Crimes of Passion - are crime thrillers killing off Christian romance?

Posted by Les Ellison  ·  Be the first to comment


Latest figures from public lending libraries show a marked change in British reading habits. Of the top ten most borrowed titles of 2010-11, not only is there a complete absence of fact based titles, the list is entirely dominated by writers of crime fiction and violent thrillers without a single romantic or classic novel. So what’s that all about?

The most borrowed book of 2010-11 is Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ while crime writers including James Patterson, Lee Childs and Ian Rankin took nearly all the other top 10 slots. A decade ago the list was a very different place. In 2000 the UK’s favourite author was Catherine Cookson with her brand of romantic/historical novels claiming five of the top six places. So why the shift from romance most tender to murder most foul, and what does this mean for Christian readers and writers?

In 2000 the world was a very different place. In that brief era of relative prosperity most of us were much more interested in our own lives. We tended to go for romances, sagas, adventures and stories that we could put ourselves into. We read books where things were good and got better – where we could be hero or heroine and share in the spoils of love, fame and riches.

Then came 9/11, the twin towers and 7/7. The banking collapse, unrest on a global scale, unprecedented environmental disaster and the world became a much more chaotic and dangerous place. So we turn to stories that reassure us – stories that start with outrage, hidden threat and extreme danger but promise to end with order and safety restored. In these uncertain times what we want is to know there's still a hero who's still in control. But now it can’t be you or me. It has to be someone outside of the events that he or she is called on to resolve. Someone who sees what’s really going on, knows all the answers and cannot be outwitted, outrun and is never outgunned.

With the exceptions of ‘The Shack’ and Ted Dekker’s ‘Obsessed', romantic fiction still takes the top 10 places in the ‘Christian’ bestseller list. (source: - 5 February 2012) Maybe Christians still feel more confident about the world than the general reading public, or maybe we're just more interested in ourselves than in the gathering gloom around us. But there is an increasing appetite for faith based crime and thriller fiction, and Christian writers are responding to the opportunity to reach a wider audience with the Christian story - and not just as another opening for Christian escapism.

The current trend could be Heaven sent for Christian readers as well as writers to engage with crime fiction readers. For starters, take a look at what ever crime thriller you’re reading at the moment. Try asking yourself: 'how does this work as a parable of God’s interaction with a broken and hurting world? Is the hero or heroine really offering a solution?' There’s no need to preach on it, one-to-one or through your book club, just keep the question in mind when you talk about it. But what makes the thrill of the Christian story different from any secular fiction is this: in our story, the hero doesn’t solve the crime from the outside in. He’s part of our story and we’re part of his. Sometimes even Christians miss that essential twist in the plot.

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Most of the important stuff that Jesus had to say he put into a story. These dasy we split stories into 'genre' but really they're all just things that never happened to people who never really existed and yet story and fable is proven and effective vehicle for carrying truth across generations.

  • How would classify the 'genre' of the stories Jesus told, are there any you would class as crime fiction and why?
  • How about posting a modern version of a parable in the style of crime thriller, and can you do it in no more words than Jesus used?

Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre or just brilliant at

23rd February

February 23rd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison

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