Love, Romance, and…Murder?

It is a truth universally (well, maybe generally) acknowledged that romance in a good crime novel must be relegated to a subplot. If solving the mystery is primary, we’re told, the book is a crime novel. If the outcome of the romance is primary, the book is a romance. Makes sense. But what if the romance is the mystery? What if the romantic relationship between two people creates or solves the crime?

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d mention five crime novels where the heart of the plot (pun intended) is romance.

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Love it or hate it, it is the twisted relationship between Nick and Amy that drives the plot from beginning to end.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Okay, so the book is usually considered romantic suspense. But the death of Maxim de Winter’s beautiful first wife Rebecca and the unfolding of the truth behind her death is the heart of the book.

  • The Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A murder at a picturesque inn on the Suffolk coast became the basis for a popular crime novel. The inn’s handyman was convicted, but was he guilty? Of course not. Keep your eye on the relationships.

  • Belladonna by Adalyn Grace (YA)

In the nineteenth century, a woman who can’t seem to die falls in love with her lifelong protector—death himself—as they work together to solve a murder. Wow.

  • A Dream of Death by Connie Berry

My first mystery novel centers around two romances and two murder investigations—one in the present and the other in the distant past. The solving of both lies in their connection.

Here’s my question: do you like romance in mystery? Mystery in romance?

Whatever your answer, I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. That’s a great topic! I think love is at the heart of many murder/crime/mystery novels. What else can drive people to kill? Romance turned dark…

    1. Someone once said there are only three motives for murder: revenge, power, and love. Not sure that’s true. Or maybe those three categories can be broken up into hundreds of permutations.

  2. I like the crime books I read to focus on that, the crime. But I do think romance can play a role if it is, as your introduction said, relegated to a subplot and supports the solving of the crime.

  3. Great examples, and my beloved Rebecca is here!
    I like an undercurrent of romance as it softens the characters and makes them more human~

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