February 14

Crime Fiction

Crime novels are a popular genre of fiction, dating back over 150 years.

Of course, crime stories date back to the Bible’s story of Cain and Abel; the first murder. The first detective story in more modern times was ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ by Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1841. Since then, there have been many crime authors whose fictional characters have become famous, such as Sherlock Holmes from novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple from novels by Agatha Christie.

There are several features common to all crime or mystery novels:

1.    A crime or mystery that seems impossible to solve

It’s not just that there’s a crime, but the fact that the crime is seemingly unsolvable that is the hook for both the protagonist and the reader. It becomes the driving force of the story.

  1. A protagonist

The protagonist is our unlikely hero in the story. He/she may be an outsider, or even a flawed hero. Even though the protagonist may seem apathetic about the crime at first, at some point early on in the story, he/she becomesinterested and solving the crime/mystery becomes personal. The protagonist (and the reader) begin to gather evidence (details and clues in the story, some of which may prove to be irrelevant). Soon, the investigation leads our antagonist into terrifying and even life-threatening situations. He must fight not only to stay alive, but also to solve the crime. Throughout even the worst scenario, we know our hero will triumph at the end and solve the crime/mystery.

3.    A criminal (or group of criminals)

For every crime, there is a criminal, or group of criminals led by one person. The protagonist may encounter many unsavoury characters (thugs, gangsters or petty thieves) on his way to solving the crime, however some are sure to be false leads.

  1. Tension

From the very first scene, where we are thrown straight into the action, the tension increases until the final conclusion. The closer the protagonist gets to solving the crime, the greater the danger he/she faces, either from other characters or the environment. It becomes a balancing act in the story: a race to solve the crime balanced against dangerous settings and antagonists who threaten our hero’s life.

An author’s tips:

Author Tristan Bancks, who has written two crime novels,  Two Wolves and The Fall, gives us his top tips to remember as you write your crime story:

Here are some websites that also give you tips on writing a crime story:

Stories that Kill. 7 Tips for Writing Crime

How to Write Crime Stories

How to Write a Short Detective Story

The Detective’s Code

Elements of a Good Mystery Story

The Five Essential Elements of a Mystery

Read some crime fiction…

Two of the best ways to improve your writing are to read more and to write more. Simple!

Here are the links to some famous crime stories you can read online:

Short Stories about Murder

Short stories about Crime

You will find our list of Year 8 Crime Fiction in the Library Catalogue by searching Mystery Crime Fiction Year 8 under LISTS.