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Like every genre, crime novel titles go through phases, usually spurred by a blockbuster title. Publishing is a business, after all, and since no one knows, or will ever actually know, the exact formula that made a specific book a blockbuster, it’s kind of a throw-it-all at the wall for next round and hope something sticks. *Looks at Gone Girl and all the “girls” that followed and continue to follow.*
Just the quickest of glances at my lists of titles over the last few years, and I immediately saw some patterns. 2021 may have been the year of “good” with titles like Gone For Good, A Good Day For Chardonnay, and The Good Girls. The last couple of years have had more “queen” in crime than I’d have expected — I guess I naturally associate it with history and even fantasy — with titles like Queen of the Tiles, The Bandit Queens, and The Black Queen. I was not surprised to see “lie” a lot in titles of a genre focused on criminals, but it was fun to realize all its meanings used: The Best Lies, Lies With Man, What Lies in the Woods.
Which brings me to a fun new theme I’ve noticed in titles being extra revenge-y and murdery. And by that, I mean that all these titles make me think of things like this crab that will cut you and the sound in the Psycho shower scene. Because instead of these titles referencing the (fictional) victims or alluding to a crime, as most titles in the genre do, these are just straight up in your face with a threat/confession.
How to Kill Men and Get Away with It by Katy Brent
Unlike the above, which could totally just be an innocent person disposing of the body they had nothing to do with killing, this one is pretty clear. Instruction manual, fun!
I’m Not Done with You Yet by Jesse Q. Sutanto
I mean, that’s just a straight-up threat, so like, run ’cause she’s coming for you! Even if you try to come up with a plausible way for “I’m not done with you yet” to not sound menacing in some way, the two faces in profile on opposite sides of the text make it clear there is some threat involved.
How I’ll Kill You by Ren DeStefano
Another straight-up threat, this time of murder, directed at “you”! With the promise of an explanation, it sounds even more sinister. Anyhoo, really hope those ladies have an airtight alibi or exceptional lawyer cause they’re just out here incriminating themselves.
Your Lonely Nights Are Over by Adam Sass
Could anyone confuse this as a nice “You were lonely until you met me” title? This ain’t romance, those teens are covered in blood, that’s horror movie lettering, and you won’t be lonely cause you’ll be dead. Pure threat! Sound the fictional serial killer alarm!
There’s No Way I’d Die First by Lisa Springer
I love that this one is a little sneaky since you have to realize the word “first” means they will be sure someone else is at least dying (murder, it’s always murder in crime novels) before them. “There’s no way I’d die” is a statement, but “There’s no way I’d die first” that’s a threat to whoever is about to be first. I’ll just stand over here out of the way, thank you very much.
Goodbye Earl by Leesa Cross-Smith
This title could only get away with maybe playing innocent with someone who has never heard of The Chicks, and I don’t want to live in that world. Plus, those are the most menacing-looking cherries ever, and “revenge” is in blood red. No thanks, on a slice of pie.
Someone Had To Do It by Amber and Danielle Brown
This one may not be as aggressive as some of the other titles, but there’s no getting around that “someone had to do it” never refers to something like “eating the bowl of delicious ice cream.” Clearly, someone did something near a breaking point that no one else was willing to do, and in a crime novel, that’s never good…
Speaking of book titles, could you recognize a book by its title after being translated multiple times in Google Translate: Can You Decode These Book Titles Scrambled by Google Translate?