If you prefer a good whodunnit? to a period drama or a gritty homicide investigation to a comedy, then you’re likely to be a bit of a crime novel fan. We’ve put together what we consider to be 10 must read crime novels. So we recommend you kick off your shoes, sit back and delve into the murky underworld that is the genre of crime.
This classic features the inimitable Hercule Poirot, whose train journey home to London is punctuated by a murder. His deductive skills are put through their paces with the amazingly opulent Orient Express train as the story’s backdrop. Was the culprit a known passenger or a dark stranger who boarded the train along the way? You’ll have to read to find out!
This psychological thriller was penned by the late Swedish author, Stieg Larsson and it tells the story of the main character’s (Mikael Blomkvist) investigation into the disappearance of a young woman from a well-to-do family. What’s different is that this is a cold case and the disappearance occurred 40 years previously. Will he uncover anything new and incriminating? Only time will tell.
Another true classic from the genre is Crime and Punishment, an epic from the 19th century Russian author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Inside its pages, you’ll find the tale of Rodion Raskolnikov, a poverty stricken former student living in St Petersburg who plans to murder an unethical pawnbroker and rob her of her money. Raskolnikov plans to better his life, but faces deep anguish and struggles with morality along the way. A must read, but its 545 pages may take you a while!
Once voted in the “Top 100 Books of the 20th Century” by Le Monde, The Big Sleep is complex crime novel, with the narrative containing countless double crosses and revelations from its key characters. The title of the book being euphemistic in its reference to the endless sleep of death, you’ll be on the edge of your metaphorical seat from start to finish.
No list of crime novels would be complete without an entry from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Famed for his ability to spot clues and lines of enquiry that no one else can, in this story, he sets out with his trusted compatriot, Dr Watson to investigate a murder that is said to have been committed by a supernatural and diabolical hound. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out if there’s a more earthly reason for this crime.
Controversial on its initial publication in the mid 1930s, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain is a mix of crime, violence and sexuality and is full of intrigue and deception. Follow the lead character Frank Chambers through his journey as he has a passionate affair with someone else’s wife whilst working at a diner. With every word, the plot thickens and draws you in. A real page turner.
This James Ellroy is a much more recent creation, being first published in 1990. The story is one of corruption, sex and bloody murder, with scandals aplenty. Organised crime and political scandal take centre stage in this popular crime novel, with real high profile crimes weaved into the fiction. You’ll need to pay attention with the narrative, as there’s a lot going on!
A wonderfully intriguing story of premeditated murder from the mind of Patricia Highsmith. Two strangers on a train start talking and realise that they both have dark intentions. One proposes to trade murders, entangling them in the worst possible way and with things not going to plan, fatal consequences ensue, but for who?
If you like your crime novels to be based on real life, then you’re going to love in Cold Blood. After the author learned about a quadruple homicide, he decided to write a story based on real events. Featuring a clever triple narrative and based on 1000s of pages of actual notes taken from the crime scene, this book offers an insight into the dark underbelly of life in 1950s America.
The last book on our list is the debut novel from noted crime writer Mickey Spillane. It tells a tale of Dr Charlotte Manning, a top, but avaricious psychiatrist who gets involved with organised crime. Against a backdrop of prostitution and drug trafficking in post WW2 America, the respectable facade for Dr Manning becomes more and more difficult to maintain. A gripping tale that will keep you enthralled right until the last page.
We hope you enjoy working your way through these amazing crime stories. We’ll be back soon with some more recommendations for all of your reading needs.
Until next time!
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