The Best Crime Books for Non-Crime Readers

Jessica Fellowes wasn't always a crime fiction reader, but thanks to these books, she saw the light. Join her for a criminal reading guide for non-crime readers. Plus, comment for a chance to win her new novel The Mitford Scandal

If you are wondering why crime is such a big genre that doesn’t appeal to you because you prefer fantasy, romance, period drama or because you tried a Poirot once and didn’t get it (this was me, too), these might change your mind. They’re not just crime books—they’re good books.

Best Book for Romance Readers

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

Shreve describes the falling apart of a woman’s view of her marriage with taut prose that never fails to whip you along.

 

Best Book for College Students

A Secret History by Donna Tartt

A masterpiece in crime writing, the backward raveling of a crime committed in a group of wayward, complicated students in New England in the early 1990s.

 

Best Book for Those Who Like Psychology

The Magus by John Fowles

Epic and intense, set on a small Greek island, this is a book that draws you into a world of psychological games that are hard to escape.

 

Best Book for Travelers (and Satirists)

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Set in Botswana, once you’ve met Mma Precious Ramotswe, I don’t think you’ll ever want to let her go. Warm and funny, she solves her cases by relying on The Principles of Private Detection, which means McCall Smith gently satirizes the very genre he writes in.

Read Our Review of The Mitford Scandal!

Best Book for Anglophiles

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

This is the first in a series dressed up with cozy-looking jackets but Beaton’s writing is sharp and funny. Raisin is a tough former publicist who leaves London to retire in the countryside but is soon meddling in local skulduggery. The grit of modern life lies just below the picture-postcard perfect Cotswolds.

 

Best Book for Fantasy Lovers

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

There are lots of Adams’ quirks to recognize here, and many of them will appeal to crime fans: philosophical mon bots, mathematical conundrums, aliens and time-travelers.

 

Best Book for Literary Readers

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson’s literary credentials are well-established with several books from Behind The Scenes at the Museum to Life After Life, earning heavy-weight prizes and plaudits. Her Jackson Brodie books lack none of her pin-sharp observations in clean prose yet are ripping whodunnits too.

 

Best Book for Those Who Prefer the Other Side of the Law

Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer

Mortimer’s actress daughter, Emily, is rumoured to be updating the Rumpole books for the screen, and they probably do need it: the eponymous barrister is a wine-drinking, rabidly non-PC lawyer of the old school who calls his wife ‘Her Indoors’. But he also delights in getting one over on snobbish judges who do not live in the real world and his clients, dim-witted lowlifes to a man, are the ones he defends with the sympathetic view that they are not always bad people but live in a world that condemns them to bad choices.

Check out a video of Jessica Fellowes discussing the Mitford Murders Mystery series!

Best Book for Environmentalists

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

I’ve chosen Skin Tight here because it’s probably the one that cracks along at the fastest pace, but almost any of Hiassen’s books would do. In amongst the crime and world-weary policemen are vivid and authentic rages against the institutions that have destroyed the wildlife and waterways of his much-loved Florida.

 

Best Book for Period Drama Fans

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

With exquisite writing and attention to detail, depicting a marriage struggling in the Cold War, with the excitement of spy secrets and a tightly-wound plot, this is a haunting piece of work.

 

Best Book for Those Who Say They Don’t Like Agatha Christie

Peril At End House by Agatha Christie

A cracker: short, funny, observant and with Christie’s trademark unguessable ending. Warning: once you start Agatha, it’s quite hard to stop. But this is the only one to start with. (Thanks to Sophie Hannah, a great crime writer herself, who put me on the path to Christie.)


The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes is the third book in the Mitford Murders series, where lady’s maid Louisa Cannon accompanies Diana Mitford into a turbulent late-1920s Europe.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Mitford Scandal Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/the-best-crime-books-for-non-crime-readers/ beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) January 30, 2020. Sweepstakes ends at 3:29 p.m. ET February 13, 2020. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.

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Comments

  1. John Smith

    I ‘ve never read any Carl Hiaasen–the fast pace does sound like he makes for a good read!

  2. Vanessagalore

    ‘Artemis’ by Andy Weir (of ‘The Martian’ fame) and ‘Gone World’ by Tom Sweterlisch for sci-fi fans.

    • Karleen Mauldin

      Great article! Can’t wait to read The Mitford Scandal.

  3. Susan Dugan

    Agatha Christie. She led me to wonderful “who-done-it” adventures. Love it. Of course, Jessica Fellowes has three of the best thing next to Agatha! Loving the Mitford novels! ❤️❤️

  4. Shelby Forbes

    Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women budded my love of reading. I devoured that book like manna and thirsted for more stories just like it.

  5. Jana

    This is great list. Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite authors.

  6. LeMinou

    These sound amazing. Thanks for the chance.

  7. Linda McCutcheon

    Would love to read and review this book!

  8. Jeana

    I thought that I was a fan but I haven’t read any of the books on this list. My to be read pile just got bigger.

  9. Nicole Flynn

    I think my favorite Mystery author is Tami Hoag. It isn’t a genre I read often, but the books of hers I’ve read I enjoyed. This sounds like a great book as well. I love reading fast paced stories.

  10. Glen Davis

    I started with Death on the Nile.

  11. Sandra Abrames

    Love a good mystery and series.

  12. Nancy Sanders

    This book sounds really good!

  13. Debra Pruss

    I love mysteries. This sounds like a fabulous book.

  14. Kelley Blair

    Thank you kindly.

  15. Jean Boe

    I agree….the book is definitely one I want to read.

  16. Patricia Nicklas

    Great suggestions I’m adding to my to read list

  17. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  18. Portia Asher

    I’m always ready to find a new mystery. Thank you for your list.

  19. Jamie Gillespie

    This book sounds fascinating! Would love to read and review. Thanks for the opportunity!

  20. Sinda Conrad

    I am really looking forward to checking some of these writers out. I have always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie and find it very refreshing to see her listed on this page.

  21. Nissa Evans

    I would love to win. Thanks.

  22. Sabine

    Love a god mystery. All books sound good. Thank you for the chance!

  23. Shirley Evans

    Love mysteries, would love to read this. Thanks for the chance.

  24. Alice Glover

    I loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

  25. Betty Smith

    I would love to read this book

  26. Heather Amos

    What a great list of books. Thank you for the chance.

  27. JAMES LYNAM

    So looking to reading THE MITFORD SCANDAL by Jeccica Fellows. The 3rd in this series.
    Hope I win.

  28. Shirley Evans

    Love all mysteries…this sounds really good. Thanks for the chance. I thought I had entered once already but don’t see it here…sorry if a repeat.

  29. Laura Nason

    Agatha Christie was the author who sparked my interest in reading. I’m happy to see M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death on this list, this is an enjoyable book series.

  30. lasvegasnv

    lots of books

  31. Lori P

    Surprised (and for some reason pleased) at how many on this list I’ve read. Really enjoy the variety available in this genre!

  32. Sally Schmidt

    Great list. I agree with your recommendations for those I’ve already read and added the rest to my TBR list. Looking forward to reading The Mitford Scandal.

  33. Joel Nelson

    would love a copy

  34. Christine Smiga

    Lots of good stories here. Thanks for sharing your list!

  35. Carolyn

    Good list! Totally agree with including Carl Hiaasen and Agatha Christie on the list!

  36. Lana Maskus

    Appreciate the recommendations.

  37. Shane

    Glad to see Hiaasen in the group. He is oft over-looked. Too tongue in cheek for some. Glad to see a third book out in the Mitford series. It’s my guilty pleasure break from the world. Thank you.

  38. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  39. Michael Carter

    I would love to win.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thank!

  40. Faith Creech

    Sounds like a good book! Would love to read it! Thanks for the chance to win!

  41. Joy Isley

    I have yet to read a book by this author. This book sounds like the kind I enjoy reading. I have added it to my reading list.

  42. Rose Jones

    I started out by reading Agatha Christie. John Mortimer’s Rumpole and she who must be obeyed are also great.

  43. Karl Stenger

    I love Elizabeth George’s novels.

  44. Michelle Willms

    I enjoyed reading your list. There were many authors I’ve not read, so my TBR stack has grown. Thank you so much for this wonderful post.

  45. bellows22

    i love that cover for the Mitford scandal

  46. Anne

    wonderful selection of books which I would enjoy greatly. Thanks for this informative post.

  47. Pearl

    Terrific list and so much to choose from.

  48. Ruth Bousquet

    Would really enjoy this book!

  49. Nathan Stolldorf

    All look like great reads!

  50. sandra burns

    Thank you for the chance, sounds like a good read.

  51. susan atkins

    I love crime books-this will be a new one for me-sounds like a good one

  52. bill norris

    i so love the cover

  53. martin bodnar

    – thanks for the chance to win!

  54. Kara Marks

    Great suggestions.

  55. Beth Harms

    Thanks for the opportunity and more titles to add to my TBR list!

  56. Elena

    I love murder mystery! Would enjoy this book =)

  57. theresa norris

    Great list of books. I’ve read some of these and will check out the rest.

  58. Mary

    Great ideas-read on!

  59. Margit Curtright

    I enjoy this series!

  60. Jackie Wisherd

    I would love to read your book. It sounds like one I would enjoy.

  61. Emily Catan

    I am a big fan mystery/ crime/ psychological thrillers, and would love to read the books in the list. “The Mitford Scandal” sounds intriguing! Thank you for the giveaway.

  62. Allison McMillan-Lee

    Interesting list of authors, some I have read but others not. The Mitford series is perfect for the new decade… as the 1920s reigned supreme, so shall the 2020s!

  63. Deb Philippon

    Thank you for the list. There are books here I must catch up with.

  64. carloshmarlo

    I think my best bet would be One Good Turn. Thanks for the rec!

  65. Coleen Hechenberger

    Looking forward to discovering a new author for me- Jessica Fellowes😊

  66. Linda Semler

    Thank you for the opportunity

  67. Stephen Larson

    Looking forward to another good read. It’s a long cold winter in the Northland.

  68. susan beamon

    I started reading at a young age, and I’ve been reading mysteries almost from the start. I had read all the .Agatha Christie books available by the time I finished grade school.

  69. Melissa Lawrence

    I love reading historical mysteries so I would absolutely love to win this book! Thanks for the chance!

  70. Susan T.

    Alexander McCall Smith writes series that are my comfort food. The Ladies detective Agency is my favourite and I love escaping to Africa with Precious!

  71. Sue Hooley

    Anxious to read this book. It’s so exciting to try a new author. Thank you.

  72. LINDA COSBY

    I would like to read this.

  73. Kathy Church

    Maybe start with romantic suspense if don’t like crime books. I love them all!
    And naturally, I’ve added several of the ones mentioned to my TBR mountain.

  74. Janet Gould

    Great article.

  75. Christal M

    Love mysteries!

  76. Denah J Gordon

    I recently read Deborah Mitford’s autobiography “Wait for Me” and would be very interested to read your fictional take on her most scandalous sister.

  77. Michelle

    Great way to find a new author/series.

  78. SUSAN GANNON

    The unique cover draws me into Story looks good I would be grateful to win and share with the Senior Center.

  79. Anastacia Zittel

    I added several of these to my must read list!

  80. Kelly McHugh

    Would love to read this book!

  81. Susan Morris

    The only book I’ve read was The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. Thank you for the other book suggestions. Can’t wait to read The Mitford Scandal.

  82. amy mara

    thanks

  83. Pat Hoffarth

    I would love a copy of The Mitford Scandal. Please

  84. Haley FitzSimmons

    Sounds like a good read!

  85. Dorayne Demoore

    Both of her previous books were excellent and I am sure this one will be also.

  86. Saundra K. Warren

    I would love these!!!!

  87. JULES M.

    sounds great! thanks for the chance!

  88. Elizabeth

    I’ve read a couple of these books, and I agree; they’re more than just crime.

    Although the first third of THE PILOT’S WIFE is depressing, it is so well written you won’t want to give up on the book. Then it becomes unputdownable.

    Kathryn’s husband, a commercial airline pilot, is killed when his jet explodes over Ireland. So most of the beginning involves her dealings with the airline union and newspaper and TV reporters. She almost comes to depend on one union representative, Robert, in particular.

    When Kathryn finds small clues that something suspicious may have been going on with her husband in England, THE PILOT’S WIFE becomes so suspenseful you may not want to eat or sleep until you finish reading it.

    Anita Shreve is known for her portrayals of strong women. And Kathryn sure is that. She lives through a nightmare that keeps getting worse.

    This was written pre-9/11. I wonder if the story would have been different 10 years later.

    But I can’t speak highly of ONE GOOD TURN.

    ONE GOOD TURN begins with a road rage incident involving one crazy guy beating a man with a baseball bat and another man, a wimpy writer of popular crime novels, knocking the crazy guy down with his laptop computer. From there we meet all sorts of seemingly unrelated characters who all become connected.

    It’s actually a pretty good and simple story. But here’s what I guess happened.

    My guess is that Atkinson had a pretty good short story. Someone (publisher, editor, agent, whoever) told her she had to give them a book-length novel. So she took this perfectly good short story and padded it. And the result is ONE GOOD TURN.

    Open this bo. ok to almost any page (except the last few), and you’ll see it. One line, occasionally one or two paragraphs, of the story sandwiched between paragraphs of padding. Whatever happens reminds a character of something else that reminds the character of something else. Then back to the story soon to be followed by more padding.

    This is the last Atkinson book I’ll read.

  89. aztek2000

    I’ve added some new books to my must read list–thanks for the tips!

  90. Dawn Havens

    A great list of books. i hope I get a chance to read The Mitford Scandal GLTA

  91. jennifer cecil

    Would love to read these. Nice selection.

  92. sunshinehdfan

    I love the article. Great reads. Thank you so much for the chance to win.

  93. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a good read

  94. Tiffany

    These look amazing!

  95. KathyNV

    I love any Mitford related books. Especially ones with the scandalous Diana as part of the cast. This mystery sounds so juicy! Would love to read it!

  96. Roxana Garcia

    Looking forward to reading it!

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