Last month when we asked the NPR audience to submit nominations for a list of the 100 most pulse-quickening, suspenseful novels ever written, you came through with some 600 titles. It was a fascinating, if unwieldy, collection.
Now, with your input, a panel of thriller writers and critics has whittled that list down to a manageable 182 novels. That roster, which we now offer for final voting, draws from every known thriller sub-genre — techno, espionage, crime, medical, psychological, horror, legal, supernatural and more.
Which raises the question, what defines a thriller? Clearly it's not setting or subject matter.
For the purposes of this contest, we'll stick with the answer James Patterson once gave, which is that thrillers are defined by the "intensity of emotions they create ... of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness. ... By definition, if a thriller doesn't thrill, it's not doing its job." If the closely related mystery genre is about discovery, then thrillers are more oriented towards action and suspense. The villain may be known from the start; the fun comes from finding out how the hero will foil whatever evil plans are afoot.
In the end, you'll decide what makes the top 100. Everyone gets 10 votes. Feel free to lobby for your favorites in the comments area. We'll announce the winners on August 4. (Click here for a complete, printable list of all the Killer Thriller finalists.)
Meet The Thriller Panel: Patrick Anderson reviews thrillers for The Washington Post, among others, and is the author of numerous novels and books including The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. Steve Berry is the author of six bestselling thrillers, including The Paris Vendetta and The Templar Legacy, and is the co-president of International Thriller Writers association. Maureen Corrigan is a book critic for Fresh Air, NPR.org and The Washington Post; the author of the memoir Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading; and a lecturer and critic in residence at Georgetown University. David Morrell is cofounder of the International Thriller Writers association; author of First Blood, the novel on which Rambo was based; co-editor of the recent anthology Thrillers: 100 Must Reads; and former professor of literature at the University of Iowa. Hank Wagner is a regular critic and interviewer for Mystery Scene, Crimespree, Cemetery Dance and others, and co-editor of the recent book Thrillers: 100 Must Reads.