A crime novel usually has a plot that revolves around a crime and its investigation. The main characters of the novel are the ones who investigate and attempt to solve the mystery. Such books are also referred to as ‘whodunnit’ stories or crime stories.
Most of them are written from the point of view of the person investigating the crime. Almost all the crime story writers use the same investigator throughout the book series. The book The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe is considered the first modern crime novel.
The detective characters ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and his companion, ‘Dr. Watson’ was popularized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Another famous character is ‘Hercule Poirot’ from Agatha Christie’s novels. There are five essential features that can be found in most of good crime novels:
1. The detective
Every storyline of a good crime novel will have a detective who is usually the protagonist of the story. Placing a private investigator in a crime novel isn’t always easy. The writer needs to develop a character that the readers will follow during the entire novel.
Many authors, therefore, spend some time thinking about their protagonist’s personality. They also think about their background, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their motivations. This is mainly due to the fact that they want their protagonist to be unique among the other investigators.
2. The crime
Without a crime, there’ll be no crime novel. Most of the crime novels have a crime as a central part of the story. The book can also have a string of related crimes. The crime that has been committed becomes the catalyst of the novel. It is, therefore, important for it to be interesting and mysterious.
The seemingly unsolvable mystery would certainly keep the readers guessing until the end. A very common crime in such novels is murder, but there can be other crimes like robberies and kidnappings.
3. The suspects
Many of the crime novels have several suspects who might’ve committed the crime. These suspects may have a history of lying or have weak alibis. Whoever they are, such characters form a vital part of the novel. This is primarily due to the fact that they divert the reader’s attention away from the culprit.
Some novels in the genre don’t have any suspects. This is deliberately done by certain crime writers to heighten the tension in the book. Often, having no suspects can make it difficult for the writer to keep the case from going cold. So, they find some creative ways to avoid the problem.
4. The antagonist
Every good crime novel would always have an antagonist. He or she is an individual who has evil intentions or selfish motives. Generally, the antagonist is the true culprit behind the crime that has been committed. In some cases, the antagonist doesn’t have to be the one who has committed the crime.
He or she can be a police officer who doesn’t want someone to be a part of the investigation. The antagonist can also be someone who knows the identity of the culprit and tries to cover it up.