The best novels that no fan of crime fiction should miss

Who am I?

I began reading mystery novels while I was still a young boy, thanks to the influence of my parents who were both fans of crime fiction. Early on, I was drawn toward the hard-boiled school of crime fiction and I’ve always particularly enjoyed reading novels about both private detectives and police department detectives. Several years ago, I began writing my own series featuring a Phoenix, Arizona homicide detective, Sean Richardson, and his partner, Maggie McClinton. I’ve also written two fairly traditional mysteries, one set in Montana and the other in South Dakota as well as a standalone suspense novel and one nonfiction book.


I wrote...

South of the Deuce

By James L. Thane,

Book cover of South of the Deuce

What is my book about?

When the body of an attractive young woman is dumped in a Phoenix city park, detective Sean Richardson is stunned to discover along with it the driver’s license of a woman whose body was abandoned on the same site forty years earlier. The original victim was the first of four women who were murdered at that time, but the killer was never identified. The new investigation has barely begun when another young woman is murdered, duplicating the second crime from the earlier spree. Sean now finds himself in a desperate race to stop a clever and sadistic predator who seems intent on replicating all four of the original crimes, and before it’s over, the chase will come perilously close to home for Sean Richardson himself.

The books I picked & why

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The Maltese Falcon

By Dashiell Hammett,

Book cover of The Maltese Falcon

Why this book?

Hammett and Raymond Chandler were the founding fathers of the hard-boiled crime genre. This iconic novel features San Francisco private investigator Sam Spade. Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, are hired for a job by an attractive young woman and almost immediately Archer is murdered. Spade, who has been having an affair with his partner’s wife, must now hunt down Archer’s killer while dealing with a group of curious and untrustworthy con artists who are hunting for a very valuable and long-lost statuette.

The Maltese Falcon

By Dashiell Hammett,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Maltese Falcon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the greatest crime novels of the 20th century.

'His name remains one of the most important and recognisable in the crime fiction genre. Hammett set the standard for much of the work that would follow' Independent

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and when Spade's partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby's trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a…


The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why this book?

Another timeless novel which, like The Big Sleep, was made into a classic film. Both movies starred Humphrey Bogart, in the first case as Sam Spade in 1941 and then as Philip Marlowe in 1946. This is Chandler’s first novel in which he introduced Los Angeles private investigator, Phillip Marlowe. When a dying millionaire needs help, Marlowe answers the call and changes forever the course of crime fiction. As with all of Chandler’s books, the plot is murky, but that doesn’t really matter. You read Chandler for the writing itself, which is beautiful and impossible to imitate.

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Big Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…


The Sins of the Fathers

By Lawrence Block,

Book cover of The Sins of the Fathers

Why this book?

This novel introduced Matthew Scudder, an ex-New York City cop turned unlicensed private investigator. In this case, a young woman has been brutally murdered and the police believe they have solved the crime. But the victim’s father hires Scudder to look deeper into the case which will produce more than its share of surprises. The beauty of this series, though, lies in the development of the Matthew Scudder character, who remains one of the most fascinating and compelling figures in all of crime fiction. The first chapter, which introduces Scudder, is one of the best opening chapters of any crime novel.

The Sins of the Fathers

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first novel in the explosive Matthew Scudder Series. The tenth novel in the series - A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES - is set to be a major Hollywood film, starring Liam Neeson.

A pretty young girl is butchered in her Greenwich Village apartment.

The prime suspect, a minister's son, is found dead in his jail cell.

As far as the NYPD is concerned, the case is closed.

But ex-cop Matt Scudder, is persuaded to look into the case by the dead girl's father. And suddenly he's up to his neck in sleaze and corruption, phoney religious cults and murderous…


Rules of Prey

By John Sandford,

Book cover of Rules of Prey

Why this book?

This is the first book in another long-running series, this one featuring Lucas Davenport, whom we first meet as a homicide detective on the Minneapolis Police Department. Like the characters above, Davenport is his own man and lives and works by his own code. In this case, he is tracking a serial killer who leaves notes for the police detailing the rules by which he selects and kills his victims. A great book in a fantastic series that features a lot of action, a great supporting cast, and a lot of black humor as well.

Rules of Prey

By John Sandford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**Don't miss John Sandford's brand-new thriller Ocean Prey - out now**

#1 New York Times bestselling author John Sandford's 'haunting, unforgettable, ice-blooded thriller' - first in the Lucas Davenport series!

The killer was mad but brilliant.

He left notes with every woman he killed. Rules of murder: Never have a motive. Never follow a discernible pattern. Never carry a weapon after it has been used...So many rules to his sick, violent games of death.

But Lucas Davenport, the cop who's out to get him, isn't playing by the rules.

***Praise for RULES OF PREY***

'Terrifying... Sandford has crafted the kind…


The Black Echo

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of The Black Echo

Why this book?

This is the first of more than twenty-five novels featuring Harry Bosch, a Vietnam War vet who is now a homicide detective on the L.A.P.D. Here Bosch investigates the murder of a man found stuffed into a culvert and the case quickly becomes very personal for Bosch himself. Like the detectives above, Bosch is a brilliantly imagined character, and with this series Connelly has established himself as the king of police procedurals.

The Black Echo

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Black Echo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


An LAPD homicide detective must choose between justice and vengeance as he teams up with the FBI in this "thrilling" novel filled with mystery and adventure (New York Times Book Review).

For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal . . . because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, police, and Minnesota?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, police, and Minnesota.

Private Investigators Explore 196 books about private investigators
Police Explore 165 books about police
Minnesota Explore 38 books about Minnesota

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Deal Breaker, and Killing Floor if you like this list.