NOTE: Beneath the end of the list, you can find the covers and details for each book selected.
1) "THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY" by Patricia Highsmith
The Texas-born giant of the American literary canon of the 20th Century made history through her work and her tempestuous mentality, that was chiefly manifested in her intimate relationships, has seeped into her work that remains a point of reference for today's authors and academics. The Ripley series, or "Ripliad" as it is also known, consists of 5 books, the first being the iconic The Talented Mr. Ripley that is deemed as one of the milestones in the country's literary tradition. It was there that we were introduced to the volatile persona of Tom Ripley a high-end grifter who has a knack for stealing from other persons whether it is money or their own identity. All 5 books are written in a prose that oozes cynicism, aptly complementing the featured stories. There have been several feature film adaptations of the first installment in the Ripley quintology, the most popular being the 1999 namesake film by Anthony Minghella.
2) "AFTER DARK" by Haruki Murakami
Written by one of the world's most charismatic storytellers, After Dark is a short novel, more like a novella, featuring the trademark detached narrative style which is highlighted by Murakami's use of the "pure point of view", allowing the reader to hover above the city of Tokyo through the lens of the camera which even though it is able to intrude and depict scenes from the lives of the characters in their most private moments. The story has two protagonists, Mari and Takahashi who meet in a bar and talk. Through the course of one night, both of them will become entangled in various situations that reflect what truly happens in the big city after the lights are off. There is a strong touch of magical realism in the novel and its smooth incorporation to the rest of the story adds to the text's enigmatic attraction.
3) "THE NEIGHBORHOOD" by Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the most eminent South American authors alive and, throughout his long-standing career, has thrived in several different fields and genres. While The Neighborhood is definitely not the best work in his oeuvre, it bears some of the characteristics that indicate to the grandeur of the creator. The setting of the story is the capital city of Lima which is described in vivid, yet solemn colors in a period that has been described as one of the most challenging in Peru's modern history as it was then that one of the most contentious political figures led the nation as the President of Peru. The titular "Neighborhood" is a reference to one of Lima's most treacherous places, the Five Corners district in the heart of Barrios Altos.
4) "LIBRA" by Don de Lillo
What can one say about the magnitude of Don de Lillo's work? Words always fail me when it comes to write about the New York-based author who has given the readership some of the most monumental novels of the previous century. His versatility is a rare find among his contemporary peers and Libra is one example of de Lillo's genre-transcending category-defying immense skills in writing. The book is Don DeLillo's reinvention of the events that led to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 in Dallas and on the epicenter of the American author's magnum opus is none other than the obscure figure of Lee Harvey Oswald, a young man who couldn't settle anywhere and for him nowhere felt like home. Libra is a fascinating take on one of the most traumatic events in modern American history and fans of literary fiction will not want to miss that one. Furthermore, fans of historical fiction and all those who are interested in the time period during which the book is set will have the chance to observe some of the most significant events surrounding the U.S.-Cuba and U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations during the 1960s under a whole new perspective
5) "BIG SKY" by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson has been labelled by many as "the standard bearer for literary crime fiction" and her work includes both series of books and several standalones. Her most popular novels are those featuring Jackson Brodie, a sequence that consists of five installments so far, and Big Sky (#5) is her most mature work, exploring dark themes such as women trafficking and sex slavery. Even though the subject matter of the book is horrifying, Atkinson moves past that hurdle by injecting dashes of humor and suspense in the text which is brimming with witty remarks, advanced vocabulary, and exemplary descriptions of the main characters, in short the trademark characteristics of the English author's prose.
6) "BEARTOWN" by Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is definitely one of the most esteemed writers in the contemporary Swedish literary scene and Beartown, the first installment in the titular trilogy, is the novel that earned him reputation among wider readership. Beartown is a little Swedish town and its residents watch as their lives are passing by as nothing exciting seems to happen there. Except for one: Ice Hockey. The local team, consisting exclusively of teenage boys, is the town's pride and the people have projected their innermost desires to the players. As the team reaches the semi-finals, a shocking event will upend the world of a family and tear the community in two. Beartown is expertly written with rich characterization and vivid description making the reader feel as he's actually there, in the fictional universe created by Backman's imagination. A must-read.
7) "BURIAL RITES" by Hannah Kent
One of the most auspicious new voices in literary fiction, the Australian author made a striking debut with the 2013 publication of her debut novel, Burial Rites, fictionalized account of the last death penalty carried out in Iceland. The novel constitutes one of the best examples of how to merge an essentially pure crime storyline with literary and historical fiction, biography, ethnography, and ancient mythology. Burial Rites is a novel resistant to genre categorization and proves that the success of a book does not lie in the strict adoption of the genre's rules and limitations, but in the talent of the author itself. Burial Rites is not a plot-based novel which relies on ingenious twists to keep alive the reader's interest, but a literary achievement where the beauty of language and the accurate representation of a distant past seize our imagination and keeps us turning the pages
8) "THE CHILD FINDER" by Rene Denfeld
Rene Denfeld is an American author and her work is considered to be one of the most prominent examples of using magical realism in literature, that is blending poetic writing with harsh realism, adding a soft touch of magic. The Child Finder features a common storyline, the case of a little girl's disappearance and the investigation that ensues, it is however saved by the emphasis that the author puts on characterization. The protagonist is Naomi Cottle is a private investigator, specializing in finding abducted or missing children, thus she acquired the nickname, "The Child Finder". Despite the absence of an ultra-mysterious or intricate plot, I was drawn to the story, not because of its intricate plot, but rather for the great outline of the protagonist and the dreamlike prose.
9) "FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM" by L. G. W. Persson
Sweden's top criminologist, as he is described in his native country, has delivered a life's work as the Fall of the Welfare State Trilogy (Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End, Another Time Another Life and Falling Freely, As If in a Dream) constitutes a landmark in Nordic crime fiction. The conclusive chapter in the trilogy, which can be also read as a standalone, is the best one and features Lars Martin Johansson, one of Persson's most well-rounded characters, who is now close to retirement and attempts to reopen a case that besets the Swedes for more than three decades and of course that is the murder of the Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, on Friday, 28 February 1986. Persson rekindles the interest regarding what has been names as "the most traumatic event in the recent Swedish history". This is the absolute must-read for everyone who claims to be a true fan of Scandinavian (crime) fiction and it will certainly also appeal to those who take an interest in the European political history.
10) "INTRIGO" by Håkan Nesser
Intrigo is nothing less than Håkan Nesser's tour de force, a rare achievement which is indicative of the great author's unique writing spirit. The book consists of 5 stories, some closer to short story and other to novella, and three of them have been adapted to cinema movies (Death of an Author, Samaria, Dear Agnes), directed by Daniel Alfredson. All five novellas and short stories are written in the style that made Nesser famous to the wider crime fiction audiences and all the trademark qualities of his prose are present. The characterization is excellent as Nesser effectively outlines his main characters in a limited number of pages while the plot is also absorbing especially in the two stories, Rein and Dear Agnes. The writing is so good that I didn't want to finish reading this book and that is a feeling I don't often experience. Despite the the films' director, Daniel Alfredson, statement that it is one of the rare times that the film is equal to the book's quality, I happen to disagree. It's not an easy task to interpret Nesser's prose into the language of cinema. Read the book first and then move on with the movies.
Jackson Brodie #5
Naomi Cottle #1
Fall of the Welfare State #3