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Enter the dark world of hard-boiled crime fiction.

Sharing common characteristics with crime and noir fiction, hard-boiled mysteries have a tough and gritty tone. There’s no room for sentimentality in these books, as they often employ graphic descriptions of sex and violence. Written with a dark realism, these reads are typically set in urban areas and tend to have fast-paced, sordid plots.

The protagonists—or antiheroes—of these books tend to be hardened detectives. Many novels see these detectives going up against organized crime, or otherwise struggling through a legal system that is deeply corrupt. As vivid and gripping as they are cynical, these books are not for the faint of heart.

Want to dive deeper? Here are some fantastic places to start: 

Peruse the stories below for even more hard-boiled mysteries.

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It Takes a Community: Writing Crime at the Midnight Hour

20 writers of color come together in this extraordinary anthology of crime fiction stories set at midnight.

Trouble Is What I Do: 11 Best Walter Mosley Books

The crime novelist tackles prejudice and other injustices in his bestselling mysteries.

9 Mystery Books with Surprise Plot Twists

Even if you’re always one step ahead ... these books will still catch you off guard!

Read Like Nero Wolfe with Robert Goldsborough’s Favorite Books

Author and creative heir to the Nero Wolfe Mystery series shares the books that have inspired him throughout the years.

Discover Classic Thrills with The Thin Man

Decades later, the hard-boiled detective tale still thrills with its twisted plot and charming sleuths racing through boozy, 1930s New York City.

7 Neil Cross Books for Fans of Gritty Crime Fiction

The "Hard Sun" and "Luther" creator delivers crime thrillers that are as addictive as his TV shows.

What Is Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction?

Mystery expert Otto Penzler breaks down how to know it when you read it.

No Beast So Fierce: The Book That Got a Man Released from Prison

Edward Bunker’s life of crime and incarceration strongly influenced both his writing and acting careers.