People often talk about the characters in books as if they were considering whom to invite to a dinner party. "Oh, I just hated her — she was so mean." "He's a bully; I didn't like how he treated his mother." There's something to be said for a likable character, but fiction has a way of upending our ordinary standards. In life we like tranquility; in books we love tension. And in these three books you'll find protagonists you'd hate to meet — you'd change train cars to get away from any of them — but you'll love on the page.