The best speculative crime novels

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up reading the crime and thriller books on my parents’ bookshelves. As a teenager I got into science fiction, reading everything I could. Speculative crime fiction mixes the best of both genres. You twist one aspect of the real world, add a dead body, and play with the consequences. I have written two novels that do this: in my first, I imagined a world in which five people share a body, and one of them is trying to kill the others; in my second, a killer who can turn back time. I love books that toy with reality in this way, and read all that I can.

I wrote...

Black Lake Manor

By Guy Morpuss,

Book cover of Black Lake Manor

What is my book about?

A locked room, a brutal murder, and a killer who can unwind time.

Part-time constable Ella Manning must solve the murder of her ex-fiancé, Lincoln Shan, found dead in a locked room in his mansion above the remote town of Black Lake, on Vancouver Island. Each time she thinks that she has identified the murderer, someone unwinds time by six hours, and she must start her investigation again, with no memory of what she discovered before. Can she find the killer before they strike again?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The City & the City

Guy Morpuss Why did I love this book?

The speculative twist is brilliant – two cities that exist in the same place, but whose citizens are taught to ignore one another’s existence.

When someone breaks this rule to commit a murder, it is both disturbing and revealing. This is a great murder mystery that also raises difficult questions about social divisions and the ability of humans to ignore what is right in front of them.

By China Miéville,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, the multi-award winning The City & The City by China Mieville is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

'You can't talk about Mieville without using the word "brilliant".' - Ursula Le Guin, author of the Earthsea series.

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to…

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Guy Morpuss Why did I love this book?

For me speculative fiction is about twisting one aspect of the real world, and then playing with the consequences. I love the way that Philip K Dick does this.

Some of his ideas seem absurd, but as a reader you quickly buy into them. This is not a traditional crime novel in any sense, but is about a bounty hunter tracking down escaped androids. As he confronts questions about his own humanity, it raises ethical issues for the reader as to what it is to be human.

Like all Dick’s works it is clever, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…

Book cover of Altered Carbon

Guy Morpuss Why did I love this book?

There are very few books that I read twenty years ago and still remember. This is one because the speculative concept is striking.

Takeshi Kovacs is a private investigator living in a future where people travel between worlds by swapping their minds into new bodies. Uniquely, he is hired to investigate the murder of a billionaire – by the murder victim himself. Yet again, it is a first-class crime story that also makes you think.

By Richard K. Morgan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Altered Carbon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


This must-read story is a confident, action-and-violence packed thriller, and future classic noir SF novel from a multi-award-winning author.

Four hundred years from now mankind is strung out across a region of interstellar space inherited from an ancient civilization discovered on Mars. The colonies are linked together by the occasional sublight colony ship voyages and hyperspatial data-casting. Human consciousness is digitally freighted between the stars and downloaded into bodies as a matter of course.

But some things never change. So when ex-envoy, now-convict Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness and skills downloaded into the body of a…

Book cover of The Caves of Steel

Guy Morpuss Why did I love this book?

I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, and it must be at least forty years since I first read this.

Far in the future, a New York detective is partnered with a robot to investigate the murder of a leading citizen. At the heart of the book is an intriguing murder mystery. However, what makes this a favourite of mine is the growing relationship between the two investigators.

Asimov wrote this to prove that crime and science fiction are not incompatible genres – and succeeded brilliantly, paving the way for those who have followed him.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Isaac Asimov's Robot series - from the iconic collection I, Robot to four classic novels - contains some of the most influential works in the history of science fiction. Establishing and testing the Three Laws of Robotics, they continue to shape the understanding and design of artificial intelligence to this day.

In the vast, domed cities of Earth, artificial intelligence is strictly controlled; in the distant Outer Worlds, colonists and robots live side by side.

A Spacer ambassador is found dead and detective Elijah Baley is assigned to find the killer. But with relations between the two cultures in the…

Book cover of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Guy Morpuss Why did I love this book?

This is a modern take on golden age crime – a murder during a party at a manor house, with a protagonist who wakes up every day in a new body, and must repeat the day which ends with the killing.

He can only escape this cycle if he solves the murder. There is an Agatha Christie style to the book, with clues being dropped in each of the protagonist’s incarnations. I love the concept, and remember thinking when I read it: ‘I wish I’d come up with that!’

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Pop your favorite Agatha Christie whodunnit into a blender with a scoop of Downton Abbey, a dash of Quantum Leap, and a liberal sprinkling of Groundhog Day and you'll get this unique murder mystery." ―Harper's Bazaar

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man's race to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again,…

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The Forest Knights

By J. K. Swift,

Book cover of The Forest Knights

J. K. Swift Author Of Acre

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I love a good fight scene! It doesn’t need to be long and gruesome, but it must be visceral and make me nervous for those involved. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good first-kiss scene but unfortunately, my past has made me more adept at recognizing and writing one over the other. I started training in martial arts at the age of nine and continued for thirty years. I don’t train much these days but I took up bowmaking a few years back and now spend a lot of time carving English longbows and First Nations’ bows. I recently also took up Chinese archery.

J. K.'s book list on with realistic fight scenes

What is my book about?

The greatest underdog story of the medieval age.

A wild land too mountainous to be tamed by plows. A duke of the empire, his cunning overshadowed only by his ambitions. A young priestess of the Old Religion, together with a charismatic outlaw, sparking a rebellion from deep within the forests. And an ex-Hospitaller caught between them all.

The Forest Knights

By J. K. Swift,

What is this book about?

A druid priestess enlists the help of an ex-Hospitaller warrior and a charismatic outlaw to fight Austrian tyranny in medieval Switzerland. A subtle blend of fantasy and history, ALTDORF (Book 1) tells the events leading up to one of the greatest underdog stories of the medieval age, the Battle of MORGARTEN (Book 2).

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