Why do I read crime fiction?

As the cover is revealed for the next Kay Hunter book, Call to Arms I thought I’d share the reasons why I read crime fiction.

I think, like many crime thriller authors, my love of the genre started when I was about five years old and started reading the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton.

By the time I was in my very early teens, I was working my way through my mum’s collection of Dick Francis books and adding to those each birthday and Christmas when I received book tokens in lieu of presents.

Call to Arms book cover no spine

On top of that, every time my parents stocked up their bookshelves via jumble sales, I’d be devouring the likes of Ed McBain, PD James, and Robert Goddard. 

By the time I left school, I’d read most of the crime fiction section in my secondary school library, including books by Ken Follett, Agatha Christie, and Michael Crichton.

To this day, I’m unable to walk past a second-hand bookshop…

Of course, it wasn’t just books that were influencing me at that time.

On television, the likes of The Bill, C.A.T.S. Eyes, and Call Me Mister all fell into the melting pot and fuelled my imagination.

What attracts readers to crime fiction?

For me, it’s a mixture of entertainment and escapism.

There’s nothing like perusing the shelves in a bookshop or library, spotting a cover or a spine of a book, and then reading the blurb and thinking “I’ve got to read this”.

You know (with a few exceptions) that the villain will be apprehended by the time you reach the last page, the detective will have solved the mystery, and all will be right with the world, but it’s the excitement between the first page in the last and trying to work out who the bad guy is, or how they will be stopped, before the detective does.

I have to admit, although I like reading (and writing) stand-alone crime thrillers, I also enjoy reading books in a series because you get to know the detective over a period of time. You begin to appreciate what drives them.

For instance, take Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. That character has continued to evolve since first appearing in The Black Echo, and I think that’s what keeps the series fresh. The stories aren’t simply about the investigation of a murder in each book, it’s how the main character’s life is changed by the investigation and the world around him.

It’s the same reason why I enjoyed reading the Peter Robinson DCI Banks series, and the Roy Grace series by Peter James – as well as the fact that the stories aren’t just about the main characters, but include a regular supporting cast.

As a crime thriller writer, I’m re-reading a lot of the books on my shelves through different eyes these days – I find I’m analysing them more, trying to pinpoint exactly why those stories have endured.

I hope by re-reading the masters, my own writing will continue to grow.

It’s also a great excuse to forget the housework for a while 😉

Why do you read crime fiction? I’d love to hear your answers.


  1. Many many years ago when I was in my early teens, I spotted a book in our local library. It was the dramatic cover that attracted my attention. That book was the Nancy Drew mystery Password To Larkspur Lane. It was that book that started my obsession.I’m 52 now and still collect Nancy Drew books. I love a mystery that keeps me guessing,is fast paced, has loads of danger moments and unexpected twists. My favourite thrillers are about missing people. I also like TV programmes about missing people and was a big fan of Without A Trace. I also loved CSI before Grissom left. I remember C.A.T.S eyes but was never really a fan, I preferred Charlie’s Angels, I also liked The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries obviously. My daughter and I like watching true crime shows together, we watch shows about missing people, killer kids and people who are murdered by people that they meet on the Internet. So I suppose you could say my love of Crime was started by a eye catching book cover, even today I have found and read some very good books just because I liked the cover.

    • The power of a book cover is amazing, isn’t it Nicki? And I love that your whole interest in a genre was sparked by one design! Like you, I can’t resist a book cover, and then if I like the gist of the blurb, I can’t resist. Taglines are like that for me, too – one of the best I’ve seen recently is for Steve Cavanaugh’s latest book, Thirteen.

  2. For me it is the only style of book that rings true, can actually happen, and is interesting. I like learning about the main character like Kay Hunter in books that feature her, but in stand alone stories.

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