Penguin's Top 5 Cult Crime Books

Here's some classic cult crime fiction from Penguin, recommended by crime editor Stefanie Bierwerth.

Sherlock Holmes

A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine

Barbara Vine at her mesmerising, menacing best.

In the long hot summer of 1976, 19 year-old Adam inherits a crumbling Georgian mansion in Suffolk. He fills it with a random selection of friends who drift through their days without purpose, stealing heirlooms to fund their makeshift commune. But a sense of foreboding begins to overshadow their existence and tension starts to crack through their domestic idyll. When the body of a woman and child are uncovered ten years later, Adam and his friends must confront some terrible truths about the tragedies that occurred during that sinister summer.

Find out more about A Fatal Inversion.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The godfather of all detectives and an absolute classic crime must-read.

Ah, Philip Marlowe. The archetypal hardboiled gumshoe - world weary, hard drinking, and wise to the ways of dames. His first case is in Chandler's classic crime novel from 1939, The Big Sleep which gets him entangled with the complicated Sternwood sisters. Immortalised by the brooding Humphrey Bogart, the film is great, but rest assured the book is even better. Where else would you get lines like:

The General spoke again, slowly, using his strength as carefully as an out-of-work show-girl uses her last good pair of stockings.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

A hugely powerful and impressive debut that will stay with you for years.

Reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley, Donna Tartt's The Secret History instantly becomes one of the all-time favourite books of everyone who reads it. When narrator Richard joins the imposing and elitist Bennington College, he goes to great lengths to be accepted by a tight-knit group of classics students and become part of their privileged social circle. But Richard soon learns to his cost that such privilege comes at a high price, when certain members believe themselves to be above the law.

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The Lighthouse by P D James

A marvellous bestseller featuring one of the best-loved crime characters of all time.

Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers rest and seclusion for over-stressed professionals who have paid the price of getting to the top. But then one of these distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered and Adam Dalgliesh and his team are called in immediately: their investigation must be swift, discreet and decisive. However, Dalgliesh has his work cut out, since both residents and visitors to Combe Island guard their privacy well. The Lighthouse exquisitely combines all those wonderful P D James trademarks that we know and love her for.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson - the detective pairing who started a whole new genre.

Could the sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville have been caused by the gigantic ghostly hound that is said to have haunted his family for generations? Arch-rationalist Sherlock Holmes characteristically dismisses the theory as nonsense. And, immersed in another case, he sends Watson to Devon to protect the Baskerville heir and observe the suspects at close hand ... Rationalism is pitted against the supernatural, good against evil, as Holmes seeks to defeat a foe almost his equal. One of the greatest crime novels ever written and a true piece of cult fiction.

Find out more about The Hound of the Baskervilles.