#1 Edited by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

Like the title says, I'd like recommendations for crime/mystery novels. I'd prefer something modern and there's one other big catch - I'd like something that's not part of a series. I've been trolling around Amazon for a couple days now and I just can't seem to sort through the crap I'm not interested in.

For point of reference I like Dennis Lehane's stories and would prefer that blend of interpersonal stuff to stories that are simple whodunits.

Maybe not the best place to ask, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

#2 Posted by VierasTalo (1155 posts) -

You should probably read In Cold Blood if you haven't already.

#3 Edited by BabaORiely (110 posts) -

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem.

It's a hardboiled detective novel set in near-future Oakland, where there are animals that are hyper-evolved and can talk, the police enforce karma, and it's rude to ask questions. There's a 1984 distopia feel to it.

I can't sing it's praises enough. It's my favorite book, I read it once a year.

#4 Edited by crusader8463 (14755 posts) -

The Truth Machine by James L. Halperin. I can't say much without giving away the plot twists, but it involves covering up crime in a world that has a 100% positive lie detector. I read it in High School and it's one of my favourite books ever. It's set in modern/near future, and was actually written in 1996. So there's a few things that actually came to be that makes the book kind of funny to read given that it's supposed to have a sci-fi twist. It's not a mystery novel though. More being told from the side of the criminal in this world.

#5 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1928 posts) -

Just read any book about Wall Street.


#6 Posted by Rorie (3498 posts) -

They're not modern, but if you haven't read the Raymond Chandler Marlowe books, those are kind of required. I hate to use phrases like "transcends the genre," but I'd put The Long Goodbye way up there in my top ten novels of the 20th century, regardless of genre.

#7 Edited by Yesiamaduck (1532 posts) -

@rorie: I came here to recommend these... get Big Sleep (it's his first novel) its only 280 odd pages and it's brilliant. If you like it then move onto the others, these books have literally influenced every detective novel of all time since their release. They're funny, well written and have a great cast of characters.

But yeah these are old books so not modern by any stretch but they're so cheap and short it's hard not to recommend them.

#8 Edited by leebmx (2342 posts) -


The best crime writers in my opinion are:

Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes....nuff said.

James Ellroy: I have read everything he has done and I pretty much love it all. I expect you know LA Confidential as a film if you haven't read any of this books. He has an extremely tough, macho style filled with the slang of the time, prose that punches you in the face! His books are mainly set around the underworld of L.A. between WWII and the 70's.Great twisty plots, morally gray characters and amazing style. If you ever played LA Noire you will realise how much they ripped him off (payed homage) after reading a book or two. I would recommend LA Confidential, White Jazz, or the Underworld Trilogy which is his masterpiece imo. He does have a lot of reoccuring characters and you could read his books in order, but I didn't and it didn't hamper my enjoyment.

Elmore Lenoard: Tons of his books have been made into films and he writes great characters (especially women) and wonderful dialogue. He really gets you inside his characters and makes you understand how they see their worlds. He can also be very funny. Get Shorty, Gold Coast, Rum Punch...

Jim Thompson: I have only read one of his books, very recently, called The Killer Inside Me, but I was absolutely blown away. It is told from the point of view of a very, very corrupt Deputy in a southern town and is as brutal as it is beautifully written. It was written in 1952 yet I was utterly shocked by the violence, more than I have been in any other book - not so much by the gory description but because of coldness of the protagonist - This one of the best books I have every read, let alone crime novel and you HAVE to read it. You will devour it in a day.

In Cold Blood is a good shout also great is The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer. Its very long but really gets you into the heart and soul of a real life murderer - a stunning read and a true story.

If you read one of these, get back to me I'd love to know what you think.

#9 Edited by Mechanical_Ape (272 posts) -

While they aren't modern, I can't recommend Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett enough. They are two of the best mystery writers of all time. Like Rorie said, The Long Goodbye is really great. The Marlowe books are part of a series, but they don't have to be read in order. As for Hammett, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest are both excellent. The Daine Curse is also good, but it gets kind of weird in parts.

If you're interested in more modern authors, you might want to check out Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy. Ellroy does do a lot of period pieces such as LA Confidential, but they are pretty good. If you're looking for something a little more action oriented, Stephen J Cannell can be good too. There's not as much depth in his stories as in the others, but they are still enjoyable.

#10 Posted by dudeglove (10137 posts) -

Raymond Chandler is the pulp go-to.

#11 Posted by Immortal_Guy (165 posts) -

Don't forget Dasheill Hammett! I think I probably prefer his Continental Op to Chandler's Marlowe when it comes to "classic" noir. I'm not so well-versed in modern crime novels, though - I thought "The Fear Index" by Robert Harris was pretty good, though that might be more of a page-turney thriller than a serious crime story.

#12 Posted by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

Some good stuff here, better than I expected to get. Thanks and don't be afraid to keep em coming!

#13 Posted by Christoffer (2142 posts) -

Wish I could help you. But I live in Sweden, 95% of books released here are crime mysteries, and I fucking hate it and I stay away from it. My loss

#14 Posted by Sweep (9834 posts) -

I'd say grab one of the Terry Pratchett books, specifically one of the ones focussing on the Ankh Morpork city watch. Jingo, Feet Of Clay, Guards Guards (best to start with that one if you're new to the books) Men At Arms... there's an order to them. Worth looking into. Very funny as well.

#15 Posted by kcin (350 posts) -

Raymond Chandler, as @rorie mentioned, is one of the authors who is ultimately responsible for creating the type of novel you're looking for. His books and prose define how we think about noir, which although his novels are not (given that it's a cinema style), many of the films based on them are. Absolutely read his books, and as mentioned, they aren't especially long so you can burn through one over a rainy weekend.

Another author who also helped popularize hard-boiled crime is Dashiel Hammett. You'll recognize his novels, The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon, as being genre classics in cinema, and while The Maltese Falcon is exceptionally faithful to the original, The Thin Man's cinema adaptation is lacking nearly all of the nihilism found in the story and in the main characters, Nick & Nora.

The last great author I know enough about to put in the same group as Hammett and Chandler is John M. Cain, who wrote classics like Double Indemnity (another genre-defining noir film adaptation), Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice (featuring a fantastic 1960's or 70's adaptation starring Jack Nicholson), which was the basis for Camus' literature classic, The Stranger. His prose is incredible, capturing grit and disdain as spoken by the filthy characters they star, usually who are recounting it to you directly, with stunning moments of utter poetry.

A shared element among Chandler's, Hammett's, and Cain's work is there are generally no clear resolutions to the stories, and the main characters are so calloused by their work that they not only don't care, but even expected this. Great reads.

Two major authors follow in their footsteps, one of whom remains faithful to the original style and time period, and the other who advanced the genre considerably: Walter Mosley, and James Ellroy, respectively. Walter Mosley's novels, like many or all of Chandler's novels, star a single detective, Easy Rawlins, a black detective in 1940's Los Angeles. The mystery in his first novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, is of the caliber of LA Confidential, and is utterly engrossing. The characters are incredibly well written, the prose is beautiful and fun, and the racial politics are handled absolutely deftly. Most notably, Easy is a well-spoken character, but his speech pattern will notably shift when he is speaking to certain characters, as he knows they expect certain things of him as a fellow African American, and he will sometimes comment on this expectation. Really fantastic reads, and like Chandler, they are also digestible lengths.

Ellroy took the style of his predecessors, combined it with the staccato rhythm that modern writing allows (not unlike Palahniuk in some ways, minus the sass), and delivers with skill that only a master is capable of. The opening to my least favorite work of his, Killer on the Road, is one of the most captivating series of sentences I've found in a crime novel, and will always stick with me. Clandestine is a fantastic early novel that I couldn't put down about an officer in the moral grey as he comes to terms with the gravity of a case he's working on, but his later novels are the classics oft-cited. I am reading them in order of publication, personally, so I haven't reached LA Confidential (one of my top-three movies of ALL-TIME if you haven't seen it), The Black Dahlia, and so on, but I recommend him regardless considering the strength of those I have.

Lastly, Patricia Highsmith's Ripley series are fantastic, and darkly twisted. These are written from the perspective of the criminal, so the mystery is no mystery at all, and thus they rely on the strength of the characterizations. Considering Ripley is a literary character still debated to this day, I would say she succeeded. Is he amoral? Is he homosexual? Is he psychotic? While you say you don't want series, the original, The Talented Mr. Ripley, is at the very least worth exploring.

The characterizations in the books by the authors above are their strongest suits in most cases, and while the mystery elements can come to the foreground, I enjoyed them all for their writing most of all. These aren't the Dan Browns of the mystery genre, these authors are masters, so definitely check them out.

#16 Posted by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

I've read my share of Doyle and enjoyed it; mostly a long time ago. I'm also pretty familiar with Ellroy. I really liked the Black Dahlia and I read a couple others - I've found each story a little harder to bear than the last because the amount of sexual deviance and drugs and other assorted sleaze is so amped up that I kind of get inured to it. The last thing I read by him was American Tabloid

@christoffer: I haven't really gone back to the well on Swedish mysteries since reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and thinking it was a bunch of nonsense. So you at least have my support on that.

#17 Posted by slyspider (1581 posts) -

I know its not modern but Edgar Allen Poe's detective work set up that genera and I recommend some of his short stories

#18 Posted by HerbieBug (4228 posts) -

One thing you may want to consider about crime fiction genre is that a very common practice amongst its authors is to develop a character over a lengthy series of novels that are not, in other ways, specifically narratively connected. Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels can be read pretty much in any order without losing anything besides a bit of character history, for example. So, look closely at books that may outwardly appear to be described as part of a series. They aren't usually connected in the way that a sweeping epic space opera or fantasy would be.

Anyway, here's a few I really enjoyed:

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (50's court case from the lawyer's perspective)

The Hunter by Richard Stark. This is more noir than mystery. "Crime novel" is a fitting description though.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow. It's best if you haven't already seen the movie, but still a fantastic novel even if you know the outcome.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Really fun historical mystery. It ventures into the dumb on occasion, though, so, you know, don't expect a lot of plausibility here. It's Fun.

The Motive by John Lescroart. Lawyer's perspective novel. Solid and entertaining but not blow you away fantastic in any respect.

Of course the all time classic: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

#19 Posted by leebmx (2342 posts) -

@veektarius: Yeah Ellroy can be a bit much sometimes, I just love his milieu, there is something deeply compelling for me in the seamy underside of Golden Era Hollywood and the way he describes all the filth lies under that supposedly wholesome surface.

Micheal Connelly is not bad if you want straight forward modern-day police procedural. The main character of the rebellious cop who doesn't take orders and stands up to the establishment is a touch cliche, but so is a lot of crime fiction and Connelly tells a satisfying tale.

One more to check out might be Benjamin Black. He is the pen name of John Banville who is a serious literary author (wrote The Sea and The Untouchable - a fantastic book based on Anthony Blunt) He writes crime fiction under this name about a pathologist in 50's Ireland. I have just picked up the newest book, The Black Eyed Blonde, because it sounded really interesting. It is a new Philip Marlowe (the Raymond Chandler character, famously portrayed by Bogie) and is supposed to be very good indeed. Might be one to look out for.

#20 Edited by leebmx (2342 posts) -

@kcin: If you are reading Ellroy in series and have only got up to LA Confidential then I envy you so much. I would love to have the experience of reading White Jazz and the Underworld trilogy again. You have some treats in front of you.

#21 Posted by Filter5X (5 posts) -

If you can look past some of the dated vernacular, Web of the City by Harlan Ellison is a pretty good read for a more pulpy crime novel.

#22 Posted by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

@herbiebug: I have read (and watched) Gorky Park and liked it both times. Something about crime stuff set in the Soviet Union is always entertaining for me.

#23 Edited by MonetaryDread (2446 posts) -

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss

It is a character study that intertwines the stories of creatures who live on the dangerous side of life. Like story of two troubled youth that like to repeatedly jump on their father, or the children who beat each other up with tennis rackets.

#24 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (4126 posts) -

You question is hard for me, because many mystery writers I like do write series, yet you don't want a series. And, you want something as good as Dennis Lehane. That's a tall order, but I think I have the solution. Dennis Lehane found prominence because he won a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) for the best new author in detective fiction.

So, your solution is to look at the other 'Shamus' winners. While I would not normally recommend it this way your best bet is to go to Wikipedia for The Shamus Award. They lay out all the winners in different categories and you will see some titles you might not have considered, yet but they are all award winners of good quality.

#25 Edited by MarkWahlberg (4714 posts) -

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowahl and Per Wahloo (i think that's how its spelled?).

It's not 'modern', since it's from the 70's, I think, but since it's about a mass shooting it actually still feels recent (and that also gives it the bonus of not being part of the recent glut of Scandinavian grimdark mysteries); and I think it is technically part of a series, but it's the only book by them that I've read and you're totally fine just jumping in. It's very good, has kind of a The Wire vibe with the police office stuff.

#26 Edited by PulledaBrad (631 posts) -

Im gonna break all of your requirements, but look into Max Allen Collins. He does some fantastic harboiled work. From his historical Nathan Heller novels and more modern Quarry series, nearly every thing he does is a blast.

Also look into Mickey Spillane the grandfather of the sock-em-in-the-jaw with a belt of whiskey PI books.

#27 Edited by stryker1121 (1865 posts) -

George Pelecanos, former writer for The Wire, has loads of quick-read crime novels. I'm not terribly familiar with his work, but I've read a couple of his books and they are pretty good - very spare cop/crime stories with similar themes to the HBO show. I'd also give another vote to Gorky Park, and Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. Long, dense crime novel that takes place in India. Never finished it tbh but one day I will, by God.

Too bad you're not into series, though, cuz I'd give top recommendations to James Ellroy's Underground USA trilogy.

#28 Posted by HerbieBug (4228 posts) -

I really need to read more of James Ellroy. I have only read the Black Dahlia and quite enjoyed that one (have not seen movie). Super grim and depressing; my kinda crime fiction. :D

I will most definitely check out the Underground USA trilogy as well as The Big Nowhere. There is LA Confidential but I have seen that movie many times and knowing the outcome beforehand really sours my enjoyment in this genre specifically.

#29 Posted by Sinusoidal (2541 posts) -

Asimov's Robot novels: "The Caves of Steel", "The Naked Sun" and "The Robots of Dawn" are all basically mystery books wrapped in sci-fi packing. Great reads one and all.

The Dresden Files are also a great bunch of mystery books. Definitely worth a read if you don't mind urban fantasy.

#30 Posted by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem.

It's a hardboiled detective novel set in near-future Oakland, where there are animals that are hyper-evolved and can talk, the police enforce karma, and it's rude to ask questions. There's a 1984 distopia feel to it.

I can't sing it's praises enough. It's my favorite book, I read it once a year.

Hey, I read this book. It was definitely interesting - had some great moments and a great Chandler feel. I can't say I liked how it ended, but nihilism is why it's called noir eh? Though I did feel like the delivery of the solution to the case was a little ham-handed, like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. Thank you for the recommendation.

#31 Posted by EthanielRain (1001 posts) -

Jack Reacher audiobooks are fantastic, Dick Hill nails it. They all follow the same character, but you don't necessarily have to read (listen to) them in any specific order.

#32 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (7207 posts) -

Haven't seen anyone recommend Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm also hugely fond of John Sandford and Lee Child, which I know are kind of cotton candy for the mind, but whatever - they're pretty awesome.

#33 Posted by gaminghooligan (1755 posts) -

If you haven't read them and like a little bit of sci-fi Daemon and Freedom by Daniel Saurez

#34 Edited by Jeust (11679 posts) -

Have you read Castle? ahah

#35 Edited by Veektarius (5522 posts) -

@sparky_buzzsaw: Well, I specifically requested modern, non-series novels. Conan Doyle is neither and Christie isn't the latter. My reason for wanting non-series is that I like the uncertainty it gives me about the fate of the main character. He could die, end up in prison, his life could be ruined, he could give up detective work when it makes him sick. He could be shaken by the case itself, so much worse than anything else he's done (hardly an option when every novel is another huge case). I know some series-writers aren't afraid to mix things up, but ultimately at the end of things, there has to be a certain resolution that sustains the character and their position as an ace detective, and that's not what I'm looking for.

#36 Posted by NYPressPass (3 posts) -

Lush Life by Richard Price is great. If you enjoyed The Wire, you'll absolutely enjoy that book.