The best books if you want to read about murder

Why am I passionate about this?

An avid reader when young, I made the transition from reading to writing relatively late in life. It happened unexpectedly, but once I started writing I found it impossible to stop and have had twenty-eight novels published so far. Fortunately I found a publisher within weeks of completing my first novel, which was shortlisted for several major awards. Currently I am writing the 20th novel in my Geraldine Steel detective series, which has sold over a million copies in the UK alone. As well as writing detective novels, I also support up and coming crime writers as chair of judges for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award.


I wrote...

Fake Alibi

By Leigh Russell,

Book cover of Fake Alibi

What is my book about?

A woman is strangled and her son, Eddy, is arrested. When his alibi falls apart, the police are satisfied he is guilty. Only Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel doubts whether Eddy is cunning enough to kill his mother and cover his tracks so successfully. The situation becomes more complicated when the girl Eddy identified as his girlfriend denies having met him. Shortly after she suspects she is being stalked, her dead body is discovered outside Eddy's house.

As the body count grows, Geraldine finds herself under almost unbearable pressure. She needs to track down the killer before he strikes again.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Power and the Glory

Leigh Russell Why did I love this book?

Graham Greene creates a completely convincing scene in just a few words, deftly transporting the reader into a different world. His characters are credible, and tension underlies every word he writes. The Power and the Glory is a master class in demonstrating how a writer can ‘show’ not ‘tell’ the reader what is happening in the world of the book. Although the novel doesn’t fall into the conventional crime genre, Greene writes about people’s ability to treat others with both inhumanity and humanity, exploring the depths and also the best of human potential. 

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Power and the Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During an anti-clerical purge in Mexico, a priest is hunted like a hare. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the little worldly priest is nevertheless impelled towards his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.


Book cover of Double Indemnity

Leigh Russell Why did I love this book?

Double Indemnity is an American noir crime novella written in the 1940s. From the opening words, the reader is taken into the life of the protagonist, a gullible salesman who becomes entangled with a married woman. When she turns out to have more on her mind than adultery,  he is seduced into becoming involved in a terrible crime. The narrative voice is both convincing and compelling, leading the reader along a devastating journey where the outcome eventually seems inevitable. 

By James M. Cain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Walter Huff is an insurance investigator like any other until the day he meets the beautiful and dangerous Phyllis Nirdlinger and falls under her spell. Together they plot to kill her husband and split the insurance. It'll be the perfect murder ...


Book cover of The Great Gatsby

Leigh Russell Why did I love this book?

This book does not fall strictly into the crime genre, but the climax of the story hinges on a hit and run car accident. There is adultery in the novel but the central theme is one of unrequited love, which is the main tragedy of the novel. The personal story of the characters is set against the backdrop of America in the 1920s, the ‘Jazz Age’, and the book gives a snapshot of the era, in a veiled but excoriating exposé of the Great American Dream. In the real world, another tragedy played out, with the novel a commercial flop when it was published. F. Scott Fitzgerald died believing he was a failure. Only after his death was the book recognised as a masterpiece.  

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Great Gatsby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the summer unfolds, Nick is drawn into Gatsby's world of luxury cars, speedboats and extravagant parties. But the more he hears about Gatsby - even from what Gatsby himself tells him - the less he seems to believe. Did he really go to Oxford University? Was Gatsby a hero in the war? Did he once kill a man? Nick recalls how he comes to know Gatsby and how he also enters the world of his cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom. Does their money make them any happier? Do the stories all connect? Shall we come to know…


Book cover of Dissolution

Leigh Russell Why did I love this book?

Like the other authors on my list, CJ Sansom skilfully creates a whole world in his novels. This book takes the reader back to the sixteenth century, to the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The protagonist, a lawyer and supporter of the religious reforms, is sent to investigate the brutal murder of one of the king’s commissioners. The story is gripping, but it is the historical detail that really captured my imagination, as Sansom takes the reader back to the 1500s. The narrator is a believable character, intelligent and thoughtful, and his struggle with his mission is both cerebral and philosophical as he encounters challenges to his own beliefs. 

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Dissolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger - the highest honor in British crime writing

From the bestselling author of Winter in Madrid and Dominion comes the exciting and elegantly written first novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series

Dissolution is an utterly riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar general, summons…


Book cover of Gormenghast

Leigh Russell Why did I love this book?

Mervyn Peake’s writing is unusual. In Gormenghast he creates a bizarre world of weird hierarchical rituals, peopled by eccentric characters, each one singular in a different way. What really brings this novel to life is Peake’s wonderfully rich prose, as he describes the destruction of an ancient social structure.

By Mervyn Peake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Enter the world of Gormenghast...the vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir. Gothic labyrinth of roofs and turrets, cloisters and corridors, stairwells and dungeons, it is also the cobwebbed kingdom of Byzantine government and age-old rituals, a world primed to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder.

Gormenghast is more than a sequel to Titus Groan - it is an enrichment and deepening of that book.The fertility of incident, character and rich atmosphere combine in a tour de force that ranks as one of the twentieth century's most…


You might also like...

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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