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Simon Brett's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Simon Brett recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Simon Brett's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1)

"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid....He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.

This is the Code of the Private Eye as defined by Raymond Chandler in his 1944 essay 'The Simple Act of Murder.' Such a man was Philip Marlowe, private eye, an educated, heroic, streetwise, rugged individualist and the hero of Chandler's first novel, The Big Sleep. This work established Chandler as the master of the 'hard-boiled' detective novel, and his articulate...
Recommended by Simon Brett, and 1 others.

Simon BrettI think the writing is just so beautiful. Raymond Chandler’s hopeless at plots, as we know. He said himself, if he couldn’t think of what to do, he brought in a man with a gun. But the language… I remember some years ago an American publisher got the rights to do a book called Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and got various contemporary crime writers to write a Philip Marlowe story. I was asked... (Source)

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A Kiss Before Dying

A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews, it also set a new standard in the art of mystery and suspense. Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand... more
Recommended by Simon Brett, and 1 others.

Simon BrettHe wrote A Kiss Before Dying very young: I think it was his first book. If you look at the history of the crime novel, the whodunits, where there was a puzzle and a device, were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. But since World War II there have been very few books which rely on a trick – like, famously, the Agatha Christie where the narrator turns out to be the murderer. One would have... (Source)

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Hangover Square

Hamilton captures the edgy, obsessive and eventually murderous mindset of a romantically frustrated British man in this WWII-era novel. London 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation with Netta who is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in hell, until something goes click in his head and he realizes that he must kill her. less
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, Simon Brett, and 2 others.

Iain SinclairI chose Patrick Hamilton because he hits, in particular, on the derangement of the city. He was a big drinker. His writing is like the hallucination or the delirium of an alcoholic dream, and sees London as a kind of nightmare. (Source)

Simon BrettYes. It’s a study of schizophrenia, in a way. The main character, George Harvey Bone, goes into these strange trance states. Like a lot of Patrick Hamilton’s characters, he is devoted to a woman who is not worthy of him, who is one step up from a prostitute. He’s obsessed with her, and eventually ends up murdering her. It’s just an incredibly written, claustrophobic book that would be in my top... (Source)

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A Dark-Adapted Eye

Vera Hillyard. My aunt, and murderess.

Faith Severn's life has long been overshadowed by the scandal of her aunt's execution for murder. For nearly 25 years she has tried to forget the woman she once spent her holidays with, who seemed such a perfect mother and caring sister. Now the time has come to piece together the mystery. What secret caused two devoted sisters to turn from love to bitter hatred? Was Vera born a killer...or was she driven to it? And can anyone ever really know the truth?

Written in 1986, and set against the morally and politically tumultous...
Recommended by Simon Brett, and 1 others.

Simon BrettYes. There were two I liked. A Dark-Adapted Eye was the first one, and the second one was called A Fatal Inversion. I like Ruth Rendell very much as a writer, and I just found it amazing when she suddenly started writing under this new persona. And I thought the books had another level: it was as if she’d been holding back this extra skill. They were very different from the Ruth Rendells – and I... (Source)

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The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1)

Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a... more
Recommended by Lucy Atkins, Simon Brett, and 2 others.

Lucy AtkinsWhat I adore about the book is how brilliantly she explores the idea of moral grey areas. (Source)

Simon BrettI think Ripley just set so many characters in motion because he was one of the first entirely amoral central figures, someone who commits appalling crimes and murders but you actually feel a kind of sympathy for. (Source)

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