The protagonist of a mystery or a thriller is not always the detective or the police officer. It may be the victim (if they are still alive) or the relative of a deceased victim, trying to get justice for themselves or their family. Or it could be a journalist who is writing about a particular case.
In crime fiction, a journalist is often another form of detective, asking questions, going over mountains of clues and paperwork, asking even more questions, fending off feelings of frustration, and having people accuse them of being pests, parasites, or blood-hungry ghouls. The stresses of investigating the case may carry over into the journalist’s personal life, or the stresses of home life may carry over into the case. And a journalist’s ability to ask questions may well put them in danger from criminals who don’t like it when people ask too many questions.
In other mysteries, such as cozy mysteries, if the journalist is a supporting character, they often appear as nosy busybodies who get on the main character’s nerves, if not something more sinister.
A lot of novelists began as journalists before they turned their careers to writing fiction, such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. More recent journalists-turned-novelists include Joan Didion, Carl Hiassen, Michael Connelly, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman.
To name some recent fictional journalists, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo introduced Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist, who finds himself in legal trouble at the start of the book. The Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson introduced readers to Cindy Thomas, the San Francisco Chronicle journalist who starts out as a thorn in Detective Lindsay Boxer’s side but soon becomes a valuable ally and friend. Get the scoop on some of these journalists in mysteries and thrillers.
TV reporter Tiel McCoy is driving to New Mexico for a well-earned vacation when she hears the news on the radio: The teenage daughter of Forth Worth tycoon Russell Dendy has been kidnapped. Immediately, she ditches her holiday to chase down the story that could make her career.
But in a town called Rojo Flats, an innocuous stop at a convenience store thrusts her directly into the unfolding story—and a dangerous crime drama. For inside the shop two desperate young lovers are holding a half dozen frightened hostages . . . and a powder keg of a standoff is about to test Tiel’s courage, journalistic integrity, and everything she has ever believed.
A young woman is found strangled in a park, and a male journalist has been killed in the backyard of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.
Detective Louise Rick is put on the case of the young girl, but very soon becomes entangled in solving the other homicide too when it turns out her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind, knew the murdered man. Louise tries to keep her friend from getting too involved, but Camilla’s never been one to miss out on an interesting story. And this time, Camilla may have gone too far…
Tom Valle was once a star reporter for one of America’s greatest newspapers, the kind of publication any journalist would give his right arm to work for. But Tom was the journalist who cried wolf. He went through a very public firing for making up stories out of thin air. Now, two years later, he’s moved to a small California desert town and is reporting for the local paper. He covers community events and senior citizen’s birthdays; a charity case quietly doing his penance. Until the morning he goes to cover a fatal road accident on the highway outside of town and stumbles onto the one story that might redeem him—a conspiracy so unimaginable that no one will believe him.
In 1980s Glasgow, Patricia “Paddy” Meehan is dealing with the indignities of being a young woman working in a predominantly male newsroom. She wants to make a name for herself as a journalist, rather than simply being a “copy boy.” But when her chance to do so comes, it carries with it a heavy cost. An 11-year-old relative of Paddy’s fiance Sean has been accused of killing a toddler.
In the winter of 1963, 13-year-old Alison Carter vanished while walking her dog near her home in Scardale: a remote, close-knit English village that is distrustful of outsiders. Inspector George Bennett was assigned to investigate, but the case was never truly solved. Years later, Bennett agrees to speak to journalist Catherine Heathcote about the case for a book she is working on. But just as Catherine is about to send the book to a publisher, Bennett suddenly urges her not to publish. So Catherine decides to investigate the case further, and in doing so, unearths a lot of dark secrets.
Local legend has it that Idlewild Hall—a boarding school for “troubled” girls in Vermont - is haunted. In 2014, Fiona Sheridan gets permission to do an article on the school’s pending restoration and reopening, but her motive is more than that of a journalist working on a story; Fiona’s older sister was found dead near the school’s ruins several years before, and even though someone was arrested, Fiona believes that there is more to the story. Her investigations, and the school renovations, will turn up many secrets from long ago.
In 1926, Toby Keats is an American expatriate living in Paris, where he works as a journalist while trying to forget everything that happened during the Great War. It’s a quiet, agreeable enough life, but everything changes when he suddenly comes into possession of an odd mechanical duck dating back to the eighteenth century. Quite a few people - including high-profile bankers, military officials, and a doll collector named Elsie Short - want to get their hands on the duck as well. And it soon becomes clear that the duck’s design could play a key role in developing some terrifying new weapons of war.
In 1930s London, Rachel Savernake - the daughter of one of Britain’s harshest judges - is a most unusual amateur sleuth. She has just one-upped the police by solving a gruesome murder, and she’s out to solve another. Crime journalist Jacob Flint wonders if there might be more to Rachel’s supposed sleuthing abilities than meets the eye. But one of his predecessors at the Clarion newspaper believed likewise—and soon after met with a terrible accident. Jacob’s search for the truth will take him on a journey into a world filled with corruption, deceit, and even more violent deaths.
Buenos Aires journalist Veronica Rosenthal decides to investigate when she learns of the death of a train driver. The man’s death appears to be suicide, brought about by guilt over four people struck and killed by his train. Veronica wants to pursue the matter further even though the police have decided the matter is ended. Her search will take her into a world of crime, poverty, and corruption, in which young people are being bribed into playing a particularly dangerous game along the city’s train tracks.
Chicago journalist Camille Preaker is trying to start her life over. Having just spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, she returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to do a story about the murders of two young girls. This return brings her back into contact with her wealthy, domineering mother Adora and her younger half-sister Amma. As Camille works to investigate the murders, she finds herself dredging up a series of terrible secrets about her family, the murdered girls, and the town of Wind Gap.
A serial killer declares hunting season in an upstate New York university town. The killer wants to keep the young reporter, Alex Bernier, well-informed, both as a journalist and as a potential victim.
What to Read Next
Erin Roll is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. Her favorite genres to read are mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, and her TBR pile is likely to be visible on Google Maps. Before becoming an editor, Erin worked as a journalist and photographer, and she has won far too many awards from the New Jersey Press Association. Erin lives at the top floor of a haunted house in Montclair, NJ. She enjoys reading (of course), writing, hiking, kayaking, music, and video games.