The best crime novels featuring a P.I. with cold-blooded instincts and a biting sense of humor

G.J. Prager Author Of Deadly Habits
By G.J. Prager

Who am I?

As a crime writer, my stories have always weighed on the psychological workings and inner lives of the characters who inhabit my novels. Their motivations and desires are what drive the narrative, and a good crime story conveys the conflicts and moral dilemmas that stem from their thoughts and actions. Writing has always been a channel to convey my own views on the human condition, and giving my characters a three-dimensional inner life offers the reader a compelling work of fiction that reflects the real world. 


I wrote...

Deadly Habits

By G.J. Prager,

Book cover of Deadly Habits

What is my book about?

Private Detective Robert Klayman is hard at work on a twenty-year-old cold case. He’s holed up in Spring Dunes, a chic desert town a hundred miles east of Los Angeles, where the jet set and casino moguls hobnob and meth labs proliferate. Sinister parties have taken an interest in the case, including a drug-dealing casino owner who deposits his victims in acid vats. Klayman’s attempt to bring closure for his client soon has him confronting the ghosts of his own past.

The books I picked & why

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Farewell, My Lovely

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of Farewell, My Lovely

Why this book?

It’s probably Raymond Chandler’s best novel. The story has all the elements Chandler is best known for biting humor, colorful characters that include gangsters and lawmen with violent streaks and hair-trigger temperaments, a keen insight into the sordid lives of society’s rich and powerful, and a private detective with a taste for alcohol and the soul of an avenging angel.

Phillip Marlowe is one of literature’s most famous private detectives, and probably cinema’s best portrayal of a jaded P.I. working the beat in mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles. Chandler’s creation portrays a flawed and borderline alcoholic who handles cases with the insight of a social scientist and the wit of a streetwise hood. The novel is a page-turner not only for the action and suspense, but for the humor and sarcasm Chandler dispenses with each new scene he introduces.

Farewell, My Lovely

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Farewell, My Lovely as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Book cover of Crime and Punishment

Why this book?

This nineteenth-century novel paved the way for the modern crime novel. While the plot revolves around a murder, the book also explores the psychological workings of a loner who’s a frustrated and opinionated young man with a Napoleon-like complex, and is undone by a clever police detective. The narrative can be overwritten at times and a slog to read through, but the story remains compelling and insightful after all these years.

Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Crime and Punishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

Most people are more familiar with the film and less so with the novel. Though Stanley Kubrick’s version offered a vivid and electrifying experience while creating some controversy at the time, the novel goes deeper into the workings of the violent mind. Burgess’ style is a treat to read, and the slang and pseudo-language his characters contrive are fun to explore, and plays a larger part in the novel. His characters come off the page as more three-dimensional than in the film, as well.

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked A Clockwork Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that evocatively renders his and his friends' intense reaction against their society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess's introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


The Tin Drum

By Günter Grass, Breon Mitchell (translator),

Book cover of The Tin Drum

Why this book?

The story of an unusual boy who stops growing for fear of becoming an adult in Nazi Germany. The novel was made into a much-heralded film, too, though the book explores the zeitgeist to greater effect. Gunter Grass is a master of irony and wit, and his boy creation becomes the story’s conscience as Germany descends into a moral hell. Ironically, Gunter Grass was outed later in his life as a former S.S. recruit.

The Tin Drum

By Günter Grass, Breon Mitchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tin Drum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY THE AUTHOR On his third birthday Oskar decides to stop growing. Haunted by the deaths of his parents and wielding his tin drum Oskar recounts the events of his extraordinary life; from the long nightmare of the Nazi era to his anarchic adventures is post-war Germany.

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Why this book?

This was Vonnegut’s best novel, in my opinion. Based on his actual experiences as an American POW in Germany during W.W. II., he chronicled the firebombing of Dresden with a backstory mirroring his own experience. Funny and poignant in the face of horror and destruction, Vonnegut turns his book into a sinful pleasure to read.

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, Germany, and criminals?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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