Five of the very best crime novels of all time.

Since the genre began nearly 200 years ago, crime novels have entrenched themselves among the classics and carved out a place on many a best-seller list. From the works of Edgar Allan Poe to Agatha Christie and Stieg Larsson, there are hundreds that deserve mention among the best of all time.

But here are just a few:

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

With this revolutionary ‘non-fiction novel’ the eccentric American journalist/author, tells the true story of the 1959 close-range, shotgun murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas.

It begins as a crime seemingly with no meaning or motive, but through dialogue and detailed description, Capote masterfully traces the investigation to the arrest and trial of drifters Dick Hickock and Perry Smith.

It took Capote six years to complete the interviews, research and writing for this book, which would prove to be the last he ever published. “No one will ever know what In Cold Blood took out of me,” he once said. “It scraped me right down to the marrow of my bones. It nearly killed me. I think, in a way, it did kill me.”

Listen: Speaking of true crime, have you seen The Keepers? It might be the best the genre. Post continues…

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

It was called “dazzling” and “icepick sharp” by The New York Times, and “an absolute must read” by The Guardian. And read they did. This thrilling crime novel about a missing wife and her curiously bitter husband has sold more than 15 million copies since it was first released in 2012.

Dancing between the diary left by Amy Dunne and the internal monologue of her spouse, Nick, as the authorities and the media close in, Flynn expertly dismantles the picture-perfect marriage they had built for the outside world.

As The New York Times wrote in its review, “It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with.”


Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith

Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are, well, see the title above. The former is a successful architect, the latter a sadistic psychopath who manipulates his fellow commuter into a deal in which they each murder an obstacle in the other’s life.

“Some people are better off dead,” Bruno says, “like your wife and my father, for instance.”

It should be a perfect crime; no motive, no reason for suspicion. But then there would be no novel…

Or no “moody and disturbing excavation of guilty paranoia,” as The Wall Street Journal described it.

Strangers on a Train was turned into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Image: Warner Bros.

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

Sometimes the first is still among the best, as this 1868 detective thriller proves. Legendary writer TS Eliot declared it to be "the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels"; crime queen Dorothy L Sayers called it "probably the finest detective story ever written".

Rachel Verinder, a young Englishwoman inherits a large Indian diamond on her 18th birthday, but after an elaborate party at her family's country mansion the gem mysteriously disappears from her bedroom. Suspicion falls on a troupe of jugglers, a maid and then on Rachel herself.

The Guardian recently named The Moonstone in the top 20 novels - of any genre - of all time: "a brilliant marriage of the sensational and the realistic. In short, a classic."

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters

"This is a Victorian novel the Victorians never dreamed of writing," The New York Times wrote. Lesbian Dickens might also be another way to describe it.

Published in 2002, this historical crime tale centres around Sue Trinder, an orphan taken in and raised in by family of thieves and tricksters. One day, a conman arrives at their door with a scheming proposition: if she wins a post as a maid with a lonely heiress Maud Lilly and helps him seduce her, then together they will share her inheritance and, ultimately, be rid of her.

Once in, though, Sue begins to pity their target, to care for her in rather unexpected ways.

"What fun it is to be scared, shocked and utterly gripped by a true master - or mistress - of Gothic suspense," a reviewer wrote for The Telegraph.

What's your favourite crime novel? Tell us in the comments below.