Protagonists of all kinds abound in the mystery suspense genre. There are suspense books with rule-following detectives and mystery books with morally questionable heroes who will do anything to solve a crime. One of the pleasures of suspense writing is this diversity of protagonists. Whether you’re in the mood for gritty PIs, quirky amateur sleuths, or world-weary detectives, suspense novels have got you covered. And if it’s anti-heroes you’re craving, you’ll want to check out these five novels, all featuring main characters who blur the lines between good and evil.
by Harlan Coben
Windsor Horne Lockwood III, Win to his friends, is just the kind of reckless, creative antihero who might be able to solve two connected cases that have been plaguing the FBI for decades. Twenty years ago, Win's cousin Patricia was kidnapped during a robbery of her family's estate. She escaped, but the stolen items were never recovered. Years later, the missing relics turn up near the body of a murdered recluse. The FBI has all but given up, but Win has a few things they don't: a deep personal connection to the case, and his own particular brand of justice, one unhampered by rules and procedures.
Beloved PI Leonid McGill—smart, quick, and morally flexible—once again takes center stage in Trouble is What I Do. Phillip "Catfish" Worry is an elder Mississippi blues singer who asks a simple favor from Leonid: deliver a letter revealing the Black heritage of a wealthy heiress. Always happy to shock the rich elite, Leonid agrees easily. But when an infamous assassin threatens Catfish, a simple task becomes turns into a dangerous race against time, forcing Leonid to call on all his skills to protect his family, and his client, from a vengeful man.
James M. Cain
First published in 1935, Double Indemnity is a classic crime novel that's as haunting and gripping today as it was almost ninety years ago. It follows Walter Huff, an insurance agent whose life begins to spiral out of control after he helps a married woman murder her husband. Cain's enduring tale of guilt, obsessive love, and the devastating consequences of a cycle of crime on a seemingly ordinary man is a gritty and suspenseful gem of noir crime.
In That Darkness, forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner comes face to face with evil and is forced to confront everything she's ever believed about justice and morality. Maggie has seen her share of Jane Does, but what shocks her most about the latest one, a teenage girl, is that no one has reported her missing. As Maggie attempts to track down the girl's killer, another man is following his own set of clues. Jack Renner is a killer determined to make the world a safer place. When their two paths intersect, all of Maggie's assumptions come loose. This is a twisty page-turner that will keep your brain engaged and your heart pumping.
Anders Roslund; Borge Hellstrom
Sometimes an anti-hero juggles many personas. That's the case in Three Minutes, which finds Swedish criminal mastermind and undercover agent in a tight place. On the run from the Stockholm police, Piet goes into hiding with his young family in Colombia. But his new hideout allows him to take on two new dangerous jobs: one as an enforcer for a drug cartel, another as an FBI informant. Soon he's caught up in US and Colombian politics, putting his life in danger. His only hope is to rescue a high-level US official. But to do that, he'll need some help from home, in the form of the person he least wants to see again: his old nemesis.
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