5 Top Crime Novels of the 21st Century

We are currently living in a neo-golden age of Crime Fiction. In 2014, 48% of all fiction sales fell under the Mystery, Thriller, and Crime genres. Readers are buying crime fiction like never before; and when we look at the quality out there, it is easy to understand why. Here is a list of the five most intelligent, page-turning, and thought provoking crime novels of the 21st century

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Four Japanese women – Masako, Yayoi, Yoshie and Kuniko – each bound to one another by one gruesome event. After Yayoi murders her abusive husband, the four of their lives are forever changed. A body must be disposed. Lies must be told. Yet with all murders comes an investigation, and with the women under pressure, anything might happen.

Kirino’s feminist masterpiece creates a hero of a murderer. The novel is an uncomfortable mirror that reveals the problems ordinary women face in contemporary society. Read this and you will not forget it.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Leo Demidov, decorated war hero, and now KGB agent, searches for a killer. Yet in Stalin’s Soviet Union, where capitalistic social problems such as murder do not exist, Demidov finds cover ups and betrayal at every turn. His world is shattered when he is denounced, labelled an enemy of the state, and sent to a gulag in the east. His only way to save his life, and the lives of his family, is to unravel a network of lies and find the man behind the murders.

Child 44 is a grisly, thought provoking debut novel from Tom Rob Smith with a plot that unfurls at a breakneck pace. As much a criticism of the flawed utopia of communist dream, this novel exposes the corruption and scandal of post-war Russia, while giving the reader more twists and turns then anyone can expect.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Take one philandering husband. Take one calculating wife. Mix them together. What unfolds is one the most startling crime novels of recent years. When Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, goes missing, all eyes turn to him. As detectives uncover his affair and spiralling debts his fate seems certain. But as the plot unfolds everything is not as it seems. Soon the question asked is: what really happened to Amy?

Gillian Flynn’s third novel Gone Girl has taken the bestsellers list by storm. While the story has the reader flicking through the pages like a demon possessed, it is the issues raised that remains on our minds for weeks to come. Flynn dissects the modern marriage and the quest for perfection, while revealing the pitfall of trials by media. If you’re looking a quick, thought provoking novel, this is the one for you.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Jackson Brodie, a private detective, is investigating three old cases, which soon begin to converge and overlap. Three-year-old Olivia Land disappeared without a trace thirty-five years ago while sleeping outside with one of her sisters, two of whom have hired Jackson to find out what happened. Theo Wyre has hired him to investigate the death of his daughter Laura Wyre, who was killed by a maniac ten years before while working in her father’s office. Shirley Morrison, Jackson’s third client, is trying to locate her sister and her niece. Her sister Michelle, living with her husband and young daughter on an isolated farm, has vanished from Shirley’s life, and after twenty-five years, Shirley wants to find her.

Kate Atkinson’s literary thriller is more than the usual detective novel. The stand out from this novel, is the subtle wit and excellent prose. Atkinson could write about spreading marmalade on toast and still make the reader ask for more.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist finds himself out of work after losing a libel case while trying to expose a financial scandal. He is quickly employed by a retired business man, Henrik Vanger, to find his daughterwho has been missing for forty years. Meanwhile, Lisbeth Sallander, an angry punk hacker with a thirst for revenge, becomes embroiled in Blomkvist’s investigation. When the incongruous two begin to work together, they start to unravel a mystery that none of them expected and as the story develops, their lives and those around them soon become in danger.

Published posthumously, Larsson’s debut novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has become an award winning international best seller. While the plot alone makes for compulsive reading, it is the anti-hero, Lisbeth Sallander – a woman who has suffered her own slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, who throws a few of her own back – who transforms this novel beyond the typical conventions of crime fiction. Here we have a femme fatale who just might be the feminist hero of our time.

Leigh Doughty

Image: Joseff Thomas via Flikr

For more, follow Impact Arts on Facebook and Twitter


Leave a Reply