Deception … corruption … self-destructive anti-heroes: noir is the dark-minded cousin of the hard-boiled detective novel. Many of the sub-genre's greatest tales focus on the criminals instead of the detectives—and when a detective is present, he's often as morally questionable as the villain he pursues.
From James Ellroy to James M. Cain, these crime noir novels will transport you into the black hearts of men and women on either side of the law. Care to take a ride?
Blood on the Moon
Master of the LA noir novel, the first book in James Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins trilogy follows the titular character as he tracks down a demented killer. Hopkins had always dreamed of protecting the city of Los Angeles as a cop, but when he was called into patrol the streets during the Watts riots, he learned that often meant shedding blood. Seventeen years later, he’s a plainclothes family man … but when 20 women are murdered, he’ll have to think like a killer before another victim is claimed.
A Swollen Red Sun
McBride’s novel puts you on both sides of a crime, giving you the perspective of Jerry Dean—who hides $52,000 that he owes to his partners and crooked cops in a trailer he uses for cooking meth—and that of Deputy Sheriff Dale Banks, who finds the cash and takes it. Taking place in Gasconade, Missouri—once referred to as the meth capital of the world—these two soon learn that everything has its consequences.
One for Our Baby
Mixing together history and mystery, One for Our Baby tells the story of Joe Buonomo—a World War II pilot whose relationship with his fiancé Helen crumbled after his past intervened. Years later, he’s hired by Frank Sinatra to give his latest girl, who turns out to be Helen, a ride to Los Angeles for an audition. Feelings flood back as Joe and Helen realize they still love each other, but the next day Helen vanishes … and Joe will have to go up against those harboring dark secrets to find her.
Take a Murder, Darling
One of many Shell Scott novels, Takes a Murder, Darling, follows the dashing ex-Marine-turned-private-investigator as he once again puts his life on the line for beautiful women. In this witty, yet mysterious, novel, Shell works to uncover the secrets behind the murder of Zoe Avilla … but the body count just keeps rising.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
This novel, the first from Cain—one of the creators of roman noir—follows the story of Frank and Cora, two people who fall in love and begin having an affair, despite the fact that Cora is married to a much older man. They scheme to kill Cora’s husband, Nick, in this shocking thriller with a mix of sexuality and violence that caused it to be banned in Boston after its publication in 1934.
Farewell, My Lovely
A hard-boiled master, Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely follows private detective and classic anti-hero Philip Marlowe as he investigates the murder of a man who originally hired the P.I. to find a stolen necklace. In this follow-up to The Big Sleep, Marlowe becomes entangled in blackmail, corrupt cops, and more plot twists.
Jim Thompson’s 1963 novel tells the story of Roy Dillon a young con artist living in Los Angeles. When he’s seriously injured in a con-gone-wrong, his mother Lilly comes back into his life. But as the story progresses, the dark side of being involved in organized crime begins to show—putting everyone from Lilly to Roy’s girlfriend Moira at risk.
The first book in Richard Stark’s Parker Novels introduces us to the titular Parker—the best thief in the business. Parker specializes in armed robbery, but when he joins a crew he’s betrayed by one of the members … and his wife. Escaping prison, Parker is out for revenge.
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