Political thriller books make for a riveting read , a perfect way to spend the lazy afternoons on our holidays. To cherry-pick a select few , from among a virtual treasure trove of some truly great books was an arduous task. Hence , the list compiled by your’s truly is extremely subjective so please feel free to differ.
One common aspect of every, enthralling political thriller book is its premise, which generally is rooted in international conflicts of that era. Whether it is themed on the Cold war between the capitalist West and Communist Russia or more currently the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and its detoriating relationship with the West or the battle for global hegemony between USA and China , every thriller writer entices its unsuspecting readers into the milieu of international politics, by spinning a magnificent yarn.
Combining in depth insider knowledge of several clandestine services of the Government and different covert operations , with natural story telling prowess , every successful thriller writer manages to concoct a detailed, exciting dilemma, which the reader sees unfolding in the space of several hundred pages . Masters of the genre like Le Carre, Ludlum or Forsyth, all had this prodigious talent and vision to vividly depict the intricacies of international politics, geopolitical power struggle and its far flung repercussions.
The Day Of The Jackal – Frederick Forsyth
A masterpiece worthy of the master. Forsyth’s evergreen classic political thriller revolved around a thrilling, breathtaking manhunt for an international assassin codenamed “Jackal”, and to thwart the assassination of the then incumbent French President Charles De Gaulle. Pitting a cold blooded, legendary assassination against a stubborn detective , Frederick managed to create a sizzling rivalry that goes right down to the wire and ends in a blockbuster climax. The continuous twists and turns, the mythos and the halo of the Jackal , that Forsyth expertly created , keeps the reader engaged throughout the narrative. It is not only a superlative espionage thriller , The Day Of The Jackal is indubitably the best book of this genre , that made contemporary thrillers like The Manchurian Candidate and the Spy Who Came In From The Cold, look like Hardy Boys mysteries.
Odessa File – Frederick Forsyth
As a self professed Forsyth fanatic , I have read all his works, but still Odessa File remains my favorite thriller of all times. The sheer vision that Forsyth demonstrated and the scope of the story was awe inspiring . The story was set in early 1960’s when an young investigative journalist chanced upon a old journal of a suicide victim who was a holocaust survivor. The diary subsequently opened a proverbial can of worms and the chain of events it triggered culminating in the unraveling of an sinister plot of reestablishing the Nazi order – every aspect of the story was simply jaw dropping. Forsyth seamlessly blends facts and fiction which made him a true artist of this genre. Odessa File, put simply is a darn good yarn.
Chancellor Manuscript – Robert Ludlum
If there was ever one author , who could challenge Forsyth for his throne it was Robert Ludlum. Despite penning more than thirty odd spectacular thrillers, it is his Chancellor Manuscript that to me easily outshines his other worthy creations. The plot revolved around the controversial “death” of the enigmatic Edgar Hoover and his vast stash of secret files, that he used to blackmail prominent members of the society. The compelling plot exerts a terrific appeal on its readers, as it somehow justifies our worst nightmares and paranoia about the actual happenings in the clandestine community of Washington.
Fatherland- Robert Haris
Harris’s best work along with “Enigma”, set in dystopian alternate history Berlin, where the Nazis have emerged victorious from the Second World War. Even though the narrative may turn ponderous and pedantic at times , the novel is undoubtedly a masterpiece on many different levels – historical fiction, detective fiction, or alternate history.
Le Carre –George Smiley Series
Nobody does spy thriller better than Le Carre and his George Smiley series is a visceral depiction of international espionage. Le Carre derives his vast knowledge about the world of espionage from his stints with the British Intelligence Service MI5 and MI6. Not opting for the flashy glamour of the spy world popularized by authors like Alistair Maclean and Ian Fleming , Carre kept his novels low key and cerebral. In George Smiley , he created an ordinary mortal whose biggest asset was his prodigious memory and tenacity and whose heroism did not lie in over the top, testosterone fuelled antics or nonsensical catchphrases, but in his mediocre methodic brilliance. So If you want to drown yourself in the shadowy world of deception and betrayal, thenwithout wasting any more time scoop up the entire series ( Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honorable SchoolBoy and Smiley’s People)