Must-Read Noir Detective Books

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Must-Read Noir Detective Books

Whatever kind of books you love to read, you can find something that appeals to you in a good noir detective book.  Great stories with intriguing plots?  Noir.  Hilarious dark humor.  Noir.  Unforgettable characters?  Noir.  Exciting action.  Noir.  If you have never read a noir book, now's the time to start because some of the greatest books have fallen into this genre.  Below are some excellent examples of the noir genre and would be a great starting point for anyone trying the genre for the first time.  Happy Reading!

keper of lost causesThe Keeper of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen
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Carl Mørck used to be one of Denmark’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of cold cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead...yet.



postmanThe Postman Always Rings Twice - James Cain
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Frank Chambers, a drifter, is dropped from the back of a truck at a rundown rural diner. When he spots Cora, the owner's wife, he instantly decides to stay. The sexy young woman, married to Nick, a violent and thuggish boor, is equally attracted to the younger man and sees him as her way out of her hopeless, boring life. They begin a clandestine affair and plot to kill Nick, beginning their own journey toward destruction. Horace McCoy, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and the other notable noir writers never achieved Cain's spare brilliance. Virtually all of his major works have been filmed, though several Hollywood studios refused to make the films, directors refused to be involved, and actors turned down roles because of their repugnance at the lack of morality inherent in all Cain's characters. Reading him may not be fit for a Sunday school class, but once you begin you will be unable to resist continuing, like picking at a painful scab or watching a tarantula inside a glass dome.

big sleepThe Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
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Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood's two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out--and that's before he stumbles over the first corpse.




killing floorKilling Floor - Lee Child
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A discharged soldier is framed for a murder by the chief of police in a small town in Georgia where he has just arrived. When the soldier learns that the murdered man was his brother he breaks out of jail and carries out his own investigation.





black dahliaThe Black Dahlia - James Ellroy
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On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia-and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history.Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia-driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl's twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches-into a region of total madness.


a is for alibiA Is for Alibi - Sue Grafton
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A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes. That's why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she's out on parole and needs Kinsey's help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki's bad name won't be easy. If there's one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it's playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer--and sharper--than she imagined.

let it burnLet It Burn - Steve Hamilton
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Alex McKnight swore to serve and protect Detroit as a police officer, but a trip to Motown these days is a trip to a past he'd just as soon forget. The city will forever remind him of his partner's death and of the bullet still lodged in his own chest. Then he gets a call from his old sergeant. A young man Alex helped put away--in the one big case that marked the high point of his career--will be getting out of prison. When the sergeant invites Alex downstate to have a drink for old times' sake, it's an offer he would normally refuse. However, there's a certain female FBI agent he can't stop thinking about, so he gets in his truck and he goes back to Detroit. While there, he's reminded of something about that young man's case, a seemingly small piece of the puzzle that he never got to share. It's not something anyone wants to hear, but Alex can't let go of the feeling that they arrested the wrong man. And that the real killer not only got away, but went on to kill again.

jar cityJar City - Arnaldur Indridason
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When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavk flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.


girl with the dragon tattooThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
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It's about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . .and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder. It's about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance . . .and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age--and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it--who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism--and an unexpected connection between themselves.

dark roomThe Dark Room - Jonathan Moore
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Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is in the middle of an exhumation when his phone rings. San Francisco's mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain's cold-case investigation, must wait. At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he's received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations are on the way unless the mayor takes his own life first.

midnight sunMidnight Sun - Jo Nesbo
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He calls himself Ulf--as good a name as any, he thinks--and the only thing he's looking for is a place where he won't be found by Oslo's most notorious drug lord: the Fisherman. He was once the Fisherman's fixer, but after betraying him, Ulf is now the one his former boss needs fixed--which may not be a problem for a man whose criminal reach is boundless. When Ulf gets off the bus in Kåsund, on Norway's far northeastern border, he sees a "flat, monotonous, bleak landscape . . . the perfect hiding place. Hopefully." The locals--native Sami and followers of a particularly harsh Swedish version of Christianity--seem to accept Ulf's explanation that he's come to hunt, even if he has no gun and the season has yet to start. And a bereaved, taciturn woman and her curious, talkative young son supply him with food, the use of a cabin deep in the woods, a weapon--and companionship that stirs something in him he thought was long dead. But the agonizing wait for the inevitable moment when the Fisherman's henchmen will show--the midnight sun hanging in the sky like an unblinking, all-revealing eye--forces him to question if redemption is at all possible.

crow girlThe Crow Girl - Erik Axl Sund
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It begins in a Stockholm city park where the abused body of a young boy is discovered. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of an immigrant child. But with the discovery of the mutilated corpses of two more children, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Superintendent Kihlberg turns to therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in the psychopathology of those who kill, and the lives of the two women become quickly intertwined--professionally and personally. As they draw closer to each other and to the truth about the killings, what surfaces is the undeniable fact that these murders are only the most obvious evidence of an insidious evil woven deep into Swedish society.

girl with a clock for a heartThe Girl with a Clock for a Heart - Peter Swanson
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George Foss, a forty-year-old employee of a Boston literary magazine, has passed the age when he thinks he might fall madly in love or take the world by storm, or have anything truly remarkable happen to him. He spends most of his evenings at his local tavern talking about the Red Sox and the minutiae of everyday life, and obsessing over a lost love from his college days who vanished twenty years earlier. Until she reappears. George has both dreamed of and dreaded seeing Liana Decter again. She isn't just an ex-girlfriend or the first love George could never forget. She's also an enigma and quite possibly someone who was involved in a murder years ago, a woman whose transgressions are more in line with Greek tragedy than youthful indiscretion. But suddenly, she's back--and she needs his help. She says that some men are after her and that they believe she's stolen money from them. And now they will do whatever it takes to get it back. George knows Liana is trouble. But he can't say no--he never could--and soon his quiet life is gone as he is pulled into a terrifying whirlpool of lies, betrayal, and murder from which there is no sure escape.

killer inside meThe Killer Inside Me - Jim Thompson
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Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas.  The worst thing most people can say against him is that he's a little slow and a little boring.  But, then, most people don't know about the sickness --the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger.  The sickness that is about to surface again.



winters boneWinter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell
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When Ree Dollys father skips bail, the 16-year-old knows if he doesn't show up, her family will lose their home. Her goal had been to leave her life of poverty and join the Army, but first she must find her father, teach her little brothers to fend for themselves, and escape a downward spiral of misery.