Mystic River by Dennis Lehane is a tragic story that Lehane tells with such power and suspense that it is almost unbearable to read. I think it could provide the core of a modern opera.
Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler is a tragicomic masterpiece. The way Richler dances between past, present and future as the story unfolds, and his awesome command of language, are amazing for readers to behold as well as instructive for other writers. Trust me, the book is incredibly better and much funnier than the lame, whiny movie with the same name that was made a few years ago.
Talk Talk by T.C.Boyle: From the torrent of words in the first paragraph, this story is relentlessly suspenseful as it shifts between the perspectives of an identity thief and his victims who are pursuing him.