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8 authors pick the best books to get lost in

We all love a good read that captures our imaginations, transports us to a completely different time or place and is so compelling that we spend every spare moment we have engrossed in its pages.

These elixir books are ones we fall in love with and recommend time and again. So, in our search for the holy grail of crime fiction to get lost in, we asked some of our favourite authors to pick their most absorbing reads.

Stretching the length and breadth of the genre, these brilliant choices will keep you hooked with powerful narratives, complex characters and plots that pack a punch. Clear your diary and put your phone on silent, you may be here for some time…

Cara Hunter, author of Hope to DieCara Hunter, author of Hope to Die:

I’ve recently been re-reading Ruth Rendell – spurred in part by discovering we share a birthday – and especially the books she wrote in the name Barbara Vine. I’ve been impressed again and again by her ability to create absolutely immersive narratives that are also, at the same time, compelling page turners. It’s hard to pick just one – The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy and Asta’s Book are definitely up there for me – but if forced to pick just one I’ll go for A Dark-Adapted Eye, which brilliantly evokes the 1940s and ‘50s, and was also dramatised by the BBC in 1994 in a fine production starring Helena Bonham-Carter, Celia Imrie, and Sophie Ward.

Gytha Lodge, author of Little SisterGytha Lodge, author of Little Sister:

The recent release I got most lost in was Amy McCulloch’s terrific thriller Breathless. I was absolutely hooked on journalist Cecily Wong’s fight to ascend Mount Manaslu, one of the peaks that reaches into the Death Zone. Amy’s ability to weave words made me feel I was right there as Cecily got to know the strengths and flaws of her group, and as she gradually began to realise there was a killer on the mountain with them. An addictive, transportive read that took me thousands of miles from my room!

Photo of Mahi Cheshire, author of Deadly CureMahi Cheshire, author of Deadly Cure:

I just loved debut thriller The Truth Will Out by Rosemary Hennigan. Set in Dublin, fresh out of drama school Dara is cast as the unlikely lead in a controversial play, based on the mysterious death of a boarding school student years ago and penned by one of the only witnesses to it. The plot unfolds through the present day and through play dialogue which reveals past events. As the cast become drawn into the mystery, secrets and paranoia abound and the lines between roles and real lives blur. Dark and intriguing, the world of the stage drew me in and made for compelling reading. I also have to mention another thriller I’ve read recently. Breathless by Amy McCulloch transported me straight to the mountains of Nepal, as a group attempt to scale Manaslu. In the Death Zone, the stakes are high enough, then things start to go wrong, even as the conditions become ever more treacherous. Full of authentic mountaineering details and taut with tension, I couldn’t put it down.

Gillian McAllister, author of Wrong Place, Wrong TImeGillian McAllister, author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time:

My book to get lost in this spring is Broken Harbour by Tana French. I read it one weekend recently, feeling guilty for not reading proofs, but it was so good I didn’t care. Moody, immersive, and full of flawed characters who you love, a Tana French book is not just a novel: it’s an experience.

Jane Corry, author of We All Have Our SecretsJane Corry, author of We All Have Our Secrets:

I was gripped by Reputation by Sarah Vaughan from the first sentence. What’s not to love? An intelligent, pacy plot which sneaks behind the scenes of Parliament and into the private life of a woman MP who might – or might not – be breaking the rules. Would we blame her? Let’s leave that for Question Time – the fictional version of course. I would read anything by this author. You just know it’s going to be good.

Photo of Andrew Hunter Murray, author of The SanctuaryAndrew Hunter Murray, author of The Sanctuary:

The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes. In 1960s America, a young doctor reluctantly stops to pick up a teenage girl who’s hitch-hiking her way across state lines. But where has she come from? Why is her cover story so full of holes? And, as the cars ahead of them start being pulled over by police, why does the doctor become so terribly nervous? Hughes has a masterful control of character and plot, and there is a moment where she flips the entire narrative in a way that will make every author reading it slap their forehead and say – of course. It’s as relevant and gripping today as it was in 1963.

Tom Bradby, author of Yesterday's SpyTom Bradby, author of Yesterday’s Spy:

I first fell in love with reading through the old Cold War novels of Deighton and le Carré and have spent the last five years immersed in both the old Cold War (my new novel, Yesterday’s Spy) and the new (about an MI6 officer who suspects her Prime Minister is working for the Russians). It it is hard to find really good Cold War novels, I think, but these two are masters of the genre. It was also a real pleasure to get a proof copy of The Partisan by a new author called Patrick Worrall. It is fast-paced, intriguing and deeply atmospheric. The Kremlin sequences in particular are mighty evocative. I am really thoroughly enjoying it.

Photo of Laure van Rensburg, author of Nobody But UsLaure van Rensburg, author of Nobody But Us:

The last book I got lost in has been Catriona Ward’s Sundial. Ward has the ability to allow the reader to completely get lost into her main characters’ head. I am a sucker for beautiful prose, and the writing in Sundial is evocative, almost hypnotic which fit with the dusty, dystopian Mojave desert setting where most of the action takes place. The story is a compelling one too: once I start reading I got sucked into Rob’s story, her fears for her daughter Annie, and how she fears her other daughter Callie. After that I just couldn’t stop. Ward knows how to combine compelling characters full of secrets, and a tight plot that never stops moving forward, bring you twists, after twists. If you love a gothic suspense, and a story about women’s resilience, then Sundial is the book for you.

What are your favourite books to get lost in? Let us know in the comments below!

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