Hit Me With Your Crime Author Suggestions

I’m summoning the power of the internet – or rather you lot – to help me. I’m looking to plunge deep into the crime genre soon. I’ve read a decent-ish amount – Henning Mankell, David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet, C.J. Sansom, early noir etc – and I’ve enjoyed those very much. But I want to expand my horizons a lot more. I’m also specifically interested in stories written in interesting locations, be that back in time or an unusual setting. Also, crime novels by Black or Asian authors would be useful. Historical crime recommendations a bonus. Classics of the genre are welcome.

I’m also after variation – intricate plotting, police procedurals, thrillers, exposés on impoverished parts of the world, just as long as they’re interesting. If you can jot down a line or two as to why you think I should read them, that’s all the better. Obviously I’m not going to get through all of them, and I’m a slow enough reader as it is, but consider this pub talk – and you’re the rambling old dude telling me what I should be doing with my time.

So, hit me with your suggestions.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. Fred Vargas
    Gladys Mitchell

  2. I know Blaft (http://www.blaft.com/) have just released translations from Urdu of the Ibne Safi books. Mid-twentieth century Pakistani author with a huge following, and I’m told these translations are really good. Plus, glorious, kitschy cover art!

  3. Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlement by Barry Hughart take place in a fantasy-enhanced China and work both as crime novels and as fantasy for me, though they may be a bit difficult to find.

    Martha Grimes does some strange and wonderful things. Her Inspector Jury series is very long, so there are some hits and some misses, but when things work, they work beautifully. Also, her standalone, Foul Matter, is hilarious and takes place in the publishing industry. (I know, it may not be the exotic location you hoped for, but it’s worth it.) And her Emma Graham series, which only consists of four books (so far) is beautifully atmospheric, perhaps her best work. It includes Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction, Belle Ruin, and the latest (which even I haven’t read yet, it only came out this year), Fadeway Girl.

    I assume you’re familiar with John Dickson Carr’s work? He was one of the first writers of historical mysteries, and I’m partial to his Devil in Velvet, which combines both historical and fantastic elements in a very interesting manner.

  4. Ungh. Sorry about the unclosed tags up there. Serves me right for commenting over my first coffee.

  5. I take it that you have already read China Mieville’s foray into crime fiction sooo.. Raymond Chandler.

  6. I love Walter Mosely, the history of black America in the crime genre. And if you’re going down those mean streets, check out Chester Himes – Cotton Comes to Harlem and the rest. Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. Just astonishing.

    Carl Hiaisan’s Miami stories are a hoot – very funny, very satiric.

    I’ve not read any of this Wallander stuff. But I do love Italian detective stories – everyone knows Michael Dibdin’s Zen stories but Magdalen Nabb’s stories about a Carabinieri Marshall in Florence are really engrossing.

    Great mission. I don’t read much crime these days, due to the pile of SF books on the floor. Loved Stieg Larsson though.

    Look forward to hearing more about your forays into crime..

  7. The four noir kings: Chandler, Hammett, Woolrich and Goodis.

    I’d also suggest John D. MacDonald (I can send you links to 6575 reviews of his books if you like, he’s my favoritest author of all time) and McBain (who is a procedural genius). And Ross Thomas (who you’d love – twisty, darkly comedic, political weirdness plots).

    Or you can just pick up ANYTHING from Hard Case Crime. They’re amazing. And pretty.

  8. Sara Paretsky: the best “female PI” writer of them all. Unbeatable.
    Sue Grafton: a distant second, but still very readable.
    Zoe Ferraris: a pair of crime novels set in Saudi – interesting, though the research is a little off in places.
    Philip Kerr: the Bernie Gunther novels start in wartime Germany and move to South America; they are also excellent.
    Katherine Ross: historical crime set in Regency England, and done very well indeed.
    James Ellroy: he’s a nutter, but the LA Quartet are still worth reading.

    And DG Compton wrote several crime novels – in fact, his last two books were crime: Justice City and Back of Town Blues.

  9. Try AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST by Iain Pears. It’s an intricately-plotted, historical-fiction, epistolary crime/mystery novel set in 17th century England.

  10. I’ve always liked John Sandford – sets his stuff up in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Long series (Lucas Davenport) and a shorter, newer one (Virgil Flowers).
    Michael Connolly, also – loved Lincoln Lawyer (good film, too)

  11. ‘Death of a Red Heroine’ by Qiu Xiaolong definitely. I’d say Natsuo Kirino’s ‘Out’ as well but it is leaning towards crime-thriller rather than straight crime.

  12. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Some really interesting stuff there – and great variation. Just what I was looking for.

    Keep ’em coming!

  13. I’ve not read much recently but my partner has and I cam go by how fast she has finished them…

    Jo Nesbo is a recent discovery who does historical based crime fiction
    Denise Mina writes investigative thrillers with a reporter as protagonist
    Mark Billingham does great character driven police procedurals

  14. I would second the recs for John D MacDonald (start with the first Travis McGee, The Deep Blue Good-bye), Magdalen Nabb, Jo Nesbo (except he doesn’t write historicals, they are set in modern-day Norway), Mark Billingham and Denise Mina. Also Laura Lippman’s standalone novels are fantastic psychological suspense; Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels about a former military cop who wanders the land; Harlan Coben; Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution; Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories; Robert Goddard’s In Pale Battalions, set during World War 1; Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle; any of Patricia Highsmith’s fine novels (although you might start with The Talented Mr Ripley or Strangers on a Train). I could go on and on. . .

  15. Try “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr, about a search for a serial killer in New York in the late 1800’s, when techniques like crime scene analysis and psychological profiling were novel.

  16. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff, and for the list!

    I can see this is going to be an expensive trip to The Book Depository…

    I’ll try to get to as many as these authors as possible, especially those who have been seconded.

  17. I can recommend two French authors :
    – Fred Vargas : some of her characters are “historians turned detectives” always bickering because they don’t agree on the best time of History to study…
    -Jean-François Parot : his detective is starting scientific investigation before the French Revolution and a great connoisseur in wines and good dishes! The rendering of the 18th century way of life and language is very good.

  18. Probably not what you’re after, Mark, but I’d like to suggest ‘1st to Die’ by James Patterson. It’s a modern crime novel set in a real city (San Francisco, I think), but instead of just one or two characters, it revolves around a whole group. It’s the first book in his ‘The Women’s Murder Club’ series, and I felt it was a good book with four (Well, mostly 2-3) strong female characters in the lead.

    It’s nothing grand, exciting or even new, but I liked it.

  19. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is an interesting look at the case that basically started “crime” as a genre. Carl Hiaasen is a lot of fun. Jim Thompson isn’t “fun”, perhaps, but the best pulp fiction author. John Le Carre was a spy novelist but sorta counts. Oh, and I’m sure there was a Russian bloke who wrote a book about some loon who whacks a pawnbroker…

  20. Away from Fantasy and Horror my go to authors are Mark Billingham, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen and Mo Harder. My absolute favorite crime writer though is John Connolly and his Charlie Parker series.