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Best Forensic Fiction Books Of All Times

Updated on December 29, 2013

Forensic Fiction - Recommended Reading List

I love CSI style books! If you're like me and enjoy reading books by Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell, then you will want to read more in this very popular genre. Here you will find some of the best forensic fiction books that the literature has to offer right now. I love this genre and I love forensic problem solvers who find clues to the identity of serial killers and criminals, and help bring them to justice.

I think my first foray into forensic fiction was through the books of Patricia Cornwell. She has a whole series featuring Kay Scarpetta, who uses recent forensic technology in her investigation. Ever since reading this series, I got hooked, so soon after I started hunting for other books in the same genre.

I found many written by some very popular and some quite obscure authors, so based on what I have read so far, I have added below the best of the best. Of course the list is biased, you might have other preferences, which I invite you to share with me and the rest of the readers in the Guestbook section at the bottom of this article.

I will keep updating this list with anything new that comes my way and is worth mentioning.

Image credits: Creative Commons

What Exactly Is Forensic Science In Fiction?

crime scene investigator
crime scene investigator

Crime Scene Investigation That Helps Catch Criminals

First I'd like to clarify what exactly is forensic fiction. It is a genre of books with a common theme involving the "art" of helping solve crimes using various scientific methods of investigating crime scenes. In these books usually there is a main character who is surrounded by and working with a team of forensic specialists.

For the most part novels with this major theme are rather graphic and explicit, and let's just say, not for the faint of heart. There are many gory descriptions of the crime scenes, of the mutilated bodies, blood spatters and whatnot. These books will strongly appeal to any mystery and thriller novels who are not squeamish and who don't have a problem with reading all the gory and creepy details unfolding within the book.

Forensic fiction has really become popular with the increase of TV series and shows like Dexter, Bones, CSI, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Silent Witness, and many others.

There are several subgenres within forensic investitation and knowing about each of these specialties helped me find even more great books to read related to this topic.

Here is a short list that I put together at some point regarding everything related to forensic science captured in various novels. There are books about

* forensic anthropologists

* forensic artists/photographers

* medical examiners/pathologists

* general CSI - crime scene investigators

* forensic entomologists

* various forensic technicians

* criminalists

and the list goes on

Image credits: Creative Commons

A Quick Look At The Real Forensic Science In A Nutshell

Postmortem
Postmortem

Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta Series

The Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell was my first introduction many years ago to forensic science and how it can actually help catch dangerous criminals and serial killers. The books simply hooked me on to this genre and never let me go.

If you've never read any of the Kay Scarpetta series, i highly recommend you start with the very first one called Postmortem.

Kay Scarpetta is a chief medical officer who is on the trail of a serial killer strangling people in Richmond, Virginia. Using the latest forensic research tools at her disposal she puts her case together bit by bit, trail by trail, until the killer is finally caught.

Beware, there are plenty of gory details that might be best NOT read when one is having lunch (yeah I like to read a book when I'm home alone and eating my lunch, but even I don't read these kinds of books during that time).

An awesome read, that will grip you and never let you go until the last page.

Bones Of The Lost
Bones Of The Lost

The Kathy Reichs Tempe Brennan Series

The Kathy Reichs books make another great forensic mystery series involving forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. In her books Kathy Reichs gives plenty of details about the forensic CSI and if you like reading about it, you will enjoy the series.

The series has been picked up as a TV show called Bones, and while the characters are pretty much the same, the story lines are very different. So if you have watched Bones and thinking of picking up the forensic fiction books, it will be like reading something entirely different, there is hardly any duplication or overlapping between the two.

There are currently 15 books in the series, with a 16th to come out later this year. I can't wait! You can check out and preorder the last book at Amazon right now.

Kathy Reichs Books In Order
If you want to try the Kathy Reichs books, here is my full page on every single book (including her Virals series) in order of publication. I strongly feel that these books should be read in order, so I have put them in the right chronological and publication order on the page.

Memorable Scenes From Bones - The TV Series

The Dexter Series

Now this series is one of my favorites ever - both as books and as the TV series with the same name involving the blood splatter expert Dexter Morgan, who incidentally is also a serial killer with a very strong moral code - he only kills those that deserve it.

I love, love, love this series, I can't get enough of it.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Darkly Dreaming Dexter

This is the very first of the Dexter series featuring Dexter Morgan, your neighbor serial killer who is not only cute, but funny as well.

Jeff Lindsay definitely rocked the boat on this one with a character that one should be repulsed and horrified with, and utterly feared. Yet we all love Dexter, despite his...hm...shortcoming.

 

Dexter Books In Order
If you want to give Dexter the books a try, I have put them here in the proper order of publication and reading. Start with the first one, else it will be a bit difficult to understand the plot and the character (and his Harry's Code) otherwise.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff is something else entirely. For real. It took me a while to come out of its spell once I finished reading it. It is not your usual CSI style of book.

With Sfiff we get a 'glimpse' into the world of our bodies once we are dead, plain and simple. And that with a humorous description, which is very odd for a book that should really really make us think twice about wanting to donate our bodies to the good of science.

It is creepy, but funny as well. It is weird and boy, so worth reading. If you enjoy forensic style novels and don't care about the phrase 'as creepy as it gets', you'll have a blast with this one. It's one of my most favorite books on the subject.

Note: this is not entirely fiction, it's not like a story of a forensic CSI who solves crimes. It is in fact considered non-fiction, but due to the nature of the book's style, it sure does read like fiction, so I had to include it here.

 

Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles Series

Here is another very popular series that I enjoyed reading by Tess Gerritsen. In fact I love all her books, even though not everything is forensic fiction.

The Rizzolli & Isles series has also become a TV show that is quite well liked all over the world. You might have watched it, but not known that it is based on a series of books. I've first read the novels and then started to watch the books, and honestly, I found myself enjoying both. I do like the books a bit more, though.

Here are some of my favorite books in this forensic fiction series, which at the moment includes 10 books.

Tess Gerritsen Books In Order
Here are all the Tess Gerritsen books reviewed and listed in the order of publication so it's easier to start with the Rizzoli & Isles series in the right order. It does matter in which order you read them to get the most of the entire forensic fiction series.

Check Out These Rather Funny Moments In The Rizzoli & Isles TV Series

The Body Farm Series by Jefferson Bass

Here is another quite addictive series (if I may refer so to a rather creepy subject). The books written by Jefferson Bass are a class of their own. The name Jefferson Bass comes from two people who have put their minds and knowledge together to create this awesome series: author Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass, renowned forensic anthropologist.

There are currently 7 books in The Body Farm series, and I can't say which book I liked best, I loved each and one of them, so I'll go with the very first one below.

Carved in Bone (Body Farm, Bk. 1)
Carved in Bone (Body Farm, Bk. 1)

Carved in Bone is the first Body Farm book published and the entire series features Dr. Bill Brockton, a forensic anthropologist who will be the lead character solving the murder cases.

To be honest the first time I heard of a 'body farm' was through these books, and I think they have made the notion of an existing place that studies decomposing bodies known to readers overall.

 
Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel
Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel

The second book in the series brings back Dr. Bill Brockton to yet another gruesome case. The premise: a man is found dead, decomposing and hanging from a tree. Creepy much?

 
Devil's Bones, The (Body Farm)
Devil's Bones, The (Body Farm)

The third book in the series is about 3 different cases that Dr. Brockton has to solve.

If you haven't read any of the books, i strongly suggest you read them from the first book onwards to really get the storyline in this third book as it goes back to something happened in one of the previous ones.

 
Bones of Betrayal: A Body Farm Novel
Bones of Betrayal: A Body Farm Novel

Book 4 brings back the forensic doctor to yet another mysterious case where a scientist involved in the Manhattan Project is found dead contaminated with deadly radiations. Another challenge for Dr. Brockton.

 

More Popular Forensic Fiction Novels And Series Worth Checking Out

While the books and series above are my most favorites ever, there are many other notable forensic fiction novels that are worth reading - you never know, they might end up being your favorites instead

The David Hunter Series By Simon Beckett

The Chemistry of Death
The Chemistry of Death

This is another great series worth reading if it's new to you. It features Dr. David Hunter, who has previous worked in forensics, but getting tired of it all and in lieu of a tragedy that cost him a lot, moves down to the quiet of rural Norfolk to practice as a simple doctor. Of course, things never turn out quite the way he envisioned them, and his old calling of a forensic scientist will prove to be a great help with his new challenges.

 

Forensic Mystery Series by Alane Ferguson

Here is a new series worth checking out called Forensic Mystery. It has currently 5 books and while not quite in league with some of the names I mentioned above, it is a great series worth checking out if you like the genre.

The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)
The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)

The Christopher Killer is the first in this interesting series involving a 17 year old girl Cameryn Mahoney who is interested in becoming a forensic pathologist and asks her dad to take her as his assistant at the county coroner's office. Sadly her first case is about no less than a dear friend of hers...

But just because she is only 17 it doesn't mean that she doesn't have nerves of steel, which she proves when she has to witness the autopsy of her friend first hand.

 

Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation By Beverly Connor

If you need some more food in the form of more forensic fiction for your brain, here is another great series worth checking out. It consists of 9 books which will keep you occupied for a little while. Diane Fallon is a forensic anthropologist (ex-Human Rights investigator) who takes a job of museum director in Georgia, trying to leave the past behind.

The series is very engaging, fast pacing and riveting. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I liked reading this series.

One Grave Too Many (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, No. 1)
One Grave Too Many (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, No. 1)

The story in the first book starts innocently enough with Diane being asked to examine a bone which could come from a missing person. And this, in fact, is the catalyst that pushes back Diane to do what she loves doing best, but also what she is afraid to get back into: forensic science.

 

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Do You Like The Forensic Fiction Genre?

Do You Like The Forensic Fiction Genre?

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Can You Recommend Any Other Forensic Fiction That I Can Add To My Wishlist?

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    • alexis84 profile image

      alexis84 3 years ago from Kent, UK

      I've read the first 3 Dexter books and absolutely loved them, so I'll be sure to check out some of the other authors you've recommended. Great lens!

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 3 years ago from Maryland, USA

      I love Cornwell. Haven't heard of some of the others. Have read a couple of Gerritsen. It's good to have more to add to my "to read" list!

    • profile image

      penny-richens 3 years ago

      While not my usual pick, your lens does make me want to check a few out. Anything that is not a mindless, over produced, romance novel is worth a try. Thanks for the tips.

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 3 years ago from CNY

      I love the Dexter series, with the exception of the last one. Thanx for writing this I'll have to check out these Body Farm books. They look interesting.

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 3 years ago

      I love forensic fiction and Dexter is my all time favorite! I really enjoyed your lens!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 3 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      There's a really fun author named Tim Downs who writes about a character I think you'd like called Dr. Nick Polchak, a forensic entomologist for the FBI (AKA "The Bug Man"). He does what Dr. Jack Hodgins does in Kathy Reichs' "Bones" series. Polchak has wit and Downs keeps the story moving.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      It isn't my genre but this is a terrifc lens. Congratulations on getting LotD and the Purple Heart!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Although I am not a great fan of murder mysteries or forensic fiction, I have read a few of these authors and found the science fascinating. Cornwell's non-fiction look at Jack the Ripper is particularly fascinating. Congratulations on being awarded Lens of the Day. Such an honor, and looking at all the work you put into this page, extremely well deserved.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I love to read Patricia Cornwell's books. I will have to check out some of the others, too. Congratulations on well deserved LOTD

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've always enjoyed all the TV shows you've talked about above. I'll have to check out some of the books you've mention. Congrats on your lens being chosen as LOTD!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      You have some of the same tastes I have; I love Patricia Cornwell and Tess Gerritson. You might also want to investigate J.D.Robb's books of this nature (the name is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts, who writes other types of books.) Congratulations on your LOTD, well deserved!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great topic! Love your list. I'll have to try some of these. Congratulations on a very well-deserved Lens of the Day!

    • kislanyk profile image
      Author

      Marika 4 years ago from Cyprus

      @BarbaraCasey: I have read both series, they are great :)

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 4 years ago

      You might want to try the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffery Deaver. The Eve Duncan forensic thrillers by Iris Johansen are pretty interesting, too. They're about a forensic sculptor.

    • tmadeira lm profile image

      tmadeira lm 4 years ago

      Thanks for the suggestions and reviews! I really enjoy a good mystery/thriller book that sweeps me away but I've never tried the Forensic Fiction genre.

    • profile image

      Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm 4 years ago

      Interesting selection. I prefer the tv versions of forensic mysteries, as reading them can be a bit boring, but some of these books may be worth trying. Thank you for the suggestions!

      Li Li

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Fun list. There are a couple I haven't tried too, so I will check them out. Thanks for sharing and congrats on LotD.

    • CSBSEWS profile image

      Carolyn Bennett 4 years ago from Longview, Washington

      One of the first forensic fiction authors was Aaron Elkins, featuring forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, aka "The Skeleton Detective". These books are a fun read,and the characters and stories are entertaining. These books paved the way for all the more detailed and graphic forensic fiction that followed.

    • NausetViews profile image

      Kristen 4 years ago from Boston

      This is one of my favorite genres. Fell in love with Patricia Cornwell books years ago and then branched out to some of the other authors you mentioned. I watch Bones, but I still haven't read one of Reich's books. It's on my to-do list. Great article!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 4 years ago

      I love the Patricia Cornwall, Kay Scarpetta series. So I will take a look at the other books you have recommended, once I allow myself to get back into reading fiction again (it's all technical non-fiction at the moment).

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't know any, but congrats on LOTD and I should hopefully start reading one of these cool sereis

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great lens. I didn't know Rizzolli and Isles was based on books, I guess I know what my christmas reading list will consist of :)

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I like the science behind it but find the details a bit more than my stomach can handle. I guess my imagination relates too much to the poor victims! Well done on a great lens and the LOTD though.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 4 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Not my sort of books but incredibly good page. Well done on LOTD!

    • Craftymarie profile image

      Marie 4 years ago

      It's a bit too creepy for me though my husband likes it. Congratulations on your LOTD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      please do not forget Dr Thorndyke

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      I I like reading any mystery including forensic novels. I enjoyed visiting here. Nice work, thank you for sharing.