Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

Is there a more irresistibly bitter character in literature than Miss Havisham? The wealthy spinster at the heart of Dickens’ classic novel has been abandoned by her fiancé decades ago on their wedding day. She lives in her stately home, never changes out of her steadily disintegrating wedding gown and raises her adopted daughter Estella. At first Miss Havisham seeks to protect Estella from the cruelty of men, but then sharpens her into a weapon of revenge to be used against them. It’s hapless narrator Pip’s misfortune that he falls in love with this chillingly beautiful girl… This dark story of broken hearts produces some of Dickens’ most vivid and memorable characters.

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris (2019)

The author of Hannibal returns with a powerful lesson on greed and dark obsession. Cari is a beautiful, yet hardened young woman living in Miami having fled Colombia where she was forced to be a child soldier. Cari works as a caretaker in an empty mansion formerly owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, underneath which secretly lies millions of dollars of cartel gold.  When a stranger arrives with sinister intentions to steal it, as does a rival gang of Escobar's former associates, Cari finds herself caught in a dangerous rift between the two. However, it is not the first time Cari has needed to survive, and life at war has taught her has surprising skills... 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

This adventurous, 19th century French classic tells the most gripping tale of vengeance and mercy. After being wrongfully imprisoned, Edmond Dantès loses his wife-to-be and promising future all at once. After many years behind bars, he seizes a fortune allowing him to return as a powerful count with a fiendish plan for taking revenge upon the men who tried to destroy his future. This immersive story contains the most surprising, inventive and thrilling ways of settling old scores.  

Different Class by Joanne Harris (2016)

Ageing form-master Roy Straitley has seen many boys come and go at the old-fashioned private boys’ school he teaches at for decades. He has no idea which former pupil has spent years quietly plotting to take his wicked revenge upon this aged institution, after being slighted when he was younger. This is a thriller with a delicate plot, filled equally with humour about stuffy old-timers dragged into the 21st century, and tense, fast-paced twists to hold you in suspense. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)

It's all in the title, isn't it? McEwan's magnificent novel – adapted for the silver screen by director Joe Wright in 2007 – explores the devastating consequences of acting out of jealousy, and what one must do to atone for it. We begin in 1935 on the Tallis country estate, where imaginative 13-year-old Briony runs wild and writes stories. Robbie, the son of the family's housekeeper, is secretly in love with Briony's older sister Cecilia. When Briony, who has a crush on Robbie herself, happens upon the two young lovers in the library, she accuses Robbie of a crime he did not commit, bearing as a false witness. This lie alters the courses of all three lives forever, as Briony strives to earn forgiveness for her mistake.

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (1949)

In this novel centred on Chandler’s classic private investigator Philip Marlowe, people in Tinseltown are not quite what they seem. He takes on a case – to track down the missing brother of a sweet country girl – which leads him into a tangled world of organised crime, Hollywood starlets and murder. Who is really pulling the strings and who is out for cold-blooded vengeance? Chandler’s irresistibly snappy writing style is as fresh and original as when it first appeared over 60 years ago. 

 Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

This gripping Poirot thriller is the ultimate tale of revenge. When a man is found stabbed 12 times onboard the Orient Express, detective Hercule Poirot is on hand to investigate and solve the crime. The deeper he looks the more sinister the truths become, namely that the 'victim' is connected to the previous kidnapping of a young girl, suggesting a strong motive for revenge. But who on the train is the culprit, and why do the clues point in so many different directions?

A Slanting of the Sun by Donal Ryan (2015)

In this collection, Donal Ryan’s exquisite short stories explore a range of Irish themes and characters. But ‘The Squad’ has one of the most moving and haunting portrayals of the long term consequences of revenge you’ll ever encounter. Many years ago, a group of friends took the law into their own hands after one of their sons was wronged. Now, these men must live every day with the consequences and guilt, making their continued existence a special kind of hell. This is the perfect book to keep by your bedside to read before you sleep…

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Named after the Yorkshire Moors farmhouse where the story is set, Emily Brontë's first and only novel before her untimely death examines how a thirst for vengeance can, more often than not, destroy us. Now an essential classic, the book was highly controversial when first published in 1847 for its depictions of psychological cruelty and gender inequality, as at the time this challenged strict Victorian ideals. English poet Dante Rossetti described Wuthering Heights as: “A fiend of a book – an incredible monster. The action is laid in hell – only it seems places and people have English names there”.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1603)

If not the original tale of wicked revenge, for 400 years Shakespeare's tragic play has reminded us of the catastrophic effects of 'an eye for an eye'. When Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home in mourning over the death of his father, he is horrified to discover his mother, Queen Gertrude, has swiftly remarried to the King's brother Claudius. After receiving a visit from a mysterious ghost, Hamlet is spurned to seek revenge, triggering a series of infamously unfortunate events. 'To be or not to be,' Hamlet famous ponders in Act 3, facing the inevitability of the pain of life when his vengeance doesn't go as planned.

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