Los Angeles crime fiction is often synonymous with noir fiction. The city most famous for the glamour of Hollywood has a dark underbelly, making it the perfect setting for crime fiction across the decades. From historical fiction to novels based on true crime, we’ve rounded up eight great works of crime fiction set in Los Angeles that you must read.
Mickey Haller, the so-called Lincoln Lawyer, is feeling great after winning a big case when he's pulled over and a body is found in the trunk of his car. It's clearly a set-up, but Haller finds himself behind bars in L.A. County Jail, representing himself in a defense that may be doomed from the start when he comes up against a vindictive judge. He'll have to call in his half-brother, Harry Bosch, to help clear his name. If you like The Law of Innocence, you'll love Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series.
Based on LA's most famous unsolved murder case, The Black Dahlia is about the murder of Elizabeth Short, who was tortured, killed, and mutilated before being dumped in a park. Her case went national, and this novel follows two police officers who are friends and rivals who become obsessed with solving the case, which takes them to dark places.
Related: A Brief History of The Black Dahlia
Los Angeles in the 1950s is a dark, violent time, where fears of communism grip the people and a serial killer runs unchecked. The Big Nowhere follows three different men—a sheriff's deputy, a DA's brass, and a bagman—who navigate the grit and glamour of Hollywood as they work towards their goals, which range from noble to twisted.
Raymond Chandler was one of the founders of the hardboiled detective genre, and The Big Sleep is his first novel, starring private detective Philip Marlowe. When a millionaire hires Marlowe to get to the bottom of the blackmail of his daughter, Marlow gets more than he bargained for in this sexy and dangerous novel.
In the first book in a series, Easy Rawlins is a Black war veteran living in LA in 1948. He's just been fired from his factory job when a strange man approaches him and asks his help finding a white woman known to frequent Black jazz clubs. The pay is good, Rawlins needs the money, but he has no idea that this case is about to change his world.
Blood Grove is the latest book in Walter Mosely's Easy Rawlins series and sees the titular character and private eye settling into his new office when a Vietnam vet comes to him with a troubling story. The man claims he and his girlfriend were attacked, and now his girlfriend and dog have disappeared. Rawlins would rather leave the mystery alone, but when he sees just how traumatized the vet is by the war, he decides to take on the case.
In Dorothy B. Hughes's last novel, she tells the story of Hugh Densmore, a Black doctor from LA who is driving to Phoenix for his niece's wedding. Along the way he picks up a hitchhiker, but when that girl is later found dead, he comes under intense suspicion. The Expendable Man is a novel full of paranoia that looks at the appearance of innocence and guilt and explores the nuance of power.
Isaiah Quintabe—an unlicensed detective for all seasons—and his best friend and masterful sidekick, Juanell Dodson, are at a crossroads in this latest installment of the "aggressively entertaining" IQ series (New York Times). This time, their lives may never be the same.
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