Types of Crime Thrillers by Writer Rachel Emms

Enjoy another guest post, this time by the lovely Rachel Emms.  Rachel discusses the different types of crime thrillers.


My name is Rachel Emms, I am an aspiring crime and thriller writer, book blogger and currently studying an MA in crime novel writing. I am delighted to be one of Ari’s guest bloggers and wanted to chat to you today about the crime genre in general and the many sub-genres connected to this genre.

Many people think crime novels are dark, depressing novels only designed to shock its readers – this is one of many interpretations.

Crime novels are there to; entertain, to change our perceptions about the society we live in, to show the struggle between good versus bad, to shock us, to surprise us, and for the characters to do and react to things that may never happen to us in real life.

In short, it is like any other fiction book except it contains a few more dead bodies.

So what are the different types of crime thriller novels? This is a low down on what I think are the main types of crime thriller novels.

Action Thrillers

This is usually a novel where the action propels the plot and has very high stakes. You usually find the main protagonist in a life or death situation for most of the novel and can contain guns, explosions and knives with many of the characters trying to get the same thing or achieve a similar goal.

Some good examples of authors are; Lee Child, Terry Hayes, John Grisham and Tom Clancy.

Psychological Thrillers

This type of novel usually contains a secret which propels the reader to find out what the characters are hiding, or to see the protagonist discover a secret which will change them.

The majority of the story takes place in the characters’ mind and the story is driven by the characters relationships with one another.

Some examples of authors are; Gillian Flynn, Alex Marwood, C.L Taylor and Paula Daly.

Police Procedurals

The main protagonist is a detective who is deeply troubled and is faced with a tough case they have to crack. It can contain a high body count, have a twisted killer and lots of police action.

The main investigation propels the story and can have the detectives’ personal life getting in the way of the case.

There are many successful examples of authors who write this type of novel including; Peter James, Ian Rankin, Sarah Hilary, Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah.

Historical Crime

This is usually set in the past where there is no established police force or legal system with the protagonist trying to solve a mystery.

It can contain murder, bribery, wrongful imprisonment, kings and queens and really uses the setting and description to really bring a certain period to life.

Some good examples of authors are; Sarah Walters, Antonia Hodgson, Imogen Robertson, S J Parris and C.J Sansom.

Cosy Crime

This can contain an amateur sleuth who is trying to solve a case. It is less gory than what a police procedural can be, has a low body count compared to a police procedural and is usually set in a traditional English village.

Some very successful authors are; James Runcie and Agatha Christie. Midsomer Murders TV series is also a prime example of this.

Spy thrillers

This type of novel has a cross-over with action thrillers but with the added thrill of espionage, spies undercover and can contain less violence than you would see in an action thriller.

Some examples are; John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth and Ian Fleming.

Nordic Noir

This is a genre which is set commonly in the Scandinavia region which has dark undertones.

The characters are deeply flawed and are far from heroic. The writing style is very direct, stripped-down of any metaphorical language and can contain the police investigating multiple crimes.

Great examples of authors include; Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Ragnar Jonasson and Stieg Larsson.


There is, of course, lots of other crime novels which have other elements to it which I haven’t mentioned for example, gothic and the supernatural, legal, medical, comic and urban fantasy.

The best thing about the crime genre is that there is no one set rule.

Each story is different and can use a fusion of different sub-genres to bring about a superb, entertaining read and really captures the imagination of the reader.

If you are interested to find out about more about crime fiction and the different sub-genres I would recommend reading anything by Barry Forshaw.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and thanks to Ari for inviting me! If you would like to get in touch you can via the following:

Twitter   |   Website

~ ☆ ~ ☆ ~ ☆ ~

More awesomeness from my guest bloggers. Big thanks to Rachel Emms for giving us the details on Crime Thriller types. Love it! Do please make sure you pop over to her blog and twitter etc.

I will be back on my useful day (Friday) and the usual time (18:30 BST) to blog about who-knows-what…well I guess I suppose I should!

As always if you have a suggestion for a tutorial you want to see either leave me a comment, tweet me at @Arimeghlen or fill in my Suggest a Tutorial form.  If you like what you read here then follow this blog.

Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen

Photos supplied by Rachel Emms

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