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9 Crime Thrillers to Read if You Like Breaking Bad 

The pressure is on. 

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  • Photo Credit: Highbridge Entertainment

Few shows take over pop culture like Breaking Bad did. The show debuted in January 2008 to largely positive reviews that grew with every new season.

The compelling notion of an everyday family man turning to a life of crime for largely noble reasons—at first, anyway—captured America’s imagination.

It wasn’t greed or vengeance or a broken moral compass that sent Walter White down into the criminal underground, but a desperate desire—in the wake of his cancer diagnosis—to ensure his family's continued support after his death. Perhaps viewers wouldn’t make the same choices, but they understood why Mr. White made them.

And that had viewers tuning in week after week to find out what happened next. 

That formula proved addictive, and while Breaking Bad may not have been the first to employ it, it was arguably one of the most successful—earning the show a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and an explosive resurgence into popularity of the crime genre.

If you’re looking for gritty, dark crime thrillers with protagonists trying to make it out of the criminal underworld alive, we found nine books like Breaking Bad guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

A Swollen Red Sun

A Swollen Red Sun

By Matthew McBride

Gasconade County, Missouri was once known as the meth capital of the world.  That’s why when Deputy Sherriff Dale Banks finds $52,000 cash in the broken-down trailer Jerry Dean Skaggs cooks meth in, he takes it.

Maybe it’s wrong, but he did it for all the right reasons. He just never expected that there’d be consequences. But Jerry Dean can’t afford to lose that money. He owes people.

Stuck between prison and death, Jerry Dean goes after Dale, setting into a motion of series of events that will forever change Gasconade County and all its citizens. 

The Ten-Mile Trials

The Ten-Mile Trials

By Elizabeth Gunn

When you think of towns riddled with violent crime, Rutherford, Minnesota doesn’t usually come to mind. But a string of burglaries that feel strangely professional are keeping Captain Jake Hines busier than normal.

When a murder victim is found in a home that doubles as a marijuana farm and a meth lab with a card that could possibly tie him to a ruthless Eastern European gang, Hines knows things in Rutherford won’t be quiet anymore.  

Just a Small Town

Just a Small Town

By Paul Linggood

It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere. It could be anywhere. The industry around it was in decline.

The streets were crumbling with decay. Most people left. And those who stay find absolution in drugs. Four youths are among those left behind. Some use, some sell, and some dabble in other vices to stave off the pain of life.

In this tiny town, in the middle of anywhere, the only question is can any of them survive the threat of addiction, violence, and manipulation? 

Montezuma's Man

Montezuma's Man

By Jerome Charyn

For Joey Barbarossa, being a cop has its perks. After all, it makes dealing drugs a lot easier. Once he flashes his badge and gun, no one gives him any problems.

But when Barbarossa takes out a dealer with ties to the Justice Department, his luck runs out. To stay out of jail, he has to spy on Isaac Sidel, the Police Commissioner and Barbarossa’s trusted mentor.

As Sidel prepares for a mayoral campaign, two mob bosses become a problem that has to be eradicated. As the two start knocking off mob establishments, the pressure puts the two men at odds. It’s only a matter of time before one turns on the other.

The only question is which one will crack first. 



By Mark Haskell Smith

Miro Basinas dabbles in botany. Only, it isn’t heirloom tomatoes he grows, but premier marijuana that he sells to a discerning clientele

 And when he wins Amsterdam’s famed Cannabis Cup, it isn’t just cannasseurs and “ganjaficionados” that want a piece of him. Miro is a mild-mannered hipster who doesn’t know the first thing about revenge.

So when he gets shot and his prize invention is stolen, he finds himself trying to navigate this new world with a string-theory-obsessed cop, a kinky paramedic, and a cougar starlet who all want a piece of Miro and his prized plant. 

Time To Go

Time To Go

By Lisa Hartley

Detective Caelan Small lives a quiet life. She is trying to stay low and away from the force.

But then her old boss calls. A woman is in trouble. She may be kidnapped—or worse.

Caelan goes back to work, heading undercover with a vicious drug dealer. Soon enough, she’s immersed in a dark underworld filled with drugs, scammers, and thieves. And the deeper she gets, the worse the situation becomes.

She finds herself in the middle of a shocking market of human flesh where if she isn’t careful, she’ll end up dead. 

Carlito's Way

Carlito's Way

By Edwin Torres

Carlito Brigante was a Harlem drug dealer in the 1960s. He was once just another street punk who dreamed of money and power.

It didn’t take him long to realize the world is take or be taken, beat or get beaten. And he knows exactly which side of that coin he wants to land on. His street smarts lead him to the mob, where he navigates his way through the ranks.

But when there’s a major change of leadership at the top, Carlito has some hard choices to make. After all, only the strongest and smartest predator can be king. 

Double Dare

Double Dare

By Edward Keyes

Twenty-nine-year old Tony Farrell has it all. He wears custom suits, drives an imported roadster, lives in a lux apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has a devoted girlfriend and business partner.

The only problem is their business is failing. In a moment of desperation, he takes money from a mob loan shark, turning his bistro into a hot spot for drug dealing. 

ut when he’s busted, his only option is to turn informant for the FBI. In over his head, with no way out, Tony doesn’t know where to turn or who to trust.

It’s going to take everything he has to make it out of this tangled web alive.  

The War Beneath

The War Beneath

By S.R. Hughes

Paul was once a forensic psychologist. That was before his daughter died. Before he became an addict. Before the dead started whispering to him.

Now, he lives in dying Oceanrest, trying to hide from his past and ignore the dead. Deirdre has also made Oceanrest her home, growing and harvesting various flora and fauna for a wide range of use.

But when she’s betrayed by a regular customer, she finds herself on the run. Paul and Deirdre lived two different lives, but they end up facing the same end as mobsters, criminals, cultists, and Nazis descend on Oceanside with nothing but apocalyptic destruction on their mind.