This is going to be a long post, but I just love books :-)
After reading this thread, I went to the library and got the book Birgila suggested, "Fall on Your Knees". I just finished it last night. I agree with Birgila, it is very dark. Without giving anything away, it does deal with some shocking or upsetting topics. But the author does it in such a way that she doesn't go into exceessive detail, she doesn't just try to simply shock or get a reaction. There is nothing gratuitous, everything in the book adds to the plot or develops the characters in some way. And she definitely keeps you guessing, right to the very end. She has a way of presenting a story a little bit at a time and then filling in the details and background information later. She'll give a little bit of information and then move on to another character or another time, and you figure that's the last you'll hear about the story. But then she'll pick it up again later, and add some new detail that shows what you thought was going on was completely wrong. It definitely stays interesting.
I used to read nothing but fiction, but the past couple of years I've started reading mostly non-fiction, things like history, biographies, travel, cooking. I've read a few books recently about historical events that are written in a such a way that they read more like a novel, they're very exciting. I would recommend them even for people who don't normally like history or non-fiction.
1. Manhunt by James L. Swanson. This book is about the search for John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln. Swanson did a lot of research, not just into official reports, but into eyewitness accounts and personal correspondence so he was able to provide a really detailed story, but with enough character development and dialogue that it felt like you must be reading a novel.
2. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. This book tells two stories happening simultaneously: Marconi's invention and marketing of the radio, and a murder mystery in London. The two seem unrelated, but in the end you realize the role the radio played in solving the mystery. Like Swanson, Larson finds a lot of personal information about the people involved so he's able to write a story that goes way beyond the usual history book.
3. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. This one is about a huge hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. It was much more damaging and deadly than hurricane Katrina in 2005, but few people know about it. The book goes into the scientific aspects of hurricanes, the city's history, how the government suppressed or ignored vital information and the lives of individual citizens at the time. When the book finally gets to the part where the hurricane strikes, you know the people and what's at stake for them, which makes it a much more compelling story.
Erik Larson has another book, The Devil in the White City, but I haven't read it yet. I'm saving it for when I go on vacation in August. But judging from his other two books I've read, it should be pretty good.