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.)