The best crime books where mental illness/neurodiversity is conveyed authentically

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Women’s Mental Health and have worked clinically, taught, and researched in the area of perinatal psychiatry for over thirty years. I do forensic psychiatry related to this; all this guides the books I write. I am passionate about promoting mental health and helping everyone understand the high level of trauma and its devastating effects on people; I have also been an avid reader of just about everything since I was eight, and love a gripping crime or psychological thriller. But it has to make sense, be authentic and not demonize mental illness; I have a particular hatred for the evil serial killer who was just “born that way”.


I wrote...

The Long Shadow

By Anne Buist,

Book cover of The Long Shadow

What is my book about?

“Mixed village mystery, fish-out-of-water and psychological thriller.”

A twenty-five-year-old mystery of a lost child in an outback town is at the heart of all that’s wrong in a mother-baby group Isabel Harris arrives in town to run…and solving it may put them all in danger.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Anne Buist Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because Lisbeth Salander is the heroine and not a victim, despite horrendous childhood abuse which is followed by abuse by the system—this happens all too frequently and I like that this series shows it in all the gory details. Yes, it is bigger than life and yes Lisbeth is close to having superpowers but childhood abuse survivors are tough and fighters too, even if not as quite together and self-reliant as this character.

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…


Book cover of One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath

Anne Buist Why did I love this book?

Mass killings are rare – especially in Norway, but we hear about them and they cause fear. Understanding why they happen has to be a way to try to stop them—even if it’s only stopping gun access (in the USA anyway) to those who are at risk. Seierstad takes a clear hard look at the tragedy where 77 people lost their lives—at the perpetrator’s childhood, where the system got it wrong and where the psychiatric profession couldn’t agree.

By Åsne Seierstad, Sarah Death (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 22 July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 of his fellow Norwegians in a terrorist atrocity that shocked the world. Many were teenagers, just beginning their adult lives. In the devastating aftermath, the inevitable questions began. How could this happen? Why did it happen? And who was Anders Breivik? Asne Seierstad was uniquely placed to explore these questions. An award-winning foreign correspondent, she had spent years writing about people caught up in violent conflict. Now, for the first time, she was being asked to write about her home country. Based on extensive testimonies and interviews, One of Us is…


Book cover of The Maid

Anne Buist Why did I love this book?

I loved the quirky protagonist; that she was the maid in the hotel where the crime occurs gives her a unique take and the book a very different structure to the usual cop-driven stories. Her character shows how hard it is for neurodiverse people, and gives a sympathetic insider point of view. It won the Ned Kelly International crime book.

By Nita Prose,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Maid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*THE NO.1 NEW YORK TIMES & SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER
*WINNER OF THE NED KELLY AWARD FOR BEST INTERNATIONAL CRIME FICTION
*A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME PICK

'An escapist pleasure' SUNDAY TIMES
'Delightful' GUARDIAN
'An instantly gripping and delightful whodunnit' STYLIST
'Smart, riveting, and deliciously refreshing ' LISA JEWELL

_________________________________________________________________

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She's used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping…


Book cover of All That I Remember About Dean Cola

Anne Buist Why did I love this book?

This is more literary than crime but Chandler has at the heart of her book a woman with serious mental illness; she captures the soul of a troubled woman and the rippling effects of past and psychosis, as well as the vagaries of memory. And there is a mystery to work out; it was short-listed for the Sisters in Crime Davitt’s award.

By Tania Chandler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All That I Remember About Dean Cola as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The boys from back home stand beside the bed, watching her bleed onto the white sheet. ‘He only said to scare her,’ one of them says.

Sidney is happily married to her firefighter husband and thinking about having a child, but her life has been marred by psychotic breakdowns. Haunted by memories of Dean Cola — the teenage crush who is an essential piece of the puzzle that is her past — she returns to the town where she grew up. Something unthinkable happened there, but is she strong enough to face it?

A compelling portrait of mental illness, memory,…


Book cover of The ABC Murders

Anne Buist Why did I love this book?

Hercule Poirot states in this book it is unintelligent and stupid to say a madman murders because he is mad; I love that he looks to the why. Alexander Bonaparte Cust is a complex nuanced and even more importantly, entirely believable character. Even eighty years after this was written the story holds up – it's compelling and fast-paced. I don’t like the random uses e.g. loony and lunatic but given the times (“dastardly scoundrel” is also used!) overall the Queen of Crime did a very solid job of an authentic mentally ill character.

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Down a Bad Road

By Regina Buttner,

Book cover of Down a Bad Road

Regina Buttner Author Of Down a Bad Road

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a close girlfriend who was once involved with a man she wanted to marry. The trouble was, the guy was always hanging out with this other woman who he’d known since childhood. Just friends, he said. Nothing going on. Ha! The shenanigans they got up to were unbelievable, and extremely upsetting to my girlfriend, who eventually broke up with the cad. Her unlucky experience got me interested in the psychology of the love triangle, and why some people remain mired in these dead-end relationships. My reading jam is anything twisty and suspenseful, and what’s more fraught than a three-way competition for someone’s affections.

Regina's book list on love triangles that turn deadly

What is my book about?

Jealousy can be deadly.

Ron Burley has a rule against messing around with married women, but lovely Lavender has convinced him to break it. Their steamy affair sets someone off, but it isn’t Lavender’s clueless husband—it’s Marta, Burley’s clingy childhood friend and ex-lover. 

Hoping to win Burley back, Marta dangles a lucrative job offer. Though he’s sorely tempted, Burley’s afraid to trust her due to the sketchy circumstances surrounding their bitter breakup years ago; but this might be his only chance to get back at her for what she did. Meanwhile, Lavender has become suspicious of Burley’s romantic history, and…

Down a Bad Road

By Regina Buttner,

What is this book about?

"Gripping and unforgettable suspense-think North Country, New York noir laced with dark humor. Don't plan on setting this fast-paced thriller down until you read the last page!" –Cam Torrens, author of Stable

Jealousy can be deadly.

Longtime bachelor Ron Burley has a rule against messing around with married women in his rural upstate New York town, but sassy, lovely Lavender has convinced him to break it. Their steamy affair sets someone off, but it isn't Lavender's clueless husband-it's Marta, Burley's clingy childhood friend and ex-lover.

Marta knows Burley is on the verge of going broke, so she secretly tries to…


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