The best detective novels that read like domestic suspense

Who am I?

At heart, I just love a juicy story. For about three years of my life, I read nothing but non-fiction and textbooks on psychology, psychotherapy, and analyses of the human condition—everything from case studies to scientific papers. Cross that with an NYPD detective for a husband, and my obsession with the criminal mind, the detective mind, and everything in between was born. I am especially drawn to stories that show how working with the underbelly of society affects a police officer’s psyche. Nobody is unscathed. It is this vision of humanity on the razor’s edge between law and crime that I find most compelling to write and read.

I wrote...

Hide in Place

By Emilya Naymark,

Book cover of Hide in Place

What is my book about?

She left the NYPD in the firestorm of a high-profile case gone horribly wrong. Three years later, the ghosts of her past roar back to terrifying life. When NYPD undercover cop Laney Bird's cover is blown in a racketeering case against the Russian mob, she flees the city with her troubled son, Alfie. Now, three years later, she's found the perfect haven in Sylvan, a charming town in upstate New York. But then the unthinkable happens: her boy vanishes. Hide in Place is a Silver Falchion Award Finalist.

“An original, satisfying roller-coaster ride for domestic suspense fans.” Publishers Weekly

The books I picked & why

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Long Bright River

By Liz Moore,

Book cover of Long Bright River

Why this book?

I was immediately gripped by this gritty novel, not least because of Liz Moore’s talent in painting a specific place and community. Set in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood devastated by the opioid crisis, this is a story of two sisters at the opposite ends of the law. Mickey always tried to leave, to become something other than what she saw around her. But she never did. She is now a cop, her beat the same streets in which she’d grown up, and the people she helps, or arrests, the same ones she’s known her entire life. I became utterly engrossed in the dynamics between the sisters, but mostly, the internal struggles Mickey faces as she tries to do the best she can for her family, her neighborhood, and her friends. 

In the Woods

By Tana French,

Book cover of In the Woods

Why this book?

I inhaled this book. Yes, it’s a police procedural, and yes, there’s a murder. Maybe there are several, though the beauty of the novel is that this is not crystal clear. The absolute best part of this novel, and what I still remember years after reading it, is how real the characters are. Their emotions, their connections, and relationships are so vividly portrayed, that I wanted to alternately hug and scream at them. The narrator, a detective named Rob Ryan, is a walking, talking wound who somehow managed to become an adult after a devastating childhood event, and then become a police officer. This book is psychological suspense at its best. 

Case Histories

By Kate Atkinson,

Book cover of Case Histories

Why this book?

Kate Atkinson has a serious talent for making a reader care about anyone she describes. She weaves deeply moving stories whether she’s telling us about grown sisters still caught in a tragedy from their childhood, a young mother driven to desperation by poverty and loneliness (and, yes, by being a young mother), or the detective who tries to find closure for them.

I couldn’t get enough of these characters and gladly followed them to the next books in the series.

The Black Dahlia

By James Ellroy,

Book cover of The Black Dahlia

Why this book?

I was, and still am, obsessed by the story of the Black Dahlia. Is it any wonder that I fell completely under the spell of this novel? Ellroy writes a tight, violent vision of what a horrific case can do, psychologically, to detectives. Cops are no less human than the rest of society, and the constant exposure to the worst, darkest, most terrible aspects of humanity erodes them. The Black Dahlia demonstrates this erosion brilliantly. 

A Matter of Blood

By Catherine Maiorisi,

Book cover of A Matter of Blood

Why this book?

Being a New Yorker, I’m a sucker for any true New York books, and this one is as authentic as they come. I also really appreciated how believable Chiara Corelli is. She has all the right mix of ethical and tough, but she is also a fully realized person with both external and internal goals and needs. Really good police procedural with a healthy dose of humanity. 

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