Written by Naomi

Crime fiction is a popular genre, probably because it’s a pretty broad one. Spy thrillers, cozy crime, detective fiction and psychological thrillers all fall under its umbrella. That might be why it appeals to a variety of readers, and also why crime fiction is frequently adapted into movies or TV series. Classics like Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and anything written by Agatha Christie have been adapted many times over the years. If you prefer a more modern setting, many of Harlan Coben’s works have also been adapted for the screen.

Below you will find some newer or lesser-known crime fiction books that have been turned into movies or TV shows.

Happy reading—or watching!

The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood

Let’s start off with my favorite TV series of all time: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries based on the books by Kerry Greenwood. Set in 1920’s Melbourne, Australia, the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher returns home after working as a nurse in England during the First World War. She stumbles upon a murder, solves it using her wits and some seductive skills, and decides to establish herself as a lady detective. Along the way she picks up Dot, her housemaid and companion, Mr. Butler, her butler, Cec and Bert, communist taxi drivers, and Jane, a stowaway orphan who becomes Phryne’s ward. During her investigations, Phryne can rely on the medical expertise of her best friend dr. MacMillan, the judgment of her aunt Prudence (played by the wonderful Miriam Margolyes) and detective inspector Jack Robinson and constable Hugh Collins (most of the time her unwilling police resources). This is very much a character-driven show and the found-family aspect makes this a very comforting one.  It doesn’t hurt that there is a delicious will-they-or-won’t-they romantic subplot between Phryne and Jack. Nevertheless, the episodic mysteries are very compelling, emotional and sometimes even a little bit creepy.  Phryne’s sense of adventure, fashion, loyalty and bravery make me want to be her when I grow up. She is a thoroughly modern woman and a highly entertaining protagonist.

Mothers’ Instinct by Barbara Abel

Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain will star in the upcoming remake of the Belgian film adaptation of Barbara Abel’s 2012 novel, Mothers’ Instinct. This psychological thriller explores the limits of friendship and how far maternal love can go. Laetitia and Tiphaine, neighbors, become pregnant around the same time and their sons grow up to be friends. When Tiphaine’s son suddenly dies, strange things start to happen to Laetitia’s son.

The book is a bone-chilling, terrifying domestic thriller, and the movie promises to be just as horrifying. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot, because it is best to go in blind. That way you can get the most out of the book and really appreciate this unconventional take on a psychological thriller.

The Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton

On the other hand of the spectrum, we have a cozy mystery series about Agatha Raisin, a former public relations agent who solves crimes in a small English town. M.C. Beaton passed away in 2019, but the book series is being continued by another author. There are currently 34 books in this series, so there’s quite a lot to keep you entertained. Agatha is an independent, driven and successful private investigator and also very goofy. She often makes social faux-pas and is not always successful in love. Her snarkiness stands in contrast to the polite and conservative village she lives in, but she still manages to build a true community. The TV series captures this sense of humor and comedy, offering you a fun and light-hearted viewing experience.

Argylle by Elly Conway

A spy thriller surrounded by mystery? Two for the price of one! Elly Conway’s debut novel had been made into a major motion picture starring many well-known actors before the book was even released. Elly Conway (in the book) is the very successful author of the Argylle series, following the adventures of a James Bond-type covert agent. Turns out, the events she’s been writing about mirror real-life events (once again, in the book), and several spies are after her to discover what will happen next. Elly must draw on everything she’s learned during years of researching the spy world to stay alive.

In February, after months of mystery and intrigue, it was revealed that the book was actually written by crime authors Terry Hayes and Tammy Cohen (and not by Taylor Swift). The book Argylle is the story that movie author Elly has written. So, if you enjoy the movie and want to read about the spy Argylle, pick up this book.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe runs the titular No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. Even though she is a private investigator hired to investigate a variety of cases, the main focus of this book series is not the crimes themselves, but the humanity behind it all. It’s about the small things in life that make it worth living.

Set and filmed in Botswana, the TV series showcased the beauty of the country to a wider audience, as well as the love Precious has for it. Precious herself is a very intelligent, compassionate woman who stands up for herself and pursues justice at all costs. Unfortunately, the TV show was canceled after just one season, but there are currently 24 books in the series. There is even a spin-off about the adventures of a younger Precious, solving mysteries as an eight-year-old.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book, and subsequently the movie, made popular the subcategory of psychological thrillers starring unreliable narrators. Another hugely successful movie adaptation is that of Girl on the Train, written by Paula Hawkins. In Gone Girl, Nick’s wife Amy disappears on their five-year anniversary. Their seemingly idyllic marriage might not have been so perfect, but what happened to Amy? Gillian Flynn’s twisted thriller plays on gender stereotypes and expectations, questioning the reader’s assumptions. The book was immensely popular, in large part because it turned the conventions of the crime fiction genre on its head. The movie is an excellent and truthful adaptation.