Crime in all shapes and sizes

Working in a library, I see an awful lot of crime fiction. It is very popular in its various guises, from Agatha Christie to the action thriller kind where any investigation is mired in violence, but has never been something I read much of, excepting the odd mystery narrative. However, it doesn’t take much thinking for me to realise I read a lot of books with crime in them, even if they are not specifically crime fiction in some recognisable genre way. I’ve gathered up a few of my favourites for other people who either like stories with high stakes or who read crime and would like some other recommendations of something to read.

  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – This is how to turn a crime story into something else, something bigger. James’ Man Booker Prize winning novel focuses on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s and how the events affect a range of characters mixed up in political conspiracy, rivalry, drugs, and music.
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – Quite famously about crime, but despite its infamy, it is still worth reading as a masterful and terrifying satire of 90s yuppie culture that will change the way you think about Huey Lewis and the News. Plus the way it interlinks with Easton Ellis’ other works (and how they link to Tartt’s The Secret History) is very satisfying as a reader who likes easter egg bonus content.
  • The Alchemist by Ben Jonson – An out-there choice, I know, but Jonson’s play about tricksters conning everyone in ridiculous ways is in some ways a great story of opportunity and comeuppance akin to modern gangster novels.
  • Skagboys by Irvine Welsh – I know it seems ‘edgy’ to pick the prequel to Trainspotting, but I want to emphasise how worth reading Skagboys is, both a dark and funny look at how the characters became the unforgettable personas from Trainspotting and a comment on the AIDS crisis in Scotland in the 80s. All three books about the characters are full of plenty of crime that isn’t just the prolific drug dealing and possession.
  • Loot by Joe Orton – Orton’s black comedy about two thieves trying to hide their loot around the dead body of one of their mothers is a classic example of how crime can be hilarious and also deeply twisted.
  • Caleb Williams by William Godwin – I needed at least one classic novel and Godwin’s story of revelation and persecution fits my criteria nicely, though the likelihood of convincing anyone to read it might be low. Written in the 1790s, it is about a man who finds out his employer’s secret and ends up on the run from the authorities. One to read if you like classic injustice, though the ending may surprise.