Gritty Christian Crime Fiction Is Counter-Culture

Welcome Nike Chillemi!

Hey — isn’t crime fiction by it’s very nature supposed to be gritty? I think so!!! Listen, crime fiction starts right at the get-go, or should, with a murder and a less than pretty crime scene. Murder’s not nice. It’s hard to sanitize murder, and the question begs, should we? In today’s world many of our television shows, video games, and movies make us emotionally detached from violence. I think Christian crime fiction should never do this, but instead should increase reader awareness of the violation and indignity done to the victim and the pain of loss loved ones suffer. In a sense, gritty Christian crime fiction writers are engaging in a counter culture activity.

Not so much now as in the past, but I’ve read Christian suspense where the author didn’t even get to the murder until I’d gotten through a quarter of the book, or more. Page after page I was wondering, where’s the body? And then, when I got to the crime scene it was obvious the author hadn’t done enough research. The police procedure was waaaaaay off. More than a few Christian suspense novels of the past have had a non-law enforcement heroine traipsing around the crime scene and happening upon vital clues the cops somehow missed. Duh, like that would really happen!

A lot is changing now. I’m glad to see books out like PATTERN OF WOUNDS and BACK ON MURDER by J. Mark Bertrand, who knows his police procedure and internal cop politics. He also knows cop culture. THE KEVLAR HEART by former police officer Janice Cantore gives a glimpse into the wreckage left of lives and families when a child is kidnapped by a predator. We’re in a day when Christian mystery readers no longer have to turn to secular writers to get their crime fiction craving fed. They’re finding satisfying thrillers and detective stories right at home with a Christian world view. My Sanctuary Point series novels GOODBYE NOEL and BURNING HEARTS are historical romantic thrillers. I’ve done the research to accurately portray life on the south shore of Long Island, NY in the 1940s. The pace keeps going, but the romance is also there. I believe these two novels strive to bring something that matters to the table. They’re more than who dun its. There’s a fight between good and evil going on. There are few things more evil than to take another human being’s life. And yet we see our culture becoming numb to that and numb to other transgressions.

Gritty Christian crime fiction is not a cozy mystery with a sermonette added. In fact, crime fiction readers would just assume the author skip the preaching and get on with the chase. For crying out loud, there’s a killer to catch. So, what makes the story Christian? Recurring themes of redemption, forgiveness, restoration, and grace are a few clues that it just might be Christian fiction. Just because a story’s “clean as a whistle” doesn’t make it Christian to my mind.

Increasingly, the Christian crime fiction reader wants to find authenticity in plot, characterization, and scenario. They want to find detectives and beat cops who sound like they actually might be in law enforcement, not lost members of the bridge club in search of a novel to inhabit. The crime fiction reader won’t be turned off to Christianity if a Christian character stumbles, seriously so. It makes Christianity all the more attractive. God offers us a second chance to get it right.

I’ve heard it said that edgy Christian romance is not afraid to mention body parts. Well, that’s certainly the case in gritty Christian crime fiction, except that the body parts are likely to be strewn all over the crime scene. And talking about body parts, what about a good autopsy scene? Wow, I’m getting excited already! Increasingly we’re seeing good Christian crime fiction out there. If you want a rip roaring ride with no shortage of grit there’s Robert Liparulo [GERM and COMES A HORSEMAN]. On lady who’s not afraid to write grit is Sibella Giorello in her Raliegh Harmon series.

Thank Nike. I’d been wondering where those bodies are as well. And I have to agree with you about Sibella Giorello–good stuff!

Find out more about Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista here.

Purchase Goodbye Noel on Amazon.(Desert Breeze) ~ Winter themed (1946/47) —murder, mayhem, an orphaned infant, kidnap and romance. Can Katrina Lenart and Det. Ian Daltry catch a kller before he strikes again?

Purchase Burning Hearts on Amazon (Desert Breeze) ~ Historical Romantic Thriller —arson/murder and romance. Can Erica Brogna and Lorne Kincaid catch a wanton killer and thwart those who are trying to frame Lorne for the crime?

11 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Hi Marcy, Those of us who love crime fiction want it done right.

      There's a lot of room for the author to write in their voice. Some will write a straight murder mysery, others will use a lot of humor with quirky characters, others will hit the romance hard and that's OK as long as the police procedure doesn't suffer.

  1. Nike you said it all perfectly! “In a sense, gritty Christian crime fiction writers are engaging in a counter culture activity.” Yes! Yes! Yes!
    I can't wait to read Goodbye Noel!!

  2. I've always loved the law and therefore crime scene investigation, forensics and the like tend to draw me into their storyline pretty easy. But I get irritated when an otherwise novice makes the police look like bumbling idiots. Yes, I'm sure there are some guys on the force that shouldn't be there. But I don't want to read about them! Give someone smart and quirky — someone I can respect in the process of the entertainment!

    1. I guess we all have to be a beginner sometime. I hope my novels grow and develop as I do. That said, there are all types of ways for a non-law professional to get the information to write crime fiction. There are all kinds of seminars on law, forensics, and police procedure for writers. I took an online course in Historic Forensics given by Dr. Doug Lyle. He's quite the forensics expert. I learned a lot and changed the coroner in this series to a medical examiner with creds up the wazoo. I'd assumed in the 1940s there were coroners and found out many jurisdictions including the one I was writing about (Nassau County, Long Island, NY) had highly educated and quite reknown MEs.

      I just did a critique of a manuscript where the police looked like fools and a bunch of amateurs were going to solve the case. After the first chapter, I refused to read any further.

  3. Recently I've come to pick up crime novels but dumped a few because they were full of sensationalism and/or their law enforcement procedures were totally inaccurate.
    I've been in law enforcement for 28 years and I'd rather read about crime solving and the impact of crime scenes on law enforcement personnel and impact on victim's families,than details of gore and gruesomeness.

    1. Not sure what you mean by sensationalism, but I've come across tons of crime novels where the police procedure was totally off, a lot of them by Christian authors.

      I write historical romantic thrillers. The theme that ties all my novels in this series together is that LOVE will triumph. Love can't be destroyed. It is more powerful than the destroyer.

      My stories deal in the impact of the crime on the victim, of course. My detective, Ian Daltry sees himself as championing the murder victim, seeking justice. But my stories also deal with the impact of the crime on loved ones, family and friends. In GOODBYE NOEL the murder leaves a newborn infant an orphan.

      As GOODBYE NOEL is a romantic thriller, Ian and Katrina, the pediatric nurse who is caring for the orphaned infant, are exploring a relationship neither expected. It's not a formulaic romance.

      There will be four novels in this series and each one will explore, in different ways, how crime has impacted the lives of ordinary citizens.

    1. Sherry, Thanks for your comment. IMO, there's a range as it's fiction. But if the author's going to sanitize the crime of murder, or kidnap, or rape, or child sexual abuse… better to select another genre to write in.

      Still, most authors approximate the crime scene. When a law enforcement professional reads the most gory and brutal novel, he/she might conclude that it was not quite as bad as the real thing.

      What I write is historical romantic thrillers. My series is set in 1947 and there was no miranda and sentencing was different. It was a gentler time in some ways and in others just as raw and brutal as life is now.

      Still there is a range. There is a place for the cozy mystery. I've come a cross a few that are absolutely delightful as a bunch of silver haired women go up against a hardened murderer and bring him down.

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