Recommend me some decent crime novels?

I’ll admit to being taken in by a simplistic crime storyline on tv - Law and Order, Waking the Dead, etc. Yet the resolution is so often unsatisfying because of the nature of most TV - DNA helps everything along and it’s all resolved by the end credits.

I’ve read some crime novels but nothing particularly good. I’m not terribly familiar with the book genre but know I’d be happy spending a few hours with a decent potboiler that I may not remember for the rest of my life.

So if I want something easy-to-read, yet satisfying and absorbing, who should I go with?

Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme novels are easy to read and full of multiple you’ll-never-see-it-coming twists. Lots of forensic stuff, characters are a little cardboard, but serviceable. The point is the plot. Start with the first in the series: “The Bone Collector.”

Robert Parker’s Spenser novels are extremely light and fluffy. Spenser is your classic wise-cracking P.I. You can pick up pretty much any book in the series and read it without being confused. I read them completely out of order.

My favorite series is Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels. The series starts off pretty light and humorous, but gets much more serious, to good effect I think. My absolute favorite novel of the group is “L.A. Requiem,” which is the point at which the series takes a darker turn and starts to dig deeper into the characters’ pasts.

John Sandford’s (real name, John Camp) Prey series is pretty good if you like really mean bad guys getting what’s coming to them. Lucas Davenport doesn’t sound like the name of a very charismatic cop, but he is. These books meet your criteria of being easy to read, satisfying and absorbing.

As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to dislike it when people I’ve come to like, even if fictional, get killed, and there’s a fair amount of that in Sandford’s novels (of course this is a device which makes the bad guys’ end both more justified and more satisfying, and it increases the suspense as you never really know if that great little 12-year-old girl or that beautiful Russian detective – on loan, the action takes place in Minnesota, another unlikely element in Sandford’s novels but one which works anyway – is really gonna get killed or not) so as a result I stopped reading them after about the ninth or tenth book in the series.

Still, they are good, well-written books that will keep your interest. If you decide to give them a try, I’d suggest starting with the first and reading them in chronological order, as follows:

Rules of Prey (1989)
Shadow Prey (1990)
Eyes of Prey (1991)
Silent Prey (1992)
Winter Prey (1993)
Night Prey (1994)
Mind Prey (1995)
Sudden Prey (1996)
Certain Prey (1999)
Easy Prey (2000)
Chosen Prey (2001)
Mortal Prey (2002)
Naked Prey (2003)
Hidden Prey (2004)
Broken Prey (2005)
Invisible Prey (2007)
Phantom Prey (2008)
Wicked Prey (2009)

I second the Lincoln Rhyme recommendation and add Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks to the list (earlier ones are better than the later ones)…decent forensics stuff, though the Britishisms get heavy-handed at times.

If you are into forensics, early Patricia Cornwell is also good. Past a certain point Scarpetta just gets on your nerves.

I would recommend the works of Sherlock Holmes.

I was coming in to say almost exactly this. The series turns tired, very dark, and starts to get ridiculous with shock-value stunts, but the first, oh, 5 or so are pretty good.

I’ve read a few Kathy Reichs novels and they were fine. (The TV series Bones is based on these novels, but it really bears only the slightest resemblance to the books.) I also read some of the Sara Paretsky novels early on, thought they were OK.

Raymond Chandler wrote several detective novels with the protagonist Phillip Marlowe, the classic hard boiled detective. True, if filming The Big Sleep, he was unable to explain who did what to whom, but The Little Sister (made into the James Garner movie Marlowe) and The Lady in the Lake are very good.

There is an author Harold Schechter and he writes books about true crime and they are very well written, fast paced and for lack of a better word, entertaining.

His best are “Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America’s First Serial Killer” and “Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America’s Youngest Serial Killer”

If you like to read about true crime he’s great. He’s written fiction but I’ve not read any yet

I came here to recommend Robert Crais but Pyper beat me to it. He has other books beside the Elvis Cole series but the series is far better.

I recommend the Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis. Falco is the granddaddy of all P. I.'s, operating in ancient Rome. :smiley:

I confess I’m not averse to a bit of true crime. I read the entire entry for Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka on the online crime library. Sometimes I think this is a tendency I should reign in.

Patricia Cornwell is obviously a name I’m familiar with partly because she made up a theory about Sir Walter Sicket being Jack the Ripper, IIRC.

I am British, will that help or make it worse? :wink:

True Confessions by John Gregory Dunne is a favorite. It’s a fictional retelling of the Black Dahlia murder from the 1940s, from the point of view of the detective investigating the case and his brother, an ambitious Catholic priest, who may or may not have taken the murderer’s confession.

The Pope of Greenwich Village, though not a crime novel per se, is the story of a guy who grew up on the fringes of New York organized crime (his uncle is a made man). He and his idiot cousin rob a major mobster and have to figure out a way to survive the experience. Returning the money is not an option.

Both of these were made into wonderful movies with first-rate casts.

A British friend of mine recommended Ian Rankin to me before I took a trip to Edinburgh. So far, I’ve read only a couple of his books - Knots & Crosses and The Falls, but they were both very good. So there’s some British crme fiction for you. :slight_smile:

Someone above mentioned Raymond Chandler, so I’ll also throw out Dashiell Hammett, author of several classic crime-noir stories, such as The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, and his Continental Op series.

Alafair Burke - her newest novel Angel’s Tip just came out to positive reviews. She’s also a professor of Criminal Procedure at my law school. :slight_smile:

I really like Mark Billingham - the plots are quite good, the key detective, Tom Thorne is a good if fairly traditional police type character, and his back story is increasingly interesting. I’d read in order, which starts with Sleepyhead - the premise of that one truly shocked and horrified me, and that feeling stayed with me for quite some time. Thorne is based in London.

Not traditional whodunnit crime novels, but you may like Christopher Brookmyre’s stuff. He has a cast of recurring characters, rather than one standout one. Brookmyre is irreverent, smart and just damn funny. (Anyone who can name a book ‘Fuck This for a Game of Soldiers’, although it did get renamed as far as I can work out, is ok by me) He’s Scottish, and his dialog is very real, including just enough in the way of idiom to be alive, without veering into Irvine Welsh territory where you need a phrase book to get through the chapters. I’d go in chronological order just to avoid some fairly massive spoilers if you like them enough to carry on - so start with Quite Ugly One Morning.

Another British author is Minette Walters - hers are all standalone novels if memory serves, but I love her characters.

I like the novels of both Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman - different but both entertaining. Also early James Paterson (the Alex Cross series) but he’s increasingly formulaic and just annoying, and what is up with that franchise business he’s got going on? Also maybe look at John Katzenbach - quirky novels with (often) quite intriguing little plots. I’d also second (third?fourth?) early Patricia Cornwell, but from about the fifth book on I’ve just been reading them out of misguided loyalty and hope, I think.

Raymond Chandler’s the king of crime fiction for me, so you should definitely read a couple of his Philip Marlowe novels. The plots are incredibly convoluted, but you don’t really read Chandler novels for the plot anyway. Read him instead for the down-at-heel nobility of Marlowe and Chandler’s own superb phrase-making.

Ian Rankin’s not bad, and his Inspector Rebus novels are worth trying too. They conjure up the darker side of Edinburgh pretty well, and Rebus himself is cantankerous enough to make an entertaining guide.

The Sherlock Holmes short stories are great too, of course, so you should certainly give them a try. They’re wonderfully well-written, very evocative of Victorian London and unsurpassed in the creation of Holmes himself. Stick to the short stories though: they’re really the core of the Holmes canon.

George V Higgins is another favourite of mine. He writes about small-time crooks in Boston, reveling in their stupidity and telling the story mostly through well-observed and very colourful dialogue. He’s one of the few crime writers who can incorporate so much humour into his stories without tipping them over into outright farce.

Carl Hiassen’s Florida-set crime novels have a lot of humour in them too, though in his case it’s aimed at satirising crooked Florida politicians and greedy developers. Two or three of his novels were enough for me, but many other people swear by him.

Finally, you might want to try James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux series. They’re set in Louisiana, with a very strong sense of place, some nicely lyrical writing and a string of satisfyingly sadistic villains. Two or three books in, you start to realise that they’re all written to the same basic formula, but by then you might have developed enough affection for the characters to keep going anyway.

All these guys are easy to read, and provide very accomplished page-turners. Beyond that, it’s really a case of whether you prefer a British of a US setting and how down-and-dirty you want to get with the violence and corruption involved in their plots.

As for true crime, David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner are now both available as paperbacks here in the UK. They’ll give you a very good street-level view of Baltimore’s drug trade and the violence it produces as, of course, will Simon’s phenomonally good HBO series The Wire.

Yup, I read her book. She makes a fairly convincing case. There are people who would never be convinced, and of course we’ll never know, but she has some interesting points.

If you’re not averse to “true crime” I would definitely recommend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. He essentially invented the true crime genre with that book. Read it, then watch the Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie Capote. Pretty interesting stuff.

Oh, I LOVED The Corner. It’s more the kind of thing I would instinctively read (that and also In True Blood, I guess). The Wire is probably my favourite TV show of all time. Haven’t got round to reading *Homicide *yet (most of my favourite Wire characters are from the street side of the action) but I will.

I got Cornwell’s All That Remains today. Couldn’t find The Bone Collector.

oooh…I’ll second the Ian Rankin recommendation. I have everything he’s written and am currently working my way through the series again from the beginning. Co-incidentally one of the Rebus 4 part series is on ITV. Part 2 this Friday but you can watch the first part online. The TV show only bears a passing resemblance to the books plot wise, but Ken Stott is the perfect Rebus.

Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series) ad Harlan Cobin are also a pretty easy read and both authours have an extensive back catalogue you could work your way through.

The Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George is good and you can’t go wrong really with Ruth Rendell or PD James.

If you like Victorian crime fiction, you could always try Anne Perry’s Inspector Monk or Thomas(?) Pitt series.

One more, Lynda laPlante who wrote the Prime Suspect series is ok too.

"The Perfect murder : five great mystery writers create the perfect crime"with sections by Lawrence Block, Sarah Caudwell, Tony Hillerman, Peter Lovesey, and Donald E. Westlake. Probably in your local library.

The funny part of this is it’s written with each person writing as themselves, a mystery writer, who is critiquing all the others. And you can tell they mostly mean it. One will fault the other for using too many obscure weapons, the next will fault stories that rely on split-second timing …
And each are becoming involved in a real crime.