9 Best Crime Books Update 05/2022

Best Crime Books

The year 2019 is coming to an end, and it’s time to look back on the decade that was in crime fiction and mystery books. Why? Because we are able. As a result, the books are there to be read and re-read, talked about, and re-thought about. If you look back on the history of crime fiction now, you’ll see that this was a very important decade. This is more than just a list-making and taste-advocating game. It’s also important to keep track of what happened in the past and figure out what will happen in the future of the genre, so we can figure out what has been important to us and our favorite genre.

There were some trends that came up as we made our decisions, and they’re worth paying attention to, too. A lot of people are surprised by the rise of psychological thrillers. This is a change from “stranger danger” thrillers to acknowledging that harm can be found at home as well (or at work). Two, there are fewer cops and professionals solving crimes, and more amateurs and Hitchcock-style “everyday people” who are forced into investigations of everyday mysteries by the police and other professionals. Three, traditional mysteries are making a comeback, and they’re being read by people who are younger than 30. Four, crime and mystery books are becoming more global, activist, female, diverse, and hard to fit into a single subgenre.

Before you start picking out books, here are a few things to know about the process. At first, the task we set for ourselves seemed impossible. Ranking books is, by nature, very subjective. But we asked our editors to talk to as many outside readers as possible, including the most passionate readers in our crime fiction community, known as the CrimeReads core audience. We also asked them to take into account books that had a long-lasting, formative impact on the genre and its authors. We also looked for crime and mystery books that seemed to follow the basic structure of the genre and keep its traditions alive, rather than novels that tried to be noirs. It was also a way for us to avoid having a “recency bias,” and because we have a lot of “best of 2019” content coming up soon, we mostly ruled out books that came out in the last calendar year.

Many good books were left out of this list. Some of them are in our “Notables” section, while others will have to wait until another time. People are always finding new things to read and new authors to like in crime fiction. It’s always changing. During the next few days, we’ll also be taking a look at the best crime fiction series of this decade and the new faces in crime writing. More is on the way. For now, here are our picks for the best crime novels of the last decade:

The Best Crime Novels of the Last Decade

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran (2011)

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran (2011)

Claire DeWitt, Gran’s first Claire DeWitt book, was like a shot of adrenaline in the arm of private eye fiction. It was a new twist on a beloved genre that was both strange and familiar at the same time. DeWitt claims to be the best detective in the world because she has studied the techniques of Jacques Silette, a great master whose theories and works she reads about all the time. On the streets of New Orleans, she learned how to be a detective. After Hurricane Katrina, a murder investigation brings her back to that city, where she first learned how to be a detective. When it comes to writing crime fiction today, Gran is one of the best stylists. The DeWitt series gives her the space she needs to make all the strange, brooding atmospheres that readers can handle. This book has a really interesting mystery inside of it, but it’s the strong, engaging voice that will really draw people into the dark, enchanting world of DeWitt.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (2012)

For a book to capture the essence of female anger more than any other in the last decade, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn had to be one of the best. Millions of well-dressed, seemingly happy women used Flynn’s fearsome takedown of the patriarchy to unleash their inner discontent. Many people love this book, but to focus on the book’s impact alone, Gone Girl ushered in a decade of female-authored and feminist-driven thrillers and helped bring back the psychological thriller. It also gave us one of the best crime speeches ever. David Fincher’s adaptation of the book has also helped to keep Gone Girl’s rich, complicated history alive.

The Thief, by Fuminori Nakamura (2012)

An unfriendly and cold city is the setting for this moody noir. A petty thief makes the mistake of opening up to a young woman and her son. He is then reminded that human connections are near-impossible to keep in his line of work. When you read this book, you can see Nakamura’s eerie atmosphere and simple writing in full. It makes sense that this book would also help to establish his writing in the United States. Another thing that makes The Thief a great example of the revival of midcentury minimalist style in this decade is that it has a lot of simple, clean lines.

Night Prayers, by Santiago Gamboa (2012)

Night Prayers, by Santiago Gamboa (2012)

Santiago Gamboa’s reputation has been growing around the world in recent years, but in the United States, he’s still not very well known except for people who know a lot about contemporary Latin American noir and the most recent changes to la novela negra. In Night Prayers, Santiago Gamboa, Gamboa’s narrator-proxy, tells the story through him. A police officer stationed in New Delhi is working on a drug trafficking case in Bangkok. He then investigates the disappearance of his sister, who went missing under mysterious or sinister circumstances, but he doesn’t know where she is or why she’s gone. Gamboa is a good successor to Roberto Bolao, and his version of this mystery is infinitely, artfully complicated. It combines a bumbling investigation, a family’s personal tragedies, and the story of the Colombian world diaspora in recent years in a way that makes it hard to put down. A noir like Night Prayers is everything that a good one should be.

And When She Was Good, by Laura Lippman (2012)

Lippman is known as one of the best crime writers in the world because of her long-running, daring private eye series about Tess Monaghan. But her standalone novels are also great, and none is more powerful than her 2012 thriller, And When She Was Good. In this story, we see how a suburban mother with a job as a lobbyist lives in two different worlds. She also runs an upscale paid escort service. The death of a woman in a similar situation throws her life into chaos and starts a story that is always interesting. It includes ex-convicts, shady businessmen, murders, and corrupt people from all walks of life. Underneath that compulsion-driven storyline is another one that has a lot to say about aging, trauma, sex, identity, and how to deal with past and presentsins.

Dare Me, by Megan Abbott (2013) 

Megan Abbott’s book-of-the-decade is like trying to figure out the best crime books of the decade. Dare Me, Abbott’s soon-to-be-on-TV noir ode to the dangerous world of cheerleading, feels like the most iconic. Abbott learned about crime through her well-written historical noirs. Dare Me is the book that showed that Abbott could be just as good at writing about modern teenagers. Abbott took a lot of inspiration from Full Metal Jacket when he wrote the book, which also means this is the hardest book about cheerleaders out there.

The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Leonardo Padura (2014)

The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Leonardo Padura (2014)

It’s weird how Trostky feels about detective stories. Trotsky’s death is both an epic tragedy and a gripping crime story. He was pursued by Stalin’s thugs no matter where his exile took him, and he watched as his family moved away from him until he, too, was killed by Stalin. It’s not the first crime book to feature Trotsky, but Leonardo Padura’s The Man Who Loved Dogs is the most epic. It takes us on a 600-page doom-laden journey through the worst moments of the 20th century, waiting for the inevitable confrontation between Trotsky and his assassin, both men who love dogs.

Every Man a Menace, by Patrick Hoffman (2016)

When Hoffman’s second book came out in 2016, a lot of attention was paid to the fact that the author was still working as a private investigator. But if you came to his work expecting a typical detective story, you’d be very wrong. In Every Man a Menace, a sprawling, kaleidoscopic crime novel, the perspectives and fortunes of the people who live and work in the world’s biggest ecstasy ring change. Hoffman’s story moves from San Francisco’s Mission District to Miami to northern California jails to Southeast Asia, and as the story moves, it gets more and more interesting and complex. Lives and fates get mixed up, and the book more than lives up to its title. This is crime fiction that knows how to write about both the small details and the global scope.

The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (2017)

If I had to pick one book from this decade that I loved the most, The Long Drop by Denise Mina would be it. Not only does Mina’s book have one of the most mature views of violence I’ve ever read, but it’s also written in a way that brings the reader to a mid-century Scotland that is both weighed down by history and trying to change itself. It is based on the real-life crimes of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who may have paid Manuel to get rid of the earthly burden of his victims. For the most part, The Long Drop takes place on one long night when Manuel went out to drink with the husband and father of two of his victims (and who never faced punishment or condemnation for that heinous crime). Also, there’s a scene near the end that reminds me of Peter Lorre’s speech during the trial in M that I think is very well done.

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