I thought crime novels and thrillers were a recent pastime for me, but the April Blogging from A to Z challenge, where I wrote about 26 crime novels, mysteries and thrillers, showed me that I have been reading them for far longer than I remembered. My reading is still very incomplete. I intend to read more crime novel classics, but the ones I have read are interesting and varied in their own ways.
A crime novel is a different and difficult beast. It must balance plot and character in a tightrope walk. Too much plot and very little character and you risk being forgotten. Too much character and not enough plot, you risk boring your binge-reading crime novel consumer.
In case you came along on this journey of crime novels and missed a few, here’s a complete list of the novels I covered. If you didn’t visit me in April and do like crime novels, you can choose from the list below, with very brief commentary on each.
You can find the complete posts with crime novel excerpts in each of the links.
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis- American Psycho is one you’d have to decide for yourself. For me, I guess the book (and the movie) is VERY worth it for the conversations it generates, but I don’t know if I can take the roiling of gore and death any more, not when I see so much of it visited upon humanity everyday.
Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris- A psychological thriller about marriages that are explosively bad within, but Behind Closed Doors was a relatively early and great example of unsettling characters done very well. If you like pace, tension, and intrigue in your reads, pick this one up without hesitation.
Cut Like Wound by Anita Nair- Cut Like Wound doesn’t have breakneck pace, but having been written by a very talented literary writer, more than makes up for it with its luscious descriptions and insightful observations of society. Pick it up if, like me, you read crime fiction to get to know more about a place and its people, and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent story. Definitely recommended.
Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben– The novel is based on true events that occurred in Coben’s home town, and this made it all the more compelling for me. If you’ve never read a Coben novel before, I envy you the spread of his offerings. Don’t Let You Go is not a bad place to begin reading this wonderful author’s oeuvre.
Enigma by Robert Harris- Enigma is beautifully evocative of an era, the conditions under which the war was fought, not just at the battlefront, as well as the many challenges faced by those living in that time. If you are a WWII fan, by any chance, you would love the book!
Friend Request by Laura Marshall- The premise got me- the friend request from a dead friend–but this is a story about two things: about bullying, and the dangers of social media. Like a lot of other thrillers, it deals in secrets, most of them unsavory, which return to bite the secret-keepers. This is a fast read, and if you’re intrigued by how social media relates to guilt, paranoia, and real dangers like stalking, this one will keep you turning the pages late into the night.
Girl A by Abigail Dean– This debut novel is based on a real case, unfortunately–the Turpin House of Horrors saga, where a couple abused their thirteen children for more than a decade until the eldest daughter escaped her chains and alerted the police in 2018. The novel is based pretty closely on this tragic story, and Dean follows and mirrors the details of the case.
Her Perfect Life, by Hank Philippi Ryan- This book keeps you on your tippy toes, and you’re always one step behind. I loved Greer, not nice but she made me chuckle, and Lily was a smooth operator. If you like strong female characters, a wonderfully realized world, and a plot that will keep you guessing, go pick up Her Perfect Life.
In The Woods By Tana French– If you like your stories to stun you at the level of language, if you do not mind a slower pace of investigation (which is balanced out by tensions between characters), and want to delve deep into the past of a character to more fully understand his present, this is the crime novel and author for you.
Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone– This is an unapologetic revenge thriller–it is the sort of read that I’d recommend a girlfriend going through a break-up. I’m a fan of voices, as you know by now, and Jane Doe has a fab voice–a vengeful sociopath. If you like unusual characters, fascinating female leads, and are in the mood for revenge served very, very cold, but no less delicious for all that, then this is the book for you.
Killing Floor by Lee Child- In our current corruption-ridden times, where crime goes unpunished more often than not, it feels good to read about an almost-superhuman cop-detective who will stop at nothing, and has few qualms about snuffing out villains of all shapes and sizes.
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica– In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.
Mr Mercedes by Stephen King- Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. The premise grabs you–a psychopathic killer mows down 8 dead people and vanishes into thin air. Apparently astonished that he got away with it, he taunts a suicidal retired cop, who finds renewed life when he decides to accept the challenge.
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø- Nemesis is all about revenge. The plot moves from Norway to Brazil through complicated twists, and includes a varied cast of characters including bank robbers, corrupt police, gypsies, cheating spouses, addicts, prisoners, a rich executive, and so on, and somehow (I’m not quite sure how) Nesbø manages to tie it all together. There are parallel mysteries, but both feed into each other, and our tortured but smart hero manages to straddle them both.
One Step Too Far, by Lisa Gardner- Gardner has done again what she does so well: written characters you can root for, driving a story that does not let up. This thriller is taut, and not once do you feel a disconnect with a relatively large cast of characters. As Frankie gets to know the men who are searching for their missing loved one, you get to know them and her, as well. And care for them. The last reason, if you still need one, is Daisy the cadaver dog.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter– An absolutely intriguing tale about family secrets, shared history, and relationships, especially between sisters. The twists, they keep on coming. Just when you thought the story is going one way, it goes the other. Of course a few of the twists stretch credibility, but they make for riveting reading. Very violent content, so proceed with caution.
Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh- This is a missing person’s case that turns out to be a murder, and the narrative is a slow peel of many layers of secrets kept over years. This is a long-ish novel and not a break-neck-paced thriller, but I was caught up in the story late into the night. Didn’t regret the panda eyes the next morning one bit. Pick this up if you like dense, atmospheric tales that would keep you enthralled, page after page.
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney- Think you know the person you married? Think again…It is hard to tell you more about this thriller other than the blurb without spoiling it: it is fiendishly well-plotted. I’ll never be able to write twists like these, but I’m very pleased to be able to read them. Pick up this book if you need an escape: it is a domestic thriller about a collapsing marriage, but in a twisty, dramatic, over-the-top fashion.
Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda- This crime novel has three things I love in my reads: an evocative atmosphere (the community where Harper lives), the characters (Harper, Ruby, and what we learn about everyone else) and voice (all in Harper’s POV, but very expertly done.).Pick this up if you like a slow-burny tale, with plenty of intrigue and helpings of neighborhood drama. This was a great distraction during covid times, and I plan to look up other books from Miranda.
These Women by Ivy Pochoda- I picked up this book on Libby based on the cover alone–the audio version, and was immediately drawn by the women’s voices. This is not your usual mystery or thriller, though there is a whodunit aspect that does get solved. The novel questions the concept of justice, who gets it, who goes unheard, who wields power. How monsters emerge from the very fabric of our indifferent society obsessed with ultimately unimportant things.
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey– What drew me in with this crime novel was 12-year-old Cassie’s voice, and it would not let go. You feel for her very strongly, and about the monsters she’s afraid of, the fear she feels in places where she should be most safe. If riveting narration, dark and atmospheric tales in small-town settings, and complex coming-of-age tales are your jam, pick this one up. It will swallow up a day or two of your life, but it will be worthwhile.
Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd- I picked up this romantic suspense because of the premise, and stayed because of the romance. Yes, this is a romantic suspense and I was trying to read more of the genre, because my novels contain romance elements these days. The two main characters, Elizabeth and Garik work their way through the mystery, and towards each other, and I enjoyed following their journey. I’m going to buy the rest of the series, because this is the sort of not-too-gory-but-still-dark-book that I need for escape these days.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker– This thriller was very timely when it came out in 2019, with the #MeToo movement hitting the headlines, and sadly, it remains timely even now. There is definitely more noise about workplace harassment of women, but not nearly enough. Pick it up if you like crime novels that deal with current issues, contain a dose of dark humor and increasing suspense.
X by Sue Grafton- X is part of a series of mysteries, based on the alphabet. These mysteries are set in the eighties, so for those of us born in the last century, they bring a sense of nostalgia. Having written the detective for more than two dozen books, Grafton knows her character like the back of her hand, and that really shows in this intriguing and ultimately rewarding read. If you’ve never read Grafton, I’d suggest starting at the beginning of the series, because those were more taut.
You by Caroline Kepnes- Well, of the many reasons you choose a novel, being entertained is one. On that count, this book delivers, fair and square. Throughout, you’re in the mind of a (loyal, book-loving) sociopath, who breezily describes the many ways in which he is violating the privacy of the object of his obsession. Read it for the voice, reminiscent of Lolita and American Psycho, and though I loved hating Joe, who knows, you might even end up liking him!
Zorro by Isabel Allende- Ok, so Zorro is not a crime novel, or maybe it is–because resistance to authority is against the law, and thus a crime. Pick it up if you’d like an escape read that never settles in one place, taking place in a range of settings, each colorful and intricate. Real historical figures march on and off stage, a wide cast of characters and adventures and details keeps you turning the pages. There’s tragedy and romance, but there’s also humor and heart, and I for one needed a dose of that after all the rather dark picks I’ve made so far for the A to Z.
This brings me to the end of my April journey with crime novels and thrillers. Add the ones you like to your TBR, and tell me what made you pick them up.
What crime novel or thriller is on your reading shelf right now? Which would you recommend? If a crime novel is not your favorite genre, what other genre do you like? Recommend us a few of your favorite reads!
My own crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out this October with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
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Thank you for sharing!!.. life is full of adventure and so is my reading so I do not concentrate on any given genre, whatever the heart wishes to read at the time… one day Holmes, the next Poe and then perhaps Dr. Seuss… 🙂
Until we meet again..
May your troubles be less
Your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come through your door
Larry, absolutely, we must read what our heart craves. Thank you for sharing the Irish saying!
Some great titles on your list, and some that are new to me . . .watch out TBR! Congrats, too, on your own release. I added it to my “want to read” on Goodreads!
Glad you liked the book recs, Samantha! And thanks a bunch for adding The Blue Bar to your TBR.
What a great topic for the A-Z, Damyanti! I didn’t catch your A-Z posts, but I’m going to go back and look at them. I read a few thrillers and crime mysteries each year, and Jack Reacher’s “The Killing Floor” was one I enjoyed recently. Definitely one of my favorites over the years has been “Mercy” by David Lindsey. I found it on an exchange shelf in a little hotel in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in 1991. It was a rough read because of the subject matter, but I thought it was brilliant. I’ve never forgotten it. I enjoyed “You Beneath Your Skin” and I’m looking forward to your next release. Happy May!
Thanks for visiting, Louise. Will look up that David Lindsey–such a fascinating little backstory! Thank you for reading You Beneath Your Skin, and I look forward to you picking up The Blue Bar!
What a fantastic idea for a theme! Congratulations on completing the challenge!
Thanks so much! Yes, I had a good run with the AZ.
A-Z is such a lot of work – well done!!!
I read more crime novels when I was younger. So many great ones. As I get older and the world weighs more heavily, I turn toward my guaranteed happy endings 🙂 But looking through your list I see some older faves and some new intriguing ones to check out.
Thanks, Jemi, I understand only too well the need for happy endings in our fiction. We have such little of it in our lives these days with wars and the pandemic.
Crime novels I think are the absolute hardest genre to write in the history of writing! Close second it romance.
Hahah true. I certainly find it very hard to write.
Congrats, Damyanti, for completing the A to Z in spite of your hectic writing schedule!!
You are such an inspiration!
I found most of the books you shared here very interesting. So, I am on the lookout for some that I loved most.
Thank you, Shilpa. We do what we can 🙂 . Glad some of my book recs will make it to your TBR.
Your theme was a great idea. Sadly I couldn’t visit everyday so I was delighted to find the links to all the posts here. I enjoy crime novels provided they aren’t too gory or frightening. I like to try and figure out who did it. I enjoyed the format of your posts, with the extract and your reasoning – why you should read it. I read Local Woman Missing on your recommendation and it helped me forget some of the dark days of the past month. I can’t wait to read The Blue Bar.
So sorry you had dark days this past month. Hope May goes much better. I’m glad you liked my book rec, and that it lightened the load a little.
Take care of you, and thank you for signing up to read the ARC of The Blue Bar.
When I’m not writing, I’m reading Harlen Coben or watching Netflix’s interpretation of his books. Currently watching Hold Tight, and you do have to hold tight to your seat as you watch. He’s my current fave, but I read a lot of thrillers. I want to read all your posts at some time.
All the posts are linked here so you can read them at any time.
Harlan Coben is great—I enjoy both his books and his TV series.
Nice theme for the 2022 Challenge. Congratulations on completing another one.
I haven’t been reading much at all in recent years–something I do need to remedy. Now I gravitate more towards non-fiction though the most recent book I finished was Speculative Science Fiction. Years ago I used to read a lot of mystery and crime fiction. Now I mainly just watch that genre on film.
I wish you well with The Blue Bar.
Thanks for the kid words on my AZ, to which I returned after many years. This was very different from co-hosting, so I found it less challenging!
Thanks also for the wishes for The Blue Bar. The book needs it.
I haven’t read much by Harlan Coben since his Myron Bolitar series ended. I’m kind of out of the habit of reading fiction, so it might be good to get back into him, as well as Lee Child and Georgia’s own Karin Slaughter. As far as recommendations, I like Lisa Scottoline, Robert Crais, Iris Johansen (another from my area), the Kellermans (Jonathan, Faye, and one of their sons) are all good…
Thanks for sharing your recommendations, John. I’ll check them out.
Congrats on finishing the A-Z challenge! I did an entire A-Z of book recommendations, so let’s leave it at that 🙂
Ronel visiting for A-Z Challenge Reflections 2022
Thank you for being such a regular visitor, Ronel. I appreciate it.
Congratulations Damyanti for a wonderful A to Z. And thank you for summing it up here. I am adding a few of these to my tbr.
Thanks for being such a gracious visitor, Sonia. I appreciate it.
I don’t usually read crime novels as my go-to, but I’m going to tuck this little list away and read some here and there because they all sounded wonderful. Thanks, Damyanti.
Some of these are great even for non-crime readers. Zorro and These Women and In The Woods–these three could be up your alley. Literary novels involving crime.
Well done, Damyanti, that was a fascinating month, if bad for my TBR 🙂
Lol, sorry not sorry I added so many to your TBR! I enjoyed this month of blogging.
I am a huge fan of crime novels and similar so I thoroughly enjoyed your A to Z series Damyanti. My TBR list has certainly grown. My preference is for a story that has an interesting, perhaps challenging, main character with a complementary (or conflicting) “support cast”. As I am an author reader I like to find some evolution in the characters in each book. Another key factor is the location as a type of character so it also develops my interest…Google maps becomes my friend then.
I have just read your own crime novel “You beneath your skin” and was fully engaged with it. With a very different environment from those familiar to me, it drew me in and the different scenarios within were thought-provoking even after shutting the virtual covers. Thank you!
Pauleen, that is so well articulated. Your tastes and mine are quite similar in that we like character change and progression.
So pleased that you loved You Beneath Your Skin, and that it resonated with you! Thanks for picking it up–I appreciate it.
I enjoy crime & thriller books, your list and write ups caught my interest. But, 20th century historical fiction is my preference. I love Kristen Hannah’s books. I wrote a book (soon to be published) set in the late 1950s-early 1960s. A time I lived with reference to a famous grandfather born in 1979. The history and personal family prejudice was highlighted. And 1961, Central Europe (Berlin, Germany) was featured. 📚🎶 Christine
Grandfather was born in 1879….📚🎶
I’ve heard so much about Hannah’s work. Congratulations on the book, Christine! Please share it once it is out.
Thank you and drat you were my most frequent comments on your A-Z posts. Both were heartfelt.
I have no doubt they were, Sue. So pleased to have you here.
I have read very few crime novels–which is strange because I love a good crime drama on TV. Your first novel taught me that crime novels can be literary. I look forward to your new one!
Thanks so much, Rebecca! Both for stopping by, and for your kind words on my first book. 🙂 the new one will be out soon!
Congratulations on your A-Z achievement! Not sure how you found the time, hope you manage to schedule in some naps 🙂
Thank you, me neither! I managed to finish the draft to The Blue Bar sequel, as well, so it is all good. The lack of sleep is real, though.
What a list, Damyanti. I’ve read quite a few and you’ve given me more to fill my TBR list. I look forward to reading your AtoZ reflection.
I don’t know if I have that much to reflect on–but I’m glad I helped add to your reading list!
I’m reading Rabbit in the Moon..a Chinese historical crime fiction..so far, so good.. thanks for the fabulous list!
Sounds fascinating! And thanks for the kind words. I hope to see you here more often.