I also like Tony Parsons but would only read him if I was on a long journey or something, just to pass the time. For a serious read, I would always go for a Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy. I like the sense of period they create and the characters have real depth although some of the prose can be a bit heavy-going.
They offer great foundations for writers – time, place and person are perfectly established in narratives that build and build. Not quite Hitchcock but the suspense they offer is a as good as any crime thriller.