Love as a Motive in Crime Fiction


With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, it’s a fitting time to take a look at love as a motive in crime fiction. Anyone who has ever been in love knows even the best relationships come with those “I dream of stabbing you with a kitchen knife” moments, so it’s no wonder that crime fiction is filled with crime of passion. From jilted lovers to deadly obsessions to misguided attempts to win that special someone back, using love as a motive in crime fiction can give your novel the same thrill that love gives us in real life.

If you’re writing a mystery novel, using love as motivation can be as simple as a murder by a scorned lover – or as complicated as a kidnapping scheme by a desperate parent. In mysteries, the hero is usually an outside observer working to get to the heart of the truth – as a police officer, detective, or amateur sleuth. You can use love as the reason for the crime, you can use it throw him off the scent, or you can even make the love itself the mystery – with a secret admirer or a family secret revealed.

In thrillers, you’ll often find that obsessive love is an excellent motivate to help raise the stakes and create suspense. Current statistics say one in six Americans is stalked, and stalker stories can be tremendously scary as a hunter stalks its prey, as in Faye Kellerman’s Stalker. You can also tell the story of love turned controlling in scary thrillers like Nikki French’s chilling Killing Me Softly. Tapping in to that feeling of desperation over love can help your thriller ring true.

Of course, love as a motive in crime fiction is also apparent in classic crime noir. Think of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice with the femme fatale – and her effect on that tough-as-nails detective, PI or bounty hunters. Update the classic noir thriller with a modern day femme fatale – or feature a female detective who falls for her number one suspect. You can even pen a crime noir novel about a gruesome murder committed in the name of love. With all the passion love incites, it goes hand in hand with even the most gritty of crime fiction novels.,P.

As you write your suspense novel or mystery, don’t be afraid to use love as motivation for your story. Nothing else takes or so high or drops us so low as love – and that’s exactly the kind of drama that will keep the pages turning. Happy Valentine’s Day!