Writing great crime fiction means reading great fiction, but what are some of the greats? Below are 10 crime novels that will give you a good reading foundation in this popular genre.
Most aficionados of crime and mystery fiction could quibble about the differences between crime and mystery fiction for which there is a great deal of overlap, but one of the main distinctions is that a crime novel may not necessarily include a mystery. The list below covers a variety of styles, eras and subject matter and while there are too many great crime novelists to cover them all in a list of just 10, reading these books will give a sense of the scope of the genre.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is one of the crime queen’s best, and its surprising twist ending has resonated across decades of crime fiction since.
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler is remembered for its use of language, its detective Philip Marlowe and its skilful evocation of 1930s California.
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet features the detective Sam Spade who was influential in Chandler’s creation of Marlowe.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is the first in her series about the charming sociopath Tom Ripley who lies and murders his way into European high society.
- A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell begins with the murder of a family and works its way backward to reconstruct how the woman responsible was driven to do so.
- In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke takes his New Orleans detective Dave Robicheaux for a new twist as he encounters the ghosts of soldiers during his efforts to catch a brutal killer.
- The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos is a departure for this chronicler of the Washington D.C. underworld as it goes back to the 1940s to tell about the parents and grandparents of some of his regular characters.
- Money Shot by Christa Faust features one of the toughest dames in crime fiction racing against time to clear her name and save her life.
- The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale won the 2001 Edgar Award for Best Novel for this tale of a serial killer loose amid a racially tense Texas town in the 1930s.
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson was an international publishing sensation with its tale of a young damaged hacker and the journalist she works with to stop a serial killer.
What are your favourite crime novels and why?