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Crime Fiction Inspired by true crime.

FIVE OF MY FAVOURITES

Making sense of the senseless is at the heart of the crime writer’s job. The dark side of human nature frightens and fascinates us. What crime novels do is allow us to explore experiences and emotions we want to avoid in real life, but in a safe space. And realism is key.

Here are five of my favourite crime thrillers that draw brilliantly on real life events.

GIRL A by ABIGAIL DEAN

Abigail Dean drew from a number of infamous legal cases, including those of English child killers Rose and Fred West, and the California couple David and Louise Turpin, who in 2019 were convicted of sexually abusing 12 of their 13 children

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

by AGATHA CHRISTIE

So many mystery writers have taken the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby as inspiration, but Agatha Christie must surely have been the first. Just two years after the 20-month-old boy was taken from his parents, aviators Charles and Anne Lindbergh, Christie published Murder on the Orient Express, with a plot that revolves around a similar abduction.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

by LIONEL SHRIVER

The Columbine High School murders cast long shadows across this novel. But it’s not just Columbine that Shriver is writing about, and it’s not just violence. Her narrator picks apart the family, the one with the values just like yours or mine, and she is terrified by what she finds. 

THE GIRLS by EMMA CLINE

Emma Cline has said that The Girls is not about the Manson family, and that’s true in the same way that We Need to Talk About Kevin is not technically about Columbine. It’s a brilliantly clever denial; this thriller balances on a knife-edge, using what we know about the Manson family—a Californian death cult who murdered seven people over two nights, including the actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child—to make us fear for Evie, the book’s central character.

ROOM by EMMA DONOGHUE

This novel was inspired by the story of Elizabeth Fritzl, held as a sex slave by her father for 24 years and forced to bear his children, but the focus is really on what happens when a world collapses, and five-year-old Jack as his world does on the day he escapes.

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