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12 Crime Noir Books That Will Have You Reaching for Your Trench Coat

Take a ride to the dark side.

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?

Buy A Gun for Sale at Amazon

A Gun for Sale

By Graham Greene

Considered a pioneer of the classic noir genre, Graham Greene introduces us to a world of betrayal, double-crossing, and deception in A Gun for Sale. A hired killer, Raven, finds himself in deep water when his plan to assassinate a European Minister of War goes haywire. Not only is the possibility of war on the horizon, but Raven has also become the most wanted man in England, being tracked down with the marked bills he was paid with. As he flees detection, Raven meets the lovely dancer, Anne Crowder, who may be willing to help him...but is also the fiancée of the police detective hunting him down.

A Gun for Sale

By Graham Greene

Buy A Long Time Dead at Amazon

A Long Time Dead

By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

A collection of eight short stories featuring the legendary detective Mike Hammer, this book will grab your attention from the start. Prepare to be transported into Mike Hammer's fast-paced world, where he enlists the help of his beautiful secretary and partner, Velda, to get to the bottom of seemingly random near-accidents and criminal enterprises. From junkies on death row to disabled veterans, Mike and Velda ensure that justice is served swiftly with a side of thrilling suspense. After the death of Mickey Spillane, author Max Allan Collins took over the unfinished stories without missing a beat.

A Long Time Dead

By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Buy Bedelia at Amazon

Bedelia

By Vera Caspary

It wouldn't be noir without a femme fatale, and in Bedelia that is exactly what author Vera Caspary offers. Considered a mixture of Desperate Housewives and Double Indemnity, the novel centers on newlyweds Charlie and Bedelia Horst. After moving to their quaint house in Connecticut, Bedelia perfectly assumes her role as housekeeper and lover. Bedelia wants nothing more than to please her insecure husband, who considers himself the luckiest man alive—but is his new bride too good to be true? After overlooking Bedelia's deceptions and secrecies one too many times, Charlie falls ill from an apparent poisoning. A new neighbor turns out to be a detective and is prepared to uncover the mystery surrounding Bedelia.

Buy Angel Eyes at Amazon

Angel Eyes

By Loren D. Estleman

Meet Amos Walker, the hot-tempered, Detriot-based private eye. After spending several years in Vietnam, Amos believes he has seen it all—that is, until he meets Ann Maringer. The aging go-go dancer fears that her life is in danger, so she preemptively hires the PI. Ann fears that she'll disappear any day and she wants Amos to search for her if she vanishes. Mayhem ensues when—as Ann herself predicted—the dancer completely disappears without a trace. With only a dead man left behind in Ann's wake, Amos will need his wit and talent to get to the bottom of it all.  

Angel Eyes

By Loren D. Estleman

Buy Blood on the Moon at Amazon

Blood on the Moon

By James Ellroy

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.  

Blood on the Moon

By James Ellroy

Buy A Swollen Red Sun at Amazon

A Swollen Red Sun

By Matthew McBride

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. 

A Swollen Red Sun

By Matthew McBride

Buy One for Our Baby at Amazon

One for Our Baby

By John Sandrolini

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.

One for Our Baby

By John Sandrolini

Buy Take a Murder, Darling at Amazon

Take a Murder, Darling

By Richard S. Prather

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. 

Take a Murder, Darling

By Richard S. Prather

Buy The Postman Always Rings Twice at Amazon

The Postman Always Rings Twice

By James M. Cain

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. 

The Postman Always Rings Twice

By James M. Cain

Buy Farewell, My Lovely at Amazon

Farewell, My Lovely

By Raymond Chandler

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. 

Farewell, My Lovely

By Raymond Chandler

Buy The Grifters at Amazon

The Grifters

By Jim Thompson

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 Grifters

By Jim Thompson

Buy The Hunter at Amazon

The Hunter

By Richard Stark

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. 

The Hunter

By Richard Stark

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Published on 08 Feb 2019

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