The best books by the best crime fiction writers in the world

Who am I?

I have some insight into the crime fiction genre that's unique. After graduating from Georgetown University I desperately wanted a job as a writer. Unfortunately, it was in the midst of a deep recession, and being $40,000 in debt with college loans decided to take a job that would help pay bills and give me insight into the criminal mind and the detectives that chase them for my literary endeavors. I became a deputy sheriff in Arlington, VA, transporting federal criminals from Washington, D.C. to sundry institutions. It was then that my writing career began in earnest as I started publishing stories about the crimes, criminals, and detectives I worked with in True Detective magazine.


I wrote...

A Man of Indeterminate Value

By Ron Felber,

Book cover of A Man of Indeterminate Value

What is my book about?

In a world plagued by corrupt corporations, institutions gone haywire, and sinister forces that prowl the global landscape, Jack Madson needs to escape his own demons. Trapped in a hate-filled marriage, a job he despises, and the mountain of debt his wife has racked up, he’s crafted a plan. He’ll fake his own death–simultaneously winning a large insurance payout for his family and paving the way for his getaway to Mexico. There, he’ll create a new life with the proceeds he’s been amassing from illegally selling intellectual property to criminal investors in China. But Madson’s plan goes dangerously wrong. Chock full of action, sex, and the author’s unique perspective on global business, A Man of Indeterminate Value is a tour de force that will grab readers from its first page.

The books I picked & why

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An American Dream

By Norman Mailer,

Book cover of An American Dream

Why this book?

An American Dream beats with the pulse of some huge night carnivore. It’s a wild story set in Manhattan with its protagonist, Stephen Rojack, drunk, dismally in debt, and trapped in a kind of purgatory he calls “marriage”. What I particularly like about this novel is Mailer’s writing style. It is magical in that he somehow combines the gritty talk of a hipster with the edgy rhetoric of psychiatry. What comes out of that confluence is a prose as sharp and effective as a switchblade. This novel, I believe, redefines the American crime novel by presenting the most extreme of our realities–murder, love, and spirit strangulated, the corruption of power and the sacrifice of self to image, all of it mix mastered into murder,  booze, and heat-and-serve sex. A masterpiece that stands the test of time.

An American Dream

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An American Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this wild battering ram of a novel, which was originally published to vast controversy in 1965, Norman Mailer creates a character who might be a fictional precursor of the philosopher-killer he would later profile in The Executioner’s Song. As Stephen Rojack, a decorated war hero and former congressman who murders his wife in a fashionable New York City high-rise, runs amok through the city in which he was once a privileged citizen, Mailer peels away the layers of our social norms to reveal a world of pure appetite and relentless cruelty. One part Nietzsche, one part de Sade, and…


Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Book cover of Crime and Punishment

Why this book?

This book may seem a little off-putting at first glance (a Russian novel, long and tedious!), but don’t be timid about taking this novel in hand and plowing headlong into it with the gusto of a James Cain crime thriller. To be clear, Crime and Punishment is mesmerizing and represents the prototype for nearly every crime novel that followed it. Some of my favorite scenes are the interrogations the chief magistrate conducts with the killer. The reader knows Raskolnikov is guilty but the cat-and-mouse dialogues between them are as fresh and intense as anything you’ll lay your eyes on. The quintessential crime novel and a must for fans of this or any other genre.

Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Crime and Punishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by Washington Post Book World as “the best [translation] currently available" when it was first published, this second edition has been updated in honor of the 200th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth.

With the same suppleness, energy, and range of voices that won their translation of The Brothers Karamazov the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky offer a brilliant translation of Dostoevsky's astounding pyschological thriller, newly revised for his bicentenniel. 

When Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that is…


The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of The Killer Inside Me

Why this book?

As in all the best noir fiction, of which The Killer Inside Me is the very darkest, we know the journey can end in only one way. Before it ends, however, a lot of people besides Lou Ford, the protagonist, are going to die. The most terrible thing about this blood-soaked trip is that Lou takes us with him every step of the way. There’s no distance between the reader and Ford, who describes his violent acts in such intimate detail that we become almost complicit in them. We might begin by thinking that Lou Ford is the “Other”, not part of us, so alien that he could never fit into any group or society. But he does fit in, all too easily, and in some deep, well-hidden part of our reptilian brain we know that we share at least some bit of humanity with him. A chiller, not for the faint of heart reader.

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Killer Inside Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford is a pillar of the community in his small Texas town, patient and thoughtful. Some people think he's a little slow and boring but that's the worst they say about him. But then nobody knows about what Lou calls his 'sickness'. It nearly got him put away when he was younger, but his adopted brother took the rap for that. But now the sickness that has been lying dormant for a while is about to surface again and the consequences are brutal and devastating. Tense and suspenseful, The Killer Inside Me is a brilliantly sustained masterpiece…


No Country for Old Men

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of No Country for Old Men

Why this book?

No Country for Old Men is a hard-boiled, new wave western that takes place on the Texas side of the U.S. border. Imagine a fast, violent story about a stone-cold killer (Chigurh), a small-town sheriff (Bell), and an average Joe who stumbles across a leather case filled with $2 million in hot drug money (Moss). Of course, the cartels want their money back and so the hunter and the hunted are catapulted into a nightmarish world of drugs, money, and death. McCarthy turns the elaborate cat-and-mouse game played by Moss, Chigurh, and Bell into a harrowing, non-stop drama, cutting from one violent set piece to another with economy and precision. This is a perfectly orchestrated novel written by one of America’s finest authors at the height of his powers. I loved it!

No Country for Old Men

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked No Country for Old Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, instead finds men shot dead, a load of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash. Packing the money out, he knows, will change everything. But only after two more men are murdered does a victim's burning car lead Sheriff Bell to the carnage out in the desert, and he soon realizes that Moss and his young wife are in desperate need of protection. One party in the failed transaction hires an ex-Special Forces officer to defend his interests against a mesmerizing freelancer, while on either side are men accustomed to spectacular…


Strangers on a Train

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of Strangers on a Train

Why this book?

I love a story that’s based on happenstance. That is: I know somebody that you know who is the brother of your sister’s fiance who turns out to be a maniacal killer in search of his latest prey who happens to be me! Well, that’s a lot like Patricia Highsmith’s stunner of a novel Strangers on a Train. Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train who strike up a conversation that will drive both men to the brink: one a pathological killer with an Oedipus complex on steroids, the other, a mild-mannered architect embroiled in a nasty divorce spurred on by his girl-next-door lover.

The aspect of this novel that’s particularly well-played is the psychological depth Highsmith brings to each of her characters and the feeling that we’ve all felt to some degree in our own lives: I’m trapped and need a way out, any way out! Therein lies the problem as Bruno’s “foolproof” plan becomes more like quicksand than liberation as, along with Guy Haines, we sink deeper and deeper into the depths.

Strangers on a Train

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Strangers on a Train as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic thriller behind the Hitchcock film, and Highsmith's first novel - soon to be remade by David Fincher, director of Gone Girl, with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn.

By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley and Carol

The psychologists would call it folie a deux . . .

'Bruno slammed his palms together. "Hey! Cheeses, what an idea! I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?'''

From this moment, almost against his conscious will, Guy Haines is trapped in a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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