Ian Rankin: 10 Crime Novels I Love

From the usual suspects such as The Godfather and The Big Sleep, to five gems that you may not have heard of...
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Usual Suspects (Crime Novels Everyone Should Know)

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

The seedy English seaside, a psychopath called Pinkie, lashings of Catholic guilt and one of the most chilling endings you'll ever experience.  Not your average whodunit.  In fact, not a whodunit at all.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 

The opening paragraph is terrific and the rest of the book does not disappoint, as private dick Philip Marlowe encounters low behaviour in high society.  Written with style as well as substance.

Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo 

Witness the birth of Scandic Noir as wife-and-husband team begin their ten-novel sequence exploring the changing face of Swedish society and policing, seen through the eyes of Martin Beck and his lively team of detectives.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Begetter of all those films about 'the family' and crime gangs in general.  Puzo may not be a great prose stylist, but he delivers thrills as well as a few big moral quandaries for the reader to consider.  Its not just the bad guys who are bad in Puzo's world; it's the world itself.

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

The first Kay Scarpetta novel was published in 1990 and introduced many readers to forensic anthropology.  Scarpetta was not quite the traditional police detective, and her icy intelligence, allied to a complex personal life, brought her creator huge and continuing success.


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The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

In this short, trippy, sad and brutal novel a British woman heads for warmer climes with murder in mind.  She knows who the victim is, but who will turn out to be the killer?  And as the chilling game progresses, who exactly will end up in the driver's seat?

I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond

Part of Raymond's 'Factory' series, this follows an unnamed detective as he tracks down a twisted killer-for-hire and brings to light the gruesome practices at a sleazy London club.  Readers will need a strong stomach, but it's an unforgettable ride into the pitiless dark.

Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown

In small-town USA, a jobbing journalist finds himself against the clock as he tries to unravel how Lewis Carroll's poem connects to a murder, a bank robbery, and a haunted house.  Bizarre, haunting, and utterly original, all of Brown's books are worth seeking out.

The Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm

An unnamed private eye is on the trail of a bisexual serial killer, becoming more obsessed with her as the years pass.  And then more years... and then more.  Will their eventual meeting lead to justice, or death, or something altogether more ambiguous?  Filmed several times, but the book is better.

Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway  

This begins as a fairly routine cop novel as the duo of the title head out to investigate a suburban drive-by shooting.  But soon the story unthreads as we follow the loosely connected cast into stranger worlds, and learn that another London altogether lives and breathes beyond the everyday.

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