Crime pays: it is the one genre that you can rely on to get decent sales. For most aspiring writers it is the first stop on the road to get published.
It's popular. But it is also serious. There's nothing funny about serial killers, crimes of passion or revenge murders. As a result, crime writers tend to get feted in a way romance writers don't - and while often this is unfair, you can see the reason why. Crime is a serious business.
It is also ubiquitous. There might not be mansion house mysteries every second week a la Agatha Christie, but murders do happen at a relatively frequent rate. Our news broadcasts are full of them.
The typical murder tends to be horribly banal: a drunken argument in which someone grabs a knife. We get a lot of that in Scotland.
But others are something else. You have the domestics: fathers taking revenge on their wives in the most horrific fashion. You have the criminal: gangland hits. And you have the premeditated crimes of passion.
Anyone who thinks the extraordinary only happens between the covers of a Henning Mankell novel should reflect on the Raoul Moat case - the inquest into which is currently underway. Moat was a broken hearted body builder armed to the teeth on a rampage round sleepy Northumberland. Definitely one from the you couldn't make it up category.
I'm not a crime geek by any means - there are some embarrassing gaps in my knowledge of the genre - but here's my top ten favourite crime books of the moment. I've numbered them one to ten, but they are not in any particular order. And yes, perhaps I've been a bit loose with the genre definition.
Changed the rules as far as crime fiction is concerned. Brought supermarket lists to the heart of the narrative. A lot of frozen pizza.
A glorious Gothic narrative set in the Victorian underworld.
3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Christie excelled herself with this one: the narrative broke all the rules of the day and still reads in a startling modern way.
I came across this after a recommendation. Brilliantly clever, historical detective work.
Seriously dark, exciting and well written.
I might have picked one of several other Christies too, but this one has it all: the location, the plotting, the characters...
If you've not read it, buy it right away. Brilliant, pacy, intelligent thriller which was turned into a movie, in France oddly enough, that was just as good.
Slightly marred by the fact that I can't help think of Sean Connery as Brother William of Baskerville, but a brilliant piece of medieaval monkish detective work just the same.
Gripping book from one of the masters.
Ellroy at his best: fantastic depiction of an America steeped in corruption.