Here are my favourite thriller novels, TV series and films for 2017. I’m not a big reader or watcher, so I’m not selecting from a huge pool here, rather these stories captivated me and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Also, I also lean towards espionage and science fiction genres.
TOP THREE CRIME BOOKS
The third in Warren’s exceptionally good Thomas Caine series. Closely following the structure and tropes of an Ian Fleming novel, think of a rougher, American version of James Bond and a nicer relationship with women. Warren’s books feature the kind of exotic locations you don’t find a lot in this fiction, with Fire and Forget taking Caine to the civil war and brutality of Southern Sudan. Caine seems a lot tougher because of it, battling it out in the world’s worst trouble spots. Great action sequences and an excellent attention to detail.
The third in Dawson’s Isabella Rose series, about a fifteen-year-old girl trained as a field operative by her now deceased assassin mother. Unlike Dawson’s John Milton series which are more crime stories in the style of Jack Reacher, the Isabella Rose books are more like Jason Bourne with a stronger espionage slant. In the third book of the so-far three book series, Rose and her protector, British spy Michael Pope are being pursued by British Intelligence across India, China and Russia after being framed for their unwitting role in a global conspiracy with technothriller overtures. Amongst Dawson’s best and action heavy.
Sinclair is a star of the espionage crime fiction genre and he has raced to the top of the charts in the last few years. Formerly a forensic accountant, Sinclair knows a thing or two about crime, and that comes across in his stories. His charismatic hero James Ryker (aka Carl Logan) is a very likeable character, despite acting like a bull in a china shop in almost every situation he finds himself in. This is the middle book of the James Ryker trilogy and the best of the three, with Ryker incarcerated in a Mexican prison with lots of shady characters interested in manipulating him for their various nefarious and conflicting schemes. Violent and brutal, with never a dull moment.
TOP THREE CRIME TV SERIES
This is an exceptional clever British anthology series that looks at the technology of the near future and shows us the worst of what it can unleash on humanity. With three solid seasons behind it and standout episodes like “White Christmas” and “Hated in the Nation”, season four is as good as its predecessors. “USS Callister” is probably the best of the 2017 episodes where digital versions of real world characters are stuck in a Star Trek-like world controlled by a programmer with god-like powers. Cristin Milioti is excellent as the strong lead with a plan on how to save the people stuck in this nightmare world. Although it borrows heavily from Iain M Banks’ Surface Detail and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, it is a powerful story.
A crime drama following an internal investigations unit within the British police force taking down corrupt police officers. Although the main characters are not really likable as people, the stories are tight, cliff-hanging and exciting. Plots twist constantly so it is almost impossible to predict what will happen next. Generally, the characters under investigation are the most interesting, with a different lead each season. 2017’s dirty cop is Thandie Newton and she shines in the latest season.
Although more space opera than crime, The Expanse is an excellent series that plays like a geopolitical spy thriller, or more solarpolitical thriller with a cold war fought across the Solar System between the new nations of Mars, Earth and the Asteroid Belts. The Expanse follows the story of a renegade ship crew who are trying to stop a virus of potential extra-terrestrial origin wiping out the human race, with a nod to the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds. The Expanse is what television needed in a science fiction series, believable science and technology without the inconsistencies and silliness of Star Trek-like shows.
TOP THREE CRIME FILMS
Over the years Tom Cruise has grown on me and I’m liking his films more than I did ten years ago, including his take on Jack Reacher. American Made borrowing heavily from the excellent Narcos series is a biopic following the life story of Barry Seal, an American commercial pilot who first goes undercover for the CIA in the 1980s spying on rebel groups in Central America, and then goes on to smuggle drugs for the Medellin Cartel. Directed by Doug Liman of the Bourne movie series, it certainly has the feel of a political espionage thriller about it.
I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle films including Shallow Grave, The Beach, Slum Dog Millionaire, 28 Days Later and the original Trainspotting film. He has an incredible style, is visually incredible, works music into his narrative brilliantly and really captures the emotions of people just trying to survive. T2 Trainspotting reunites the original cast from the first film and shows how the four heroine drug addicts have survived over the last twenty years.
Easily my favourite film of 2017, and the sequel to the cult 1982 classic. This is a crime noir setting in the near future on a dystopian, polluted Earth where artificial humans called ‘Replicants’ are the new slave race. Ryan Gosling as Officer K is excellent as a Replicant Blade Runner, police officers who hunt down and kill rogue operatives of their own kind. Harrison Ford reprising his role as Deckard from the original film gives one of his best performances ever and Ana de Armas as Joi is fantastic as Officer K’s ‘girlfriend’. I really like how it expanded on the setting of the first movie. I’m going to say this is better than the original. Read my review of Blade Runner 2049 here.