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Genre: <i>Crime Fiction</i>

Crime fiction is a rapidly growing and immensely popular contemporary genre. It also has a long and varied history, encompassing many different categories and a patchy literary reputation.

What is crime fiction?

Crime fiction is categorised by its dealings with certain aspects of crime and the criminal—and, of course, the police or detectives who solve them. Crime fiction is a fairly general genre, and there are sub-genres that are more specific, such as detective fiction, some thrillers, hardboiled, and legal thriller. While books that are classified in these genres would also classify as Crime fiction, they can be more narrowly defined by their styles and/or subject matter. The genre can also be divided further, with sub-genres like Victorian detective fiction, Classic detective fiction, Contemporary American Crime fiction, Brit grit, and Crime fiction in graphic novels.

Crime fiction has a long but not so illustrious history, dating back to the works of Edgar Alan Poe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thrust detective fiction into the spotlight as popular reading material, and serials and magazines began publishing short crime fictions with illustrations, so popular was the demand.

While the demand was high early on, and doesn’t seem to have abated much if the proliferation of Crime fiction available in the stores today is any indication, the reputation of the genre has always been somewhat pulpy. While we now give Sir Arthur Conan Doyle status within the Classic literature genre, he saw his Sherlock Holmes stories as little better than pulp. As Crime fiction progressed through the twentieth century, there are many authors who are now revered as forerunners of the genre who were, at the time, looked at with disdain—such as Raymond Chandler. This also confuses the issue of what to include in the Crime fiction genre—if a novel is considered Contemporary literature due to the high standard of writing, does that preclude it from the populist Crime fiction genre?

Illiterarty classifies novels within the Crime fiction genre if they involve crimes, the mental and physical workings of criminals, and police solving the crimes. Generally we make the distinction that if the protagonist who solves the crime is a detective, it classified within the detective-fiction sub-genre. However, we do differentiate between the Thriller genre and the Crime fiction genre: Crime fiction moves in a slower and more methodical way, with less of the “thrills” and more of the good, old-fashioned police work. This is, of course, a subjective classification, and some novels can happily classify as both.

Top 10 most popular Crime fiction on Illiterarty

  1. Chart Throb by Ben Elton
  2. Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
  3. The Shanghai Murders by David Rotenberg
  4. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
  5. Speak Ill Of The Dead by Mary Jane Maffini
  6. The Wire In The Blood by Val McDermid
  7. No Trace by Barry Maitland
  8. A Place Of Execution by Val McDermid
  9. Dirty Tricks by Michael Dibdin
  10. The Return Of The Dancing Master by Henning Mankell



This entry is written purely for informative purposes, so the readers of can better understand how we classify our books and can therefore make more informed choices about what to read. We do not claim to be an authoritative source. Quote us in essays/important documents at your own risk!

Image courtesy of beesparkle.

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