10 Reasons Why You Should Read a Criminal Novel


Organized Crime, crime families and the inner workings of the criminal world are fascinating to readers. Readers are sucked in by the danger, the level of unpredictability, the thrill, the mysteriousness and power of the criminals, the possible innocence of the victims, the psychological aspects of being a criminal and possibly the biggest draw to readers (and eventually viewers of the series) are the fringe benefits that come along with living in organized crime.

It would seem ideal that a criminal is caught and punished. One would think that a reader would rejoice when a murderous mafioso is apprehended and must answer for the crimes committed.  But what happens when you find yourself rooting for the other side?  When it comes to our fascination and loyalty to organized crime and it’s charming criminals, the reader doesn’t often rejoice when the hand of justice strikes our beloved crime families.

The obsession to get a birds-eye view into the world of organized crime is undeniable.  The Godfather, Scarface, The Sopranos were all set in different times, and different crimes.  However, these stories and their criminals have resonated deeply with people around the world,

Is there anything these stories can teach us? Or are they merely great entertainment?

10 Reasons to Read an Organized Crime Series


1. Get Swept Away

Unlike your run of the mill crime novels, stories built inside a family of organized crime pluck at your heart strings.


Some crime writers draw the reader in making them fall in love with the characters, settings, and situations before dumping the extreme criminality of the family on the reader. Other writers dump all the illegal, immoral and unacceptable acts of the criminals on the page and then, cleverly, bring the reader to the endearing characters and circumstances leading to the crimes committed, as in The GODFATHER. 

In either situation, the writer keeps the thrill alive on every page.  Once hooked, the reader is on-board, witnessing, and in some cases living/reliving personal life consequences and making judgments based on their own life experiences.

2. Liberation

Once in the thick of it, the criminal characters in the novel begin to come alive.  You think you understand what drives them.  You search for the good in these characters and find a way to rationalize the dangerous and bad in them. We begin to love criminals because they allow a strange form of our own self-expression to unfold.

There is a certain liberation in living vicariously through the criminal characters in our story.  Whereas most people will naturally hide our unattractive or seemingly unacceptable thoughts and actions, our criminals sling it out there, providing a twisted form of release for the reader.

3. Justification of Self

Psychologists explain readers obsession with crime novels as the justification of their negative self— a side which no one likes to accept or even take a closer look at.

By reading a crime story, the reader may feel excited and passionate with the criminal’s mindset and behavior.  There is liberation in being a witness and accomplice to the way these casual criminals operate. But when the beloved character commits a heinous act, the reader has the freedom to sit on the sidelines, smugly thinking: “…at least I am not that bad”.

Or are we? We cheer the criminal on and pray the law doesn’t come close to them until finally our hero kills the family of a snitch to drive home the consequence of betrayal.  Leaving the stool pigeon alone and grieving his dead family.  Only then do we step back away from the crime, unable to own the fact that perhaps we, too, would strike if we were part of a world where loyalty is expected and punishment to the victim is applauded.

4. Justice is served

The criminal gets punishment, and justice is served. It stands to reason if someone gets justice it helps in rebuilding trust in our bribery driven, corrupt judiciary system. The story should end, and everyone should give a standing ovation.

Why is that not the case in an organized crime series?

Did anyone want to see that loose cannon, Sonny Corleone, get slaughtered at the toll booth in the Godfather? No. We didn’t. We sympathized with his mother’s loss of her murderous oldest son. How about when Al Pacino got riddled by machine guns in the final scene of SCARFACE?  Again, no.  That was a devastating end of the story.

Instead, our beloved characters in crime stories do horrendous things to victims and ironically that’s when readers feel that Justice has been served. How many times have readers seen gangsters burying snitches alive, while they begged for their life, and felt that the crime family was safer as a result?  Many.

5. Victim or Conspirator

Criminal novels pull you in and saddle you up on the side of the crime family. We sympathize with the bad guys and want to hang out with them.  They make us feel stronger, like no one can hurt us.

Organized crime has an allure that pulls the reader right into the code and the family. Readers are no longer victims, they are conspirators.

6. Real Emotions

Readers shed real tears while reading scenes where our beloved criminals face pain and suffering.

Think of the respected Godfather getting shot down in front of the fruit stand and dropping all his oranges. He was a ruthless criminal. But he had the readers loyalty and love.  Readers sympathize with criminals and want to help them at any cost.

Organized crime novels are truly a credit to a writer who can pull emotions out of their reader that do not align with reality.  Writers take readers to a place where there is passionately no sympathy for the victim and the sole focus is to see the criminal avoid justice, at all costs.

7. Education

In a criminal novel or series, the writer exposes an evil side of society. The message is clear.  Anyone can be a criminal, a next-door neighbor, your neighborhood baker or the guys who makes your coffee every day.

Learn from the writer how to observe behaviors in people to understand who they are and how they operate.  Learn how to overcome situations by engaging on the same level as an organized, professional criminal

Getting the insights of a criminal’s mind and the inner working of a criminal family business is a higher form of education, one that wields power.

8. Adrenaline

A roller coaster is exciting. We know it’s dangerous, we know we’ll scream or even cry, yet we never miss it. Adrenaline is a drug that we are all addicted to.

Pure adrenaline is what readers feel when biting into an organized crime novel. The exciting jolt of this drug is the best reward for diving into the stories that spin out of organized crime families.

9. Thrill is Therapeutic

With every crime novel you are unlocking a world full of thrill and mysteries. Every criminal novel is deeply psychological and explores human nature at its core.  When something within the storyline resonates with real experiences and these issues are faced courageously, it’s therapy for the reader.

10. Keep the Story Alive

Criminal novels and stories show how unpredictable our loyalty can be.  Readers attach themselves to criminals and their crimes to be a part of something powerful and exciting. 

The reader never sympathizes with the victims.  The mere thought of feeling bad for someone who “had it comin’ to ‘em” is unfathomable (not to mention unacceptable).

Once a reader has been granted access to the inner workings of an organized crime family, good or bad, that’s exactly where the reader wants to stay – for as long as the writer can keep the criminals and their stories alive! 


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