With a panel of celebrated authors—Megan Abbott, Harlan Coben, S.A. Cosby, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Sujata Massey—TIME presents the most gripping, twist-filled, satisfying, and influential mystery and thriller books, in chronological order beginning in the 1800s
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer appears in the list.
In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 debut novel about a Communist spy during the Vietnam War, dualities loom large as reminders of the essential contradictions of being human. In the gripping tale, Nguyen’s unnamed protagonist, the son of an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, is a captain in the South Vietnamese army. But his sympathies for the Communist cause lead him to become a double agent, and he feeds information to the Viet Cong. As the captain traverses two worlds, he’s forced to reconcile his personal loyalties with the political values he lives by, prompting both him and the reader to reconsider familiar narratives with uncomfortable realities. Hailed for its chilling suspense and nuanced perspective on the Vietnam War, the novel also won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. —Cady Lang