For the last hundred years, Norway has celebrated Påskekrim, or “Easter Crime.” It started in 1923 when two authors, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, published a book about a train robbery on Easter. The novel’s advertisement on the newspaper’s front page convinced people the story of the train robbery had actually occurred. When the public realized the trick, they bought the book in droves. The Easter holiday quickly became one where people brought crime novels on their extended ski trips to the mountains.
We fully endorse this holiday (really, any holiday that revolves around reading we are completely down with). To help you observe, we’ve put together a list of some favorite crime reads. These books are pulled from our ‘Collecting Mystery Books by the Year‘ series, starting from the year Påskekris began in 1923 and continuing with a pick from each decade since.
Considered one of the Queens of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and a founder and first president of the Detection Club, Dorothy Sayers was born in England in 1893. Whose Body? is the first of sixteen detective novels by Sayers that feature Lord Peter Wimsey, an English aristocrat, and amateur sleuth. In this novel, published in 1923, Wimsey searches for the mysterious identity of a naked victim found in a bathtub.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
In The Maltese Falcon (1930), author Dashiell Hammett sets the tone for hard-boiled detective novels with his feature character, Sam Spade. Set in San Francisco in the 1920s, Spade is roped into a web of crime by the treacherous Brigid O’Shaughnessy as he searches for a valuable jewel-encrusted bird.
The Lady in the Lake (1943) is author Raymond Chandler‘s fourth novel (his breakout hit, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939). In this novel, a wealthy businessman hires detective Philip Marlowe to find his wife. As Marlowe searches for her, he finds other wives missing and dead.
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Author Patricia Highsmith became known for her psychological thrillers, including The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955). Strangers on a Train (1950) is her first novel and was released as a Hitchcock film just a year after its publication. The strangers on the train are Guy, a successful architect, and Bruno, a charming playboy who also happens to be a psychopath. Guy proposes the ‘strangers’ trade murders to evade suspicion of the police. While Guy doesn’t take Bruno seriously, he is, and Guy’s wife ends up murdered.
John le Carré‘s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963) is considered by many to be the pinnacle in mystery novels. Alec Leamas, a British Agent, returns to London after serving in Berlin during the Cold War and the erection of the Berlin Wall, hoping to be done with espionage for good. But he is sent back on a final assignment, determined to bring down the head of East German intelligence.
The Blessing Way (1970) was American detective author Tony Hillerman‘s first book, published in 1970. Hillerman later became known for his novels featuring Navajo Tribal Police Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. In The Blessing Way, Leaphorn searches for what he believes to be a supernatural killer dubbed the “Wolf-Witch.”
An ‘intellectual mystery,’ The Name of the Rose (1983) by Umberto Eco is full of secret messages and coded manuscripts. Set in an Italian Abbey in 1327, the character Brother William of Baskerville provides an eye-witness account as he investigates several murders. First published in Italian in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa, the book has sold over 50 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.
Patricia Cornwell started her best-selling Kay Scarpetta series with Postmortem, published in 1990. After a series of murders in Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Scarpetta is called in to investigate and finds herself the target of an inside job. Cornwell has written twenty-five books in the Kay Scarpetta series, the last Autopsy, released in 2021. She has also written multiple other police procedurals, nonfiction, and even a children’s book.
Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson died in 2004, leaving behind a trilogy of crime novels. Those novels, known as the “Millennium Trilogy,” were published posthumously, starting with Män som hatar kvinnor (‘Men Who Hate Women’) in 2005. In 2008 this novel was released in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To redeem himself from a libel suit, journalist Mikael Blomkvist begins investigating a forty-year-old cold case of a missing girl. His investigation opens up more crimes, and he enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, a formidable computer hacker, to help with the case.
Gone Girl (2012), a crime thriller written by Gillian Flynn, is a best-seller published in 2012. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne, a perfect daughter and wife, disappears. All eyes turn to her husband, Nick, who fumbles around, claiming innocence. The novel interweaves Amy’s diary with Nick’s first-person account to portray a not-so-perfect marriage and dark thriller.
As spring breaks and Easter approaches, tell us about your favorite chillers, thrillers, mysteries, or cozy murder novels to dive into!
This giveaway is open worldwide and will close on Friday, April 15, at noon EDT. The winner will be chosen at random and will be notified within 24h of the giveaway closing. The prize is $20US worth of BiblioBucks, our store credit that can be used for any purchase on Biblio. The winner must have a free Biblio account in order to use BiblioBucks.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.