If my holiday would become a novel, then the readers could close the book after the first three chapters. I was marveling at the granite statues of diminutive men, who were guarding the tomb of Kháº£i Äá»‹nh. I was thinking of checking out the mausoleum when I noticed the dark clouds approaching Huáº¿. I rushed to my motorcycle and headed back to my hostel. But I didn't make it to Perfume River. I bought a raincoat along the way, and the locals were laughing at me while I tried to fit it. They were no coats for white backpackers who were almost six feet tall. I was expecting the monsoon weather, as I arrived in this part of the world before the end of June. My wish for an unexpected moment was granted a few weeks later.
There was a park near the Saigon Post Office. It was a humid morning, and I thought it would be a good time to sit down and savor the scenery. I was startled to see several locals approaching me. And they tried their best to speak in English. It reminded me of the English Department. This part of Ho Chi Minh was different from what Graham Greene witnessed several decades ago. "The Quiet American" could have been a good thriller, but it was hard to separate the Cold War from the story. In fact, this what made the novel noticed by critics and readers alike. I didn't try to recall the details of the novel, as I politely turned down the requests of locals to start a conversation with me. Besides, I felt the wind blowing at me. And then I noticed the gray clouds on the horizon.
Which books would make the list?
If I were to pick the novels that would pass the grade, then I could name five in a minute or less. Here's my shortlist:
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) by John Buchan. The best thriller ever written. A young Scotsman returned to Europe to start a new life. (I would rather call it a normal existence after living in Africa for years.) He met an American expatriate who discovered documents that detailed a plan to destabilize Europe. It didn't take a few days for the Scot to be entangled in a web of deceit and conspiracy. The events took place before the Great War. Buchan couldn't think of a better premise.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) by Ian Fleming. No one would expect James Bond, a suave misogynist, yearning to turn his back on espionage and find a woman and settle down. And the readers were thrilled about it. This doesn't make a good thriller, though. Fleming introduced Blofeld in a previous novel, and this one would be the first time that 007 met his archenemy. I was hoping for a happy ending, but I should have guessed what would happen to Bond and Tracy Draco after their wedding. For those who didn't have enough of Blofeld, then they would be delighted at the finale. And I wasn't alluding to Austin Powers.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) by John le CarrÃ©. I guessed the tragic end for the titular character, but this wasn't what made this book a fine thriller. Readers must feel for the characters, and I did. It was a Catch-22 situation, where there were too many gray areas. I would call it booby traps.
The Da Vinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown. Anyone who called Robert Langdon a poor imitation of Indiana Jones hasn't owned a passport. Traveling could yield unexpected happenings, which would be a life changer. In Langdon's case, he discovered a bigger conspiracy. And it had nothing to do with the rude attitude of some Parisians towards tourists.
Gone Gil (2012) by Gillian Flynn. The recession had undone Amy Dunne. Some male readers may not fancy an amoral woman being depicted as a strong character, but Flynn penned a fiction. Furthermore, she seemed critical of the double standards concerning women. If Amy Dunne was a man, then there won't be a novel to talk about.
I made it to the hotel before the rainfall. It was dark when I woke up. I saw a drizzle. I was thinking of braving the rainfall, as I wanted to look around. I wasn't expecting much, but I could meet some backpackers who would lighten up my evening.