10 authors pick their desert island reads
You’re stranded on a tropical island, and you can only have one crime novel to read. What would it be, and why? An old favourite? A hefty tome you could really sink your teeth into? Or something intriguing and complex that you could read again and again and never grow tired?
We asked some top crime authors to share the books they’d choose as their desert island reads. Read on for some cracking recommendations…
Jessica Moor, author of Keeper:
Libraries were my lifeline in the years after I graduated university and worked a series of more or less dreary office jobs. I had no money for books and I was confined by what was available in the Tower Hamlets library, which freed me from the paralysis of too much choice. That time was one of the most influential reading periods of my life, not least because it brought me to Kate Atkinson. When Will There Be Good News was my first encounter with her writing, and is infused with her trademark style: wicked humour, flawless characterisation and intriguing plots, sprinkled with wry asides worthy of George Elliot. I had always known that I wanted to be a writer, but Kate Atkinson was the author who made me see what kind of writer I wanted to be.
Heidi Perks, author of Three Perfect Liars:
For me a desert island read is all about being able to immerse myself in something I know I’m going to love, and I don’t get more excited than when a new Liane Moriarty is out. If I could only take one book with me to read again then it would have to be my all time favourite Big Little Lies. Every time I read Moriarty I come away with another lesson in writing under my belt!
Andrew Child, co-author of The Sentinel:
Great characters? Check. Exquisite prose? Check. Intricate plot? Check. By any standard Ed Lin’s Ghost Month is an excellent thriller. But what makes it truly outstanding is the way Lin brings the setting – Taiwan – to life. I finished the book feeling like I’d been there. Immersed myself in the culture. Experienced the superstitions. Absorbed the politics. Even eaten at the hero’s food stand. Consequently Ghost Month lives in the head and the heart long after the final page has turned.
Jane Corry, author of I Made A Mistake:
If I was going to be stuck on a desert island, I’d choose the company of Josephine Tey. My mother lent me her copy of The Daughter of Time when I was about 14 and I was hooked immediately. Was it really possible that Richard III wasn’t a baddy after all? And if so, who really killed those poor little princes? The idea that a Scotland Yard inspector might crack the case hundreds of years after it happened, was intriguing. So much so that I began to ask myself the very questions that I do now when writing a thriller. Not just who did it. But why? I’m a quick reader so, if the rules allow, I’d like to take a collection of Josephine Tey’s books with me including The Singing Sands and Miss Pym Disposes. There’s something deliciously addictive about these period mysteries. They would definitely help pass the time while I am sunbathing on the beach along with my ‘Help’ flag to alert passing ships. In fact, I might turn down the chance of rescue in order to finish the chapter first.
Sam Lloyd, author of The Memory Wood:
If I’m going to a desert island, I’m going to pack something hefty, something I haven’t read and something I can pretty much guarantee won’t let me down. My choice is The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow, first of his Cartel trilogy. I’ve heard so much about this book and the six years of research that went into it. It’s a thriller that uses America’s war on drugs as its backdrop and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Even better, there are two doorstop-sized follow-ups, should I manage to smuggle them along.
S J Watson, author of Final Cut:
The thought of being stranded on a desert island with only one book terrifies me, but if I had to choose then I’d take Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s a dark, brooding psychological thriller, hauntingly beautiful, and with a killer plot. I love the way that du Maurier slowly tightens the screw until we have no idea who to trust. When I first read it my perception of what crime novels could be was forever altered, and I return to it again and again. For that reason alone it’d be the book I’d save from the waves (which is ironic in itself). Plus, who wouldn’t want to be stranded with the ever-resourceful Mrs Danvers? Actually, on second thoughts…
Claire Douglas, author of Just Like the Other Girls:
The Talented Mr Ripley is one of my all-time favourite thrillers. If I was on a desert island with only one book, I’d want to take one I could read again and again. I never get bored of the story of Tom Ripley, the anti-hero who manipulates everyone around him. It’s such a clever psychological thriller in the way it’s written because, despite all of Tom’s bad deeds – and there are many, including murder – I always end up rooting for him to get away with it. Even though I know all the twists and turns I still get lost in the story and particularly love the 1950s Italian setting.
Kate Riordan, author of The Heatwave:
If there’s a novel I could read over and over again – and indeed have – it’s Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Ostensibly a detective story, it’s also a literary mystery – and is as moving, wry and complex as you’d expect from one of our finest storytellers. Atkinson’s PI is the irresistible Jackson Brodie and here he’s trying to unravel three apparently unconnected historical murders. I am a sucker for a story about secrets from the past emerging to haunt the present and Case Histories is one of the very best.
Mark Douglas-Home, author of The Driftwood Girls:
Stranded on a desert island with few possessions, I’d want a book so versatile I could read it many times and still be gripped: a story beautifully written, with involving characters, which combines thrilling crime drama, romance and well-researched social history. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters manages, unusually, all of these.
Gillian McAllister, author of How to Disappear:
My desert island book has to be Missing, Presumed which was released in 2016 and, for me, is a modern classic. A truly likeable detective, a gripping mystery, and Steiner’s signature velvet prose. I highly recommend you start there, and you can read the follow-up afterwards!
What would you choose as your desert island reads? Let us know in the comments below…