In my recent post about two new books, Purge and one with a rude title*, I and some of my lovely commenters were having a discussion on a frequent theme: whether these books are "crime", "literary", either or neither. They have both won prestigious literary prizes, yet both have crime themes, and one of them, Purge, is being compared explicitly with Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, which is certainly "crime" rather than "literary". All rather puzzling.
Although I am no fan of squeezing books into genres, I nonetheless frequently find a lack of comprehension among "normal people" when I tell them I read mainly crime fiction (a bit like the puzzled reaction when you tell someone who isn't a blogger that you have a blog). I suppose that "normal readers" assume that "crime fiction" equals blood, guts and gore, with explict descriptions of murders? Or that one exists solely on a diet of Agatha Christie? I don't know, but I thought I'd create an archive of books – classic novels that were written before the genres were invented, and which if they were written now would or could be marketed as crime; and modern novels that could be or have been sold with the crime-fiction tag but in fact are "novels" on a range of rich themes, rather than clearly "crime" books (such as written by Michael Connelly), or "thriller" (such as Lee Child). All of these have a place in my own personal reading repertoire, so I assume (?) I use the adjective "crime" as a shortcut to exclude commercial fiction (eg chick lit), other specific genres (eg horror, sci fi), and high literature.
I appreciate I am going to come across some grey areas, but never mind – I hope people will help with contributions to these lists, whereupon I'll make a page that I can update with new additions (as I do with my book review archives by year, and my book reviews by country).
Category 1: Classics that would or could be classified as "crime novels" if published today (arguably!). I omit books that have detectives in them and that are primarily about (solving) a crime, eg The Moonstone – though I allow Bleak House.
Crime and Punishment
Our Mutual Friend
The Woman in White
To Kill a Mockingbird
Catcher in the Rye
In Cold Blood
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Lord of the Flies
Category 2: Modern novels that have crimes in them, or are about the effects of crime, or have been sold or promoted as "crime fiction", but which are not "crime fiction" in the sense of Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. That is, if they had been published 50 or more years ago, they'd just have been "novels".
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
A Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Broken by Karin Fossum
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Lost in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Unless by Carol Shields
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne
We Have to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Shadow by Karin Alvtegen
What do you think of these lists? Any suggestions?
*Title given in linked post but avoiding writing it again because I don't want to attract unwelcome traffic.