Crime in Literature
Written by
Darlene Deluca
January 2014
Written by
Darlene Deluca
January 2014

Was looking through some reading lists the other day, and was reminded of one of my all-time favorite college courses – Crime in Literature. English was one of my concentrations in college, and this was an elective. We read some awesome books that stick with me to this day (uh, yeah, that was a while back).

I can’t remember the whole list, but here are some:

The Godfather

Crime and Punishment

All The Kings Men

Red Harvest

The Onion Field


I wish I had the full list and the syllabus for the class. And I’d love to know how the list has changed in the past twenty-some years. Couldn’t find that same class in the university course book, though.

What would you put on such a list? Can you think of crime novels (not mysteries) that made a lasting impression? I know I’ve read Murder on The Orient Express, but I can’t recall if it was for this class. Possibly. It’s another good one.

The two of these that stand out the most for me are The Godfather and Crime and Punishment. Oh, my. There’s something about reading The Godfather that makes it even more horrific than the movie. I thought I would never get that scene with the man and the head of his dead horse out of my mind.

And I can remember silently screaming at Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment not to do it, and later being fascinated by the psychology at play in his guilt and ultimate incrimination of himself.

Some of these are still read in college and high school. The Godfather is probably more well known as a movie. All are worth reading and discussing. If I were choosing today, I’d add The Shawshank Redemption. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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  • Definitely Shawshank Redemption... no course on crime in literature is complete without King's fantastically brilliant take on the justice system in America.  Wambaugh's The Onion Field was an early read for me.  It both chilled me to the bone and ignited a fire that burns to this day.  It's interesting the professor chose Red Harvest over The Big Sleep... I wonder why?  You screamed silently at Raskolnikov?  No matter how many times I read Crime and Punishment...I CANNOT keep quiet.  I don't do the silent screams... just ask Tina!  Lol! 

    You know what needs to go on this list?  Agatha Christie's Ordeal By Innocence.  Yep!  Definitely!