16 Crime Novels to Keep You Up at Night

16 Crime Novels to Keep You Up at Night

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
A fiendishly clever twist on the classic locked-room mystery. Ten people are lured to an island under varying false pretences, and left stranded after the realisation that each has had a hand in the death of another person and have been brought to the island to pay for their crimes. On the dining table are ten figurines and on the wall is a framed poem describing ten little soldiers who die in various ways, “and then there were none”. One by one, the figurines vanish and the guests begin dying in similar ways to those described in the poem…

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A young woman (whose first name we never learn) is working as a companion to a very rich American in Monte Carlo, when she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome and rich widower. After courting her for a fortnight, Maxim proposes marriage and the girl accepts. After the honeymoon, they return to the family estate, Manderley, in Cornwall. The new Mrs de Winter is haunted by the presence of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca, who died in a mysterious boating accident. The housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, was Rebecca’s most faithful servant, and bullies the young mistress, seeking to drive a wedge between the newlyweds.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
Charles Unwin is a clerk at a detective agency, where he files reports for the great detective Travis Sivart. When Sivart goes missing, and another agent is found murdered, Unwin is thrown into the role of detective, and finds The Manual of Detection, a guide for all detectives. As he searches for Sivart, Unwin is pursued by goons, meets a famous femme fatale and is framed for murder, and gets closer and closer to a criminal mastermind who is sending the whole city to sleep with the purpose of controlling it. A thrilling ride through a fantastical unnamed city, led by the ultimate everyman who’s only trying to do his job.

The City and the City by China Miéville
The cities of Besźel and UI Qoma occupy much of the same space, but the occupants of each are taught to ‘unsee’ the other city under threat of an unknown power called Breach. When Inspector Tyador Borlú investigates the murder of a student whose face has been disfigured, his investigation begin in his home city of Besźel but he must travel to UI Qoma to assist their police force. While there, Borlú unearths the legend of a third city existing between Besźel and UI Qoma, which slowly becomes part of the investigation. China Miéville is a master of twisting the reader’s brain into all sorts of interesting contortions and breaking the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer
Ruby Cardel’s life seems perfect from the outside. She has a career she loves, and a devoted partner. But the realisation that her sister Jamie’s death was not an accident causes her life to rapidly unwind, sending her running back to her childhood home of Lyrebird Hill. Memories begin floating back to the surface of that last summer with Jamie, and her friendship with a troubled foster kid who lived next door. The discovery of a bundle of letters from a long-lost relative imprisoned for murder proves to Ruby that her family is not what it seems, and she sets out to discover exactly what happened to her beloved sister. Heartbreaking and thrilling, Anna Romer has perfected the art of the historical mystery.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of political magazine Millennium, loses a libel case against a billionaire industrialist and takes a leave of absence. He is invited to meet a retired CEO, Henrik Vanger, and commissioned to find out the fate of his grandniece Harriet, who disappeared 36 years earlier. Before meeting with Blomkvist, Vanger employs the brilliant but troubled researcher/hacker Lisbeth Salander to look into Blomkvist’s background. On finding more women who were murdered around the time of Harriet’s disappearance Blomkvist requests a research assistant and is presented with Lisbeth as a solution. As they work together to hunt down a decades-old serial killer, the pair grow close and eventually become lovers. This trilogy is the height of Scandinavian crime – gritty and intense, with characters that appear to step off the page and into reality. The Swedish television adaptation is also remarkably faithful to the novels, including some rather distressing scenes in the first instalment.

Mad Men, Bad Girls by Maggie Groff
Homegrown tongue-in-cheek crime. In Byron Bay, Scout Davis works as a freelance journalist by day and guerrilla knitter and yarn-bomber by night. When an American cult washes up on the shores of the Gold Coast, Scout is drawn into writing an expose both by her journalistic instincts and a personal connection to one of their newest recruits. Couple this with her investigation into the slashing of underwear at an exclusive girls school, and her secret yarn-bombing missions, and you have the perfect recipe for madcap mayhem, with a hot detective thrown in for good measure. An easy and highly enjoyable read, with lots of laughs and just the right amount of intrigue.

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
More Scandinavian crime, and the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership (7 books and counting). Writer Ericka Falck has returned to the family home after her parents have died. While she attempts to work through her mixed feelings about her parents, her childhood friend Alex is found frozen in a bath, with her wrists slashed, assumed to be a suicide. Beautiful but remote, Alex becomes Ericka’s muse for a new book, and she begins investigating her death, prompted by Alex’s parents. Detective Patrick Hedstrom is assigned to the case and also has his suspicions about the cause of death. Working together, Ericka and Patrick begin to uncover the dark secrets of their small town, and the cover up of a disturbing past.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
In an alternate 1985, time travel is an everyday occurrence, cloning results in the resurrection of the dodo as a household pet, and England is a police state headed by a weapons-manufacturing corporation. Literary questions are hotly under debate, in particular the different ending of Jane Eyre (where Jane and Mr Rochester are never reunited). Thursday Next, Special Operative for literary detection, deals with everything from literary forgery to ending brawls between Shakespearean conspiracy theorists. But when a supervillain steals Jane Eyre out of her book, and thus changes every single copy in the universe, it’s up to Thursday to hunt him down and return Jane before he destroys literature as we know it. Highly recommended for people who love puns and literary jokes, as Fforde drops in references ranging from Barbara Windsor to Greek mythology.

Monster Love by Carol Topolski
Brendan and Sherilyn have the perfect marriage. Coming from troubled backgrounds, they find comfort and understanding in each other’s arms, even with some of their more depraved or unusual vices. And then Sherilyn falls pregnant, and they find out too late for abortion to be an option. When Samantha is born, the neighbours only see her from a distance, swaddled in her pram, but their curiosity leads to a shocking discovery that no-one expected. A truly horrifying story written by a psychologist, about the cruelty of human nature, and the lengths that some people will go to preserve what they hold dear.

Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs
When a mysterious woman checks into a Montreal hospital complaining of uncontrolled bleeding, doctors find signs of a recent birth. Before they can do anything, she vanishes, leaving behind bloody towels in a dumpster, and Temperance Brennan is called in to investigate. The evidence leads her to a run-down apartment where she discovers the decomposing bodies of three infants. Following the woman’s trail, along with former flame Detective Andrew Ryan, they are thrown into the high-danger world of diamond mining at Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Chilling and addictive, Kathy Reichs once again delivers with the 15th instalment of her Temperance Brennan series.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Unsettling, heartbreaking and completely unforgettable. The story revolves around a series of flashbacks written as letters by Eva, mother of Kevin, to her husband, Franklin. Kevin is a school shooter, currently behind bars, and Eva goes to see him monthly. In flashbacks, we see that Eva didn’t feel like she could bond with Kevin as an infant, and his retaliation in the form of endless crying that ceases as soon as Franklin returns home, and his refusal to be toilet trained. Once she gives birth to her second child, Celia, the difference is night and day – where Kevin is cruel and secretive, Celia is warm, open-hearted and clingy, even as Kevin basically tortures her…

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
The second in the series is often better than the first, and nowhere is this truer than with Robert Galbraith’s (aka J.K. Rowling) The Silkworm. While the first instalment was met with critical acclaim, the second is ultimately a more satisfying story. When famous novelist Owen Quine disappears, his wife calls in Cormoran Strike, private dectective. Having disappeared before, police brush off Quine’s disappearance, but Strike isn’t one to shy away from a paycheck. During his investigations, he finds that Quine’s latest novel features poisoned-pen portraits of everyone he knows, with the inclusion of a few personal and juicy tidbits. When Strike discovers Quine’s brutally murdered corpse, he enters into a race against both time and a psychotic killer.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre
The first of the Karla trilogy, in which George Smiley matches wits with his Soviet equal, Karla. British Intelligence has been infiltrated at the highest level by a Moscow Centre mole. The mole is devious and stealthy, managing to stay completely hidden while blowing the cover of some of their most valued operatives. The double agent is one of the most senior of officers, and George Smiley has been tasked with finding and destroying him… An intricately crafted tale of deceit and espionage during the Cold War.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Private eye Philip Marlowe is hired by a paralysed millionaire to talk to the man who is blackmailing his wild young daughter Carmen. His older daughter, Vivian, is in a loveless marriage with a man called Rusty Regan, who has disappeared. On his way out, Vivian questions Marlowe over him being hired to find Rusty, but he refuses to tell her anything. Marlowe’s investigations lead him into a world of extortion, kidnapping, pornography, seduction and murder. The classic hard-boiled detective novel, this plot is sure to keep readers guessing until the end.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
When most readers think Gillian Flynn, they think Gone Girl, the novel that made her a household name. But her debut novel is not one to be lightly forgotten. Camille Preaker works at a small newspaper as a journalist, reporting on stories about human neglect and murder. When a preteen girl is murdered and another is missing in her hometown, her boss persuades her to take the story and she reluctantly returns home. Eight years have passed since she left, and she is soon living with her hypochondriac mother and her 13-year-old half sister Amma, the town’s resident sweetheart and “mean girl”. She is also continually haunted by the death of her younger sister, Marian, due to illness. Camille teams up with Detective Richard Willis, the lead investigator on the case, and the two of them become lovers. While investigating the murders, she also becomes closer to Amma, and realises that not all is right with her mother’s behaviour. Terrifying and twisted, this book will prove that Gillian Flynn is not a one-trick pony.


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  1. carol says:

    Crime fiction greats – The Huntress Moon – Alexandra Sokoloff and False Witness – Dorothy Uhnak