The best political crime fiction

Who am I?

I grew up in Chicago in the waning days of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine, which politicized everything from schools to loading zones. Everyone—whether they were civil servants or small business owners—had to pledge loyalty to Da Boss, Hizzoner, or suffer the consequences. As a result, I’ve always gravitated to crime stories with a political element, one showing the effects of big conflicts on regular people. And I’ve written about the same. 


I wrote...

They Tell Me You Are Wicked

By David Hagerty, Darren Todd (editor),

Book cover of They Tell Me You Are Wicked

What is my book about?

Duncan Cochrane only wanted to be governor until his daughter was murdered six weeks before election day. Then all he wanted was revenge. He blames his own political ambitions. Still, his best shot at justice may be the bully pulpit of the campaign trail. He must win the election or accept that she has died in vain.

The books I picked & why

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The Quiet American

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Quiet American

Why this book?

Before the U.S. entered the war in Vietnam, Graham Greene forecast its disastrous consequences. His love triangle, set amid the escalating conflict, perfectly captures the naiveté of American interventionism overseas. I love the subtext of the tale, which is narrated by an embittered British journalist. Although it’s never spoken, we intuit that he is addicted to opium and living the life of a dissolute expatriate. Fowler watches in horror as a U.S. diplomat tries to steal both the woman and the country he has adopted. He claims impartiality and indifference until he cannot any longer.

The Quiet American

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Quiet American as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas.

As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But…


Lie in the Dark

By Dan Fesperman,

Book cover of Lie in the Dark

Why this book?

Even after reading dozens of news articles about the civil war in Bosnia, I didn’t understand it—until I read Dan Fesperman’s mystery novel Lie in the Dark, which explains the conflict in personal terms. His detective, Vlado, searches for one killer amidst a city full of them. Along the way, he learns that the war is being fought over more than just land or power. It indoctrinated me to the true aims of the war: the spoils.

Lie in the Dark

By Dan Fesperman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lie in the Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Zero

By Jess Walter,

Book cover of The Zero

Why this book?

The Zero captures the paranoia and confusion following 9/11, before we knew who attacked us or why. The story’s amnesiac investigator stumbles from one confusing clue to the next, much as we all did in those dark days. As he tries to piece together the truth from the literal scraps left behind at the World Trade Center, he also seeks insight into his own identity, and into the nation’s.

The Zero

By Jess Walter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

National Book Award Finalist 

The breakout novel from a writer of extraordinary talent: In the wake of a devastating terrorist attack, one man struggles to make sense of his world, even as the world tries to make use of him

Brian Remy has no idea how he got here. It’s been only five days since terrorists attacked his city, and Remy is experiencing gaps in his life—as if he were a stone being skipped across water. He has a self-inflicted gunshot wound that he doesn’t remember inflicting. His son wears a black armband and refuses to acknowledge that Remy is…


The Secret Agent

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of The Secret Agent

Why this book?

One of the first political thrillers, and still one of the best, this tale is based on a true story about an anarchist devoted to blowing up the Greenwich observatory—if only his family will stop getting in the way. It portrays spies as not the superhumans of most thrillers but ordinary men bumbling through their private lives while trying to steer the public toward their grander schemes. A welcome antidote to the superhero model we see in James Bond and 24.

The Secret Agent

By Joseph Conrad,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Secret Agent is Joseph Conrad's dark satire on English society, edited with an introduction and notes by Michael Newton in Penguin Classics.

In the only novel Conrad set in London, The Secret Agent communicates a profoundly ironic view of human affairs. The story is woven around an attack on the Greenwich Observatory in 1894 masterminded by Verloc, a Russian spy working for the police, and ostensibly a member of an anarchist group in Soho. His masters instruct him to discredit the anarchists in a humiliating fashion, and when his evil plan goes horribly awry, Verloc must deal with the…


The Bonfire of the Vanities

By Tom Wolfe,

Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

Why this book?

A social satire that perfectly captured the greed and arrogance of the 1980s. Sherman Helmsly is a master of the universe, a rich bond trader with a penthouse in New York, and a randy mistress—until he accidentally runs over a black boy in the Bronx. The result is a political scandal that reaches from the mayor’s office to the tabloids, with many memorable characters and acute parodies of the era. Those who lived in or followed the scandals of the city at the time—from Tawana Brawley to Ivan Boesky—will recognize several real people and stories in this fiction.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Bonfire of the Vanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exhilarating satire of Eighties excess that captures the effervescent spirit of New York, from one of the greatest writers of modern American prose

Sherman McCoy is a WASP, bond trader and self-appointed 'Master of the Universe'. He has a fashionable wife, a Park Avenue apartment and a Southern mistress. His spectacular fall begins the moment he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. Prosecutors, newspaper hacks, politicians and clergy close in on him, determined to bring him down.

Exuberant, scandalous and exceptionally discerning, The Bonfire of the Vanities was Tom Wolfe's first venture into fiction and cemented…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in love triangle, New York State, and New York City?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about love triangle, New York State, and New York City.

Love Triangle Explore 49 books about love triangle
New York State Explore 488 books about New York State
New York City Explore 663 books about New York City

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Street Without Joy, and The Sorrow of War if you like this list.