Crime Horror

What is the Crime Horror Subgenre?

The crime horror subgenre, also sometimes known as the thriller subgenre, is more suspenseful than scary. A mashup of mystery, suspense, and action, crime horror differs from crime fiction and the mystery genre in that the aim of the subgenre is to create mounting suspense and unease, whereas in mystery the focus is on the process of solving the mystery. In these stories, the criminal is the monster to be feared and is often still at large. The criminal may even be a charming protagonist in the story, and the horror is that the reader finds themselves agreeing with the criminal and even justifying their actions or rooting for them. Crime stories in the mystery genre have more character and plot development than their crime horror counterparts, but will have less action and violence. Similarly, crime horror tends to be less realistic than its mysterious cousins and may even contain supernatural elements.

Though its settings are more gritty and urban like dark mystery or noir, crime horror tends to have more in common with serial killer or slasher horror than the mystery genre. The action, suspense, and violence of these genres is more similar to that of crime horror. However, unlike serial killer or slasher horror, this subgenre prevents more of a mystery than a gorefest. Crime horror is the subgenre that walks the fine line between mystery and horror, with few scares but plenty of suspense.


Crime Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization in crime horror is low as the focus of this subgenre is on action and violence.

Level of Plot: Expect plots in crime horror to be moderate, as there will be an element of mystery involved.

Level of Supernatural: The level of supernatural in crime horror is low to moderate. Elements of supernatural may be present in crime horror, but on the whole, this subgenre is generally more realistic.

Level of Scary: Scares will be low to moderate in crime horror as the focus is less on terrifying and more on creating an increased and sustained tension throughout the story.

Level of Violence: The level of violence will be moderate to high in crime horror, as it is a key element of the subgenre.


Typical Setting: Similar to dark mystery, the typical setting of crime horror is urban and gritty. This is less because of some connection to the inner psyche of the protagonist, and more to enhance the suspense and action of the story.

Related Horror Subgenres

Similar subgenres to crime horror include serial killer horror, slasher horror, and dark mystery, also known as noir. Since noir is a related subgenre, one could also draw a parallel to noir horror. Extreme horror, with its penchant for violence, can also be related to crime horror, though crime horror is less about gore than it is suspense. The closest related subgenre would be dark suspense.

Don't Read Crime Horror If You Dislike…

If you prefer spooky or supernatural horror, crime horror is not for you. If you do not like realism in your horror, crime horror may not be the best horror genre for you. Also, don't read this subgenre if you dislike violence or suspense.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris- Clarice Starling is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter, an erudite and cannibalistic serial killer, in what she believes is a profile on serial
killers. In reality, she has been sent to enlist his help in tracking down another murderer. Lecter trades clues about the killer for details about Starling's own disturbing past.


Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay- This series opener was the inspiration for the popular TV show about everyone's favorite serial killer.By day, Dexter Morgan is a forensics blood splatter analyst for the Miami-Dade police department. By night Dexter is a serial killer who targets monsters like himself who escape justice, but when his sister asks for his help in investigating the serial murder of prostitutes, Dexter's double life becomes dangerously muddled.


Every Dead Thing by John Connolly- When his wife and child are brutally murdered, Charlie Parker leaves the NYPD to become a private investigator.  The first book in this series has Parker on the trail of two serial killers, and the case may lead him into a confrontation more dark and dangerous than he can ever imagine.


Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry- Three criminals enter the town of Pine Deep in the month before Halloween, but Pine Deep has faced much darker evils, and that evil could be rising up again and drawing those with inner demons inexorably toward the town in the first book of this trilogy.


Storm Front by Jim Butcher- Professional wizard, Harry Dresden, is hired to search for an amateur magician who has been acting strangely, but at the same time, he is the main suspect of a grisly magical murder case. Can these investigations be linked?


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- When Mikael Blomkvist and his research assistant, expert hacker, Lisbeth Salander, look into the disappearance of a wealthy young woman, they stumble onto the trail of a serial killer.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind- A perfumer with no scent of his own and an uncanny ability to detect the scents of others and of objects lives a hard, lonely life until he discovers what he believes to be the ambrosia of scents, the scent of a young girl. Obsessed with capturing that scent, the perfumer begins to murder young girls.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote- This is the  true crime account of Clutter family. Before the killers were even apprehended, Capote interviewed residents and investigators about the crime. In the process of writing the book, he also interviewed the killers when they were caught. Many consider In Cold Blood to be one of the first of the true crime genre.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie- When ten strangers arrive at an isolated island, each believes that they have been invited, or hired to be there, for a different reason. However, while awaiting their host, the guests soon realize that whoever invited them believes that each has committed a murder and evaded justice. One by one, each is made to atone  for their crime.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn- An example of domestic noir, this mystery unfolds the dysfunctional marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and all signs point to Nick, could he have murdered his wife to end their rocky relationship?

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