The greatest detective novelists in their favorite detective novels

Double Indemnity

James. Mr Cain

If I’m being honest, my favorite is Double Indemnity by James. Mr. Cain, the “poet of tabloid murder”. The movie is perfect, but the book is even more special to me. The whole (very short) novel is written in the form of a confession and it starts out mundane (an insurance salesman, a bored woman) and gradually becomes darker, more perverted and erotic and eventually gothic to the end. I don’t think anyone understood better than Cain the set of urges, emotions, and hungers that drive “ordinary people” to crime. I steal it more than any other book!

—Megan Abbott, author of You will know me

south land

Nina Revoyr

I’m an LA native with a lot of love for LA crime fiction, but instead of preaching to the black choir about The long goodbyeI would like to be ecstatic south land by Nina Revoyr. It’s a brilliant, ambitious, and moving literary crime novel about two South Los Angeles families and their tangled history between the 1930s and 1990s. The central mystery is the deaths of four black boys in a man’s store. Japanese-American during the Watts Rebellion of 1965. This is a powerful book, one that I think of often, and a huge influence on my work. Up there with Chandler.

—Stephanie Cha, author of Died soon enough


Toni Morisson

My favorite crime novel is Beloved by Toni Morrison. Alright, listen to me. I’ve long believed that every novel is, on some level, a detective story, whether we’re talking about literal or violent crime or whether we’re talking about crimes of the heart or crimes against humanity. An act of transgression or an act of emotional abuse is central to most novels, including Beloved. There are multiple crimes, big and small, that motivate this book. Trespass, murder, sexual assault and the ultimate crime of all: slavery. And Morrison has a way of unraveling the information, leading to the emotional climax – the revelation of a crime against Sethe that is almost unimaginable in its scope – that should be the envy of any budding crime writer.”

—Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird

Look now:

Behind the Scenes of Timothée Chalamet’s Techno-Dreamy Photoshoot with Ryan McGinley

the mystical river

Denis Lehane