Novels About Crime or Murder | Literary Crime

A murder or other crime plays an important part in the plots of these novels.

See also Literary Mystery

Snow Falling on Cedars | David Guterson

When the body of a fisherman is found, Kabuo, a Japanese man, is charged with the murder. It is 1954 in Puget Sound, Washington, and there is still suspicion of Japanese people from World War II. Witnesses are called to testify, and we are given insight into their lives. The trial is covered by a reporter, Ishmael, who loved a Japanese girl long ago, now the wife of the accused.

The Brothers Karamazov | Fedor Doestoevsky

The Karamazov brothers have no mother and an uninterested father. Dimitri is a sensualist, Ivan is a thinker, and Alyosha is spiritual. When their father, Fyodor, is murdered, Dimitri becomes the main suspect.

Read “The Brothers Karamazov”

A Gathering of Old Men | Ernest J. Gaines

Beau, a white man, is shot and his body is in the yard of Mathu, a black man. Eighteen old men gather at his home, each of them claiming to be the killer. They await the arrival of Mapes, the white sheriff, a bully who doesn’t respect black people.

The Godfather | Mario Puzo

Vito Corleone is the head of America’s most powerful crime family. After he refuses to get involved with drugs, an assassination attempt is made on him. This prompts his youngest son, Michael, who has heretofore stayed out of the family business, to seek revenge.

The Big Sleep | Raymond Chandler

Private Investigator Phillip Marlowe visits General Sternwood’s mansion. The General is being blackmailed by Arthur Geiger. Marlowe goes to his antique bookshop, and follows a suspicious customer, leading to the first break in the case.

Read “The Big Sleep”

The Maltese Falcon | Dashiell Hammett

A beautiful woman, Miss Wonderly, goes to the Spade & Archer Detective Agency and asks Miles Archer to follow a man named Floyd Thursby. His partner, Sam Spade, is informed that night that Archer has been shot. The police question him. He goes looking for Miss Wonderly. Shortly after, Joel Cairo come to see Spade and offers him five thousand dollars to find a bird statue.

Read “The Maltese Falcon”

The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde

Basil Hallward, an artist, has painted a portrait of a handsome young man, Dorian Gray. While putting on the finishing touches, a visitor, Lord Henry, speaks of his philosophy for living – to indulge one’s desires and impulses. Dorian is affected by his words; when he sees how beautiful he is in the portrait, he says he would give his soul to stay young.

Read “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The Fixer | Bernard Malamud

Yakov Bok goes to Kiev looking for a better life. He hides his Jewish identity so he can get work. The quality of his work impresses his employer, Lebedev, and he convinces Yakov to take a supervisory position at a brick factory. The workers are upset by this, and Yakov’s secret endangers his employment. When a young boy is found murdered, Yakov is arrested due to rampant anti-Jewish feelings.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow | Peter Hoeg

A funeral is being held for Isaiah, an Inuit boy. Smilla remembers the scene of his death, and believes it wasn’t an accident. She starts an investigation into Isaiah’s death, using her keen mind and training as a glaciologist, an expert reader of ice and snow.

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians) | Agatha Christie

Ten people receive invitations to an isolated island. When they arrive the butler informs them that the owner has been delayed, but they will be well cared for in his absence. After a nice dinner, a voice announces to the group that each of them has been responsible for a death. They proclaim their innocence and become concerned about their host’s intentions.

Read “And Then There Were None”

Crime and Punishment | Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Raskolnikov, a young man, sickly and poor, is contemplating a crime. He goes to a pawnbroker’s to get a little money and scout the place. Raskolnikov feels his passivity is a burden on his family. He hears about the pawnbroker’s routine, and comes up with a plan.

“When reason fails, the devil helps!”

Read “Crime and Punishment”

Monster | Walter Dean Myers

Steve Harmon is in jail and on trial for a robbery and murder. He records the events of the crime and the trial thru journal entries and a screenplay he has written.

The Great Train Robbery | Michael Crichton

Edward Pierce is planning a large scale criminal operation – robbing a moving train of its stock of gold. The gold is secured in a safe that requires four keys to open it. Pierce begins investigating how he can either make copies of or steal the keys.

Bel Canto | Ann Patchett

In a poor Latin American country, a party is being held for Katsumi Hosokawa, chairman at a technology company. The government wants him to open a factory in their country. He attends mainly to hear Roxane Coss, his favorite opera singer. The lights go out at the end of her performance, and armed men surround the guests. They have come for the president, Masuda, but he isn’t there. They wanted to be in and out quickly, but looking for Masuda delayed them. The authorities surround the building – it’s now a hostage situation.

Intruder in the Dust | William Faulkner

Lucas Beauchamp, a black man in Yoknapatawpha County, is accused of murdering a white man, Vinson Gowrie. Beauchamp was found near the corpse with a gun. He speaks to a lawyer, Gavin Stevens, who agrees to help save his life with a legal maneuver, but isn’t interested in proving Beauchamp’s innocence. Gavin’s nephew, Chick, speaks to Beauchamp and agrees to carry out a task for him.

Read “Intruder in the Dust”

Graceland | Chris Abani

In 1980s Nigeria, sixteen-year-old Elvis Oke has to return home after failing to make a living as an Elvis Presley impersonator. He gets a job but loses it quickly. He starts working for his friend Redemption, who has many contacts and no ethical standards. In another narrative we see significant events from Elvis’s childhood. His father is cold and abusive, and his uncle is violent and abusive.

Murder on the Orient Express | Agatha Christie

When Hercule Poirot arrives in Istanbul for a vacation, he gets recalled to London for a case. He takes the Orient Express, which is full up with people from various backgrounds and classes. An American passenger, Ratchett, tries to hire Poirot as a bodyguard, claiming his life is at risk. Poirot refuses the job. The next morning Ratchett is found dead in his compartment, stabbed several times.

Read “Murder on the Orient Express”

The A.B.C. Murders | Agatha Christie

It is 1935 in London when Inspector Hercule Poirot receives an anonymous letter saying something bad will happen on the twenty-first, and challenging him to stop it. On the twenty-first, Mrs. Ascher is murdered. At the scene of the crime is the A.B.C. railway guide. While investigating, he gets another letter saying the murderer has scored a point and the next murder will occur on the twenty-fifth.

Jazz | Toni Morrison

In 1926 New York, Joe Trace, married to Violet, shoots his girlfriend, Dorcas. Violet looks into the woman’s background. The narrative goes back to tell us how Joe and Violet met, and some of their life together. We hear about Joe’s early life and how he met Dorcas.


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