A Family Affair: Crime Novels About Family

Henry Holt & Co.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker is an extraordinary novel about two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create. With unforgettable characters and a mystery at its heart, We Begin at the End follows one man's return to his small hometown after 30 years in prison and the trouble that follows. B.A. Paris raves it's “Incredible with characters so brilliantly drawn they jump off the page.”

Family drama has a special flavour: after all, I bet we’ve all had beef with a family member at some point, and although I pretend I’m not interested in knowing about other people’s lives when my mum calls to fill me in on the weekly family musings, a part of me is all into hearing all about those juicy stories.

Family crime in real life, though, seems a bit excessive and should be avoided at all costs, so when you feel like throwing a vase at that uncle who continues to claim racism is just an opinion and you have to respect it, maybe consider picking one of these crime novels about family instead (as a weapon or as a way to distract yourself from the BS, that’s your choice).

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Nora O’Malley is the daughter of a con artist, and she feels compelled to escape from under her mother’s protection when her mother falls for the person she should be conning. Nora, her ex-boyfriend Wes, and her new girlfriend Iris go to the bank together to deposit money from a fundraiser, at the same moment the bank is being robbed. In a turn of events, Nora has to put normalcy aside and use some of her skills to protect those she loves the most.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

How far is a family willing to go to protect the ones they love? In this novel by Herman Koch, two 15-year-old boys are connected by a terrible act that has led to a police investigation. The boys’ parents meet up for dinner, which starts off with normal, superficial conversation, until the mood changes, and you are shown the real face of each set of parents, and what they’re willing to do to protect their own offspring.

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

In 1920 India, Calcutta’s police force is investigating the murder of a Maharaja’s son, heir to the throne. Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee are the ones in charge of the case, but they soon discover that the people they are trying to catch are not to be messed with.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

At the age of 9, Mary allegedly killed a baby while she helped her mum babysit. Six years after the incident, Mary starts remembering details of the fateful evening, and with her own baby on the way, she wants to make sure she gets a chance of a future for her child, and for her life with the baby’s father, Ted. The only person who can help Mary to get to the bottom of this mystery is the person she distrusts the most, and the only other person present at the night of the death: her own mother.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Heroin has made its way into the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota. It turns into a personal issue for Virgil Wounded Horse, the local enforcer, when the heroin reaches the grasp of his own nephew. Virgil and his ex-girlfriend go to Denver, to find out that drug cartels are growing at alarming rates. Back at the reservation, putting pieces together, Virgil starts to realise just how necessary – but also how costly – it can be to reclaim his own native identity.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

If you like dark humour, you’ll enjoy this novel about sisters Korede and Ayoola. So far, Ayoola has taken care of (as in, killed) three boyfriends, claiming self-defense, and Korede has helped Ayoola clean the mess each time. But when Ayoola starts dating the doctor at the practice where Korede works as a nurse, she needs to act before her sister puts a knife through the man she herself is in love with.

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

This is another novel that touches the subject of how far parents are willing to go to protect their kids. Stella Sandell is 18 years old, and she is accused of murdering a man much older than her. Stella’s father, a pastor, refuses to believe anything but his daughter’s innocence, and her mother, a defense attorney, trusts no one. Stella thinks no one understands how far she is willing to go to get what she wants, but sometimes people pretend not to see what they don’t want to, especially when that means keeping those they love safe.

The Dead Girls by Jorge Ibargüengoitia

In the 1960s, Delfina and María de Jesús are two sisters who run a brothel called Las Poquianchis in Central Mexico. Their workers are kidnapped into the brothel, drugged and beaten. Ibargüengoitia tells about the discovery of the buried bodies of these young workers, and while the theme is as heavy as it can be, it is delivered in an almost sadistically funny way.

Quiet in Her Bones book cover

Quiet In Her Bones by Nalini Singh

It’s been ten years since Aarav lost his mum, socialite Nina Rai. Aarav can’t remember much of the night his mother disappeared, but he is no longer a child, and he is willing to go to the bottom of the mystery to find out who killed her.

The Banks by Roxane Gay

Enjoy an extra title because The Banks isn’t just a novel – it is a graphic novel, but it is also too good to be left out of this collection. This is the story of three generations, a family of Black women who love doing heists, and decide to get together for a last one. It includes thievery, drama, and revenge, with Latinx and queer representation, too.


Looking for more crime and more family stories? Here are a few posts you may enjoy!

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5 Books About Complicated Families By BIPOC Authors

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