From Publishers Weekly
The reader who isn't a thriller fan but is curious about this enormously popular genre couldn't ask for a better introduction than Anderson's lively and informative survey. Anderson, the Washington Post weekly thriller reviewer and self-described "middlebrow," explains why the genre has come to dominate bestseller lists in recent years: "Decades of war, recession, and political and corporate corruption have made Americans more cynical—or realistic—and thus more open to novels that examine the dark side of our society." Then he quickly covers the 19th-century pioneers (Poe, Collins, Conan Doyle) and the early 20th-century greats (Christie, Hammett, Chandler). The book hits its stride with a chapter on the modern thriller's birth in the 1980s. The author champions such contemporary writers as Thomas Harris, George P. Pelecanos, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane, but isn't afraid to condemn the work of such bestsellers as James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. While the generous plot descriptions might spoil a novel like The Silence of the Lamb for those who have never read Harris, this personal, opinionated guide will satisfy even those well versed in the genre. Anderson is also the author of The President's Mistress and eight other novels. (Feb. 6)
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Thrillers, argues Anderson, who reviews the genre for the Washington Post, have become the "white-hot center of American fiction." That premise is difficult to prove or disprove, but it's indisputable that a higher percentage of contemporary best-sellers fall broadly into a category that could be called thrillers and, more important, that thrillers, because they are attracting more serious writers these days, are better on the whole than they have ever been. Anderson, who uses the term thriller in its broadest possible sense, as virtually synonymous with crime novel (once you throw out the coziest of cozies), begins by tracing the genre's roots (Poe, Collins, Conan Doyle) and nodding toward the hard-boiled classics (Chandler and Hammett), but his real focus is the contemporary scene, and he capably surveys subgenres (legal thrillers, literary thrillers, spy novels) and identifies four authors he considers modern masters (Pelecanos, Lehane, Connelly, and Harris), defending his choices effectively. The book suffers from way too much plot summary (spoilers galore!), which slows the otherwise jaunty pace, but that aside, Anderson offers an informative and insightful guide to the world of thrillers. Bill Ott
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