7 great crime stories

Whether you just like reading crime or you want to write it, these novels are all by masters of their craft and are great stories you can enjoy as a reader and learn from as a writer.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Often regarded as the first English-language example of the modern detective story, The Moonstone is about the disappearance of a jewel rather than a violent crime, but the reader is kept gripped by how the events of one night impact on the lives of believable, engaging characters.  Technically, The Moonstone is a masterclass in how to tell a story from different points of view without confusing readers.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

You can’t mention crime without mentioning Christie and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is widely considered to be her masterpiece, since it’s told from the perspective of the murderer and yet it’s only at the end that we find out who, exactly, they are.  It’s also a gripping whodunit in classic Christie style.

Pietr the Latvian: Inspector Maigret #1 by Georges Simenon

In the English-speaking world, Simenon may not be as widely known as Christie (although thankfully this appears to be changing), but even here he is recognized and respected and his Maigret books are still globally popular.  They vary in quality, but this first novel is one of the best.  Basically if you want to read someone who writes crime fiction with all the style of literary fiction, then Simeon should be high on your list.

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

Ira Levin knew how to write stories which sold and it says a lot about his output that this is actually one of the less well-known of his novels.  The first part of the novel describes how the victim came to meet her death and the second part describes her sister’s attempts to investigate it.  The twist is that the killer’s name is never revealed in the first part of the novel, so although we know it has to be a man, it could be (almost) anyone…

Tooth And Nail by Ian Rankin

Personally, I’d say this was Ian Rankin’s best book to date.  It nailed great descriptive narrative, character development and a neat twist.  Admittedly, it was probably rather questionable in terms of police procedure, but I’ve never been particularly concerned by that.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

This is essentially a detective story set in a fantasy world, complete with Terry Pratchett’s trademark blend of everyday anarchy.  If you’re interested in genre-crossing fiction, then this is a case study in how to merge tropes from two genres without compromising either or confusing the reader.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

I loathe horror, it’s just not for me, but I love it when Stephen King lays off the supernatural gore and concentrates on great human-interest stories.  This is essentially a riff on a detective classic, basically a killer who got away with it, decides they want more fun and reaches out to the detective who failed to catch them, who, conveniently, has just retired, is bored and still annoyed by their failure to nail them first time around, so they decide to go along with it.  While the set-up is clich├ęd the book, definitely is not.

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