4. Drood, by Dan Simmons (2009)

The name Dan Simmons on a book’s spine guarantees three things: The paperback or hardcover in question is going to be thoroughly researched, exhaustively detailed, and uncompromisingly horrific. And in terms of his research skills, Simmons’ revisionist history chiller Drood is an English major’s wet dream.

Based around intensive studies into the lives of Charles Dickens and his fellow writer/pal Wilkie Collins, Drood imagines a scenario that led to the creation of Dickens’ final, unpublished book The Mystery Of Edwin Drood. Here, after surviving the infamous train wreck that almost killed him, Dickens meets an enigmatic, ghoulish figured, Edwin Drood, who becomes the Great Expectations scribe’s obsession.

Corpses start piling up as Dickens and Collins investigate the mysterious Drood, and, in a haze of opium and other hallucinogenic drugs, Collins begins to suspect that their person-of-interest is a figment of his buddy’s imagination, and that Dickens is the murderer, not Drood. Employing the tactic of an “unreliable narrator” (in this case, Collins) to brilliant degrees, Simmons remixes a fiction icon’s life into a nightmarish, trippy, and immersive psychological ride.