fantastic Bosch tv series. Not to be missed.
5. Hard Fall by Ridley Pearson—If ever a novel begged to be made into a movie, it was this one. Following FBI Agent Cam Daggett as he investigates the downing of commercial flight 1023 which killed his parents and son, Daggett is on the trail of a killer with only one clue: a name, Anthony Kort. This one had edge-of-your-seat plotting, great characterization, and fun twists and turns that keep you guessing. My favorite Pearson book, one that is far too often overlooked. From 1992.
6. Naked Prey by John Sanford—Not the first in Sanford’s terrific Prey series but the first I read, this book introduced me not only to Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension but also to his soon-to-be adopted daughter Lettie, whom he encounters for the first time while investigating a murder case with his partner Del Capslock. All the core elements that make the series so addictive are in place here from the strong, engaging supporting cast to the mix of humor to solid plotting and genuine suspense. A great read from start to finish. After I finished, I started reading the rest of the series in series order and have eagerly anticipated each new Prey book every year since.
7. The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh—a 1973 nonfiction book written by a sergeant for the LAPD, it chronicles the kidnapping of two plainclothes LAPD officers by a pair of criminals during a traffic stop and the subsequent murder of one of the officers. Set in March 1963, the book reads like a novel and is highly gritty and compelling, an unforgettable read. It was later made into a 1979 film that starred a young Ted Danson as one of the two murdered cops and James Woods as one of the killers. A case with real life suspense and drama that led to a change in California law as well as inspired real life efforts on victim’s behalves. As good as nonfiction gets. Just as compelling as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or my next entry.
8. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Carl Gentry—Considered the best true crime book in history, prosecutor Bugliosi offers a first hand account of his prosecution and the investigation leading to it surround the infamous Manson murders by Charles Manson and his follows in 1969 Los Angeles. Another can’t put it down read that has inspired several films and a miniseries, it remains the definitive account of a real life case that even fifty years later continues to fascinate the public and law officers alike. Reading this book at home alone in my basement room prompted me to start locking doors in our house in a quiet Kansas suburb and consequently to locking my surprise parents out one night. Later, they both read it and my mother has insisted on locked doors ever since. Truly heartpounding suspense made all the more scary by the fact it is true.
9. The Hostage by WEB Griffin—Brimming with rich characters, strong action, and cutting-edge drama, this is the second in Griffin’s hit Presidential Agent novels, but the first I encountered, about homeland security agent Charley Castillo discreetly investigating an American diplomat’s murder in Argentina and searching for his kidnapped wife. Touching on the UN/Iraq Food oil-f0r-food scandal, it is a page turning read that hooked me on yet another series. By a surprisingly prolific author whose style reminds of Tom Clancy without all the endless technical and research gobbledy gook that bog down his pacing and clog his already thick tomes.
10. Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy—My favorite of Clancy’s books, a rare standalone effort, this reads like a giant miniseries, a war novel co-written with Larry Bond, who is uncredited on the cover and title pages, which debuted at number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 1986 and chronicles a third world war in the mid-1980s between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces. It is considered unique for depicting the conflict as being fought exclusively with convention weapons, despite the existence of weapons of mass destruction on both sides. One of only two Clancy novels not set in the Jack Ryan universe.
If you enjoy thrillers like these, please be sure and check out my debut thriller, a hit with readers, Simon Says, first in my John Simon Thrillers series about a tough Kansas City Detective who hates technology but must team with an android witness to solve his partner’s kidnapping in 2029 K.C. Gritty, realistic, and heavily researched, it is plotted to follow how real investigations unfold rather than standard formulas. So far readers love it, and I think thriller fans like you will too. Find buy links, a 3 chapter sample, and more here.
Be sure and let me know your favorite thrillers in comments.