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Sharon Bolton: 5 books that shaped me

At different moments in our lives great fiction can inspire, shape and uplift our day to day selves. These books often retain a place in our hearts, it might be a much-loved battered paperback or a pristine first edition in the middle of the over-flowing bookshelves of a lifetime reader.

For an author, these books take on an even greater significance. Prolific reader and author Sharon Bolton has shared with us the five books that have shaped her and helped create the fantastic crime writer she is today.

Sharon Bolton: 5 books that shaped me…

1. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
I read and loved this book when I was very young and it is possibly the reason why, so many years on, I write Gothic mysteries in which romance and suspense intertwine like ribbons in the wind. Atmosphere, mystery, a deeply passionate love story and the most compelling hero in literature: this book has everything for me and is, rather than Wuthering Heights, the true Bronte masterpiece. This book inspires my style.

2. Thomas Harris’s The Silence of The Lambs
Simple, compelling and totally terrifying, this is possibly the best thriller ever written. If it didn’t invent the notion of the fascinating, strangely engaging serial killer, it certainly gave it a new lease of life. Hannibal Lector is the perfect anti-hero, we are mesmerized and repulsed by him in equal measure and the beautiful, brave Clarice is a wonderful foil for him. I aspire to make my books as chilling as this one.

3. Elizabeth Von Armin’s The Enchanted April
This is a tremendously warm and uplifting book. (Very different to the kind I write!) Four women, strangers at the outset, rent a castle in Italy for the month of April. Nothing happens. The whole story hinges around the four characters, the men who touch their lives, and how their month in Italy changes them. I remain in awe of a writer who can produce such an engaging and enthralling story out of so little action. When I’m plotting my grim books, I think of Von Armin, and try to balance the dark with some lighter characterization and a little humour.

4. Donna Tartt’s A Secret History
An absorbing, bewitching thriller written from the very clever premise that we know, from the outset, the identity of the murderers. We see them make their kill. We know the victim is, or was once, one of their own. Set in a prestigious New England university, this story charts the history of an elite group of students, living and working in self-imposed isolation. It examines the lengths to which they will go to protect themselves, and how they deal with the consequences of their unthinkable act. This book makes me want to write as beautifully as Tartt does.

5. Charles Dickens’ Bleak House
A dark, absorbing tale and a fascinating study of human nature. Rich, complex, masterful. One could probably say this about most of Dickens’ books but this one has always had the edge for me. Whenever I read Dickens I tell myself that one day, I too, will write a masterpiece.

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