Short Stories About Crime

These stories feature criminals or contain a crime as an important part of the plot.

See also Murder

A Retrieved Reformation | O. Henry

A safe cracker who’s going straight is faced with a dilemma which could expose his culpability for several unsolved crimes.

Read here

Wish You Were Here | Frank Jones

A woman buys an unusual garden gnome, but it disappears soon after and she starts getting postcards that are signed from the gnome.

The Green Leaves | Grace Ogot

African villagers look for a group of cattle thieves. One of the villagers tries to steal from one of the dead thieves.

Read “The Green Leaves”

The Sentimentalists | Morley Callaghan

Two young men in a department store notice three young women being watched by the store detective. They bet on which one is really the thief.

Read here

The Parsley Garden | William Saroyan

A boy, Al, is humiliated after being caught shoplifting. He’s determined to regain his self-respect.

Read here

A Television Drama | Jane Rule

Carolee is at home when she hears police sirens. She looks out the window at the commotion: neighbors, police on their radios and later, a bleeding young man.

The Crooked Man | Arthur Conan Doyle

Colonel James Barkley is found dead in his home, and his wife, Nancy, is the prime suspect. Holmes is called to investigate.

Read here

The Hiding of Black Bill | O. Henry

A traveler is hired to herd sheep on a ranch. He and the owner talk about a robber, Black Bill, who’s being tracked in the area.

Read here

An anthology of short pulp crime fiction

Product Details

Clean Sweep Ignatius | Jeffrey Archer

The new Nigerian Financial Minister, Ignatius, sets his sights on eliminating all corruption. He does so well that the President gives him the special task of uncovering all Nigerians who are keeping their bribe money in Swiss accounts.

Read here (Page 9)

The Hitch-Hiker | Roald Dahl

A man picks up a hitch-hiker and asks him about his work, but the hitch-hiker only reveals that he’s in a skilled trade. After talking about how fast the car can go, the driver accelerates, only to be pulled over by the police. He is very worried, but the hitch-hiker isn’t.

Read here

A Lodging for the Night | Robert Louis Stevenson

On a cold snowy night, a group of thieves are gathered in a small house, writing and gambling. Things suddenly take a violent turn.

Read here

The Judge’s Wife | Isabel Allende

Nicolas Vidal is the leader of a band of desperadoes and a wanted man.  Judge Hidalgo sets a trap for Nicolas that has unexpected consequences, bringing their rivalry to a head.

After Twenty Years | O. Henry

A policeman makes his rounds, checking that business doors are secured for the night, when he sees a man waiting in an entrance way. The man explains that he and a friend made arrangements twenty years ago to meet there that night.

Read here

Oil of Dog | Ambrose Bierce

The narrator tells the story of his parents. His father manufactured dog oil and his mother disposed of unwanted babies. The narrator would assist his father by procuring neighborhood dogs and his mother by carrying away the remains of her work. One day, he inadvertently improves his parents’ business.

Read here

All the Sherlock Holmes you need

The Killers | Ernest Hemingway

Two hit men, Max and Al, enter a diner to get some food and to wait for their target to arrive. They’re looking for a boxer, Ole Andreson, whom their employer has a grudge against.

Read here

Impulse | Conrad Aiken

Michael Lowes is a husband and father, but he shirks his duties, spending time out with his friends, moving around, and not keeping jobs for long. During a night of card playing, he and his acquaintances talk about human impulses. Michael remembers an incident from childhood when he stole something.

Read “Impulse”

A Jubilee Present | E. W. Hornung

A thief, A. J. Raffles, wants to steal a priceless gold cup from the British Museum. He discusses his plan with his accomplice of melting the cup into a nugget so it can be exchanged for cash.

Read “A Jubilee Present”

A Problem | Anton Chekhov

The Uskov family has a serious matter to discuss, so they send their servants away for the evening. Sasha Uskov has forged a promissory note and is now in debt. His uncles have gathered to debate the merits of their options: paying the debt to avoid scandal or letting Sasha go to trial and face the consequences of his crime.

Read “A Problem”

Thank You, Ma’m | Langston Hughes

Mrs. Luella Jones, a large woman with a large purse, is walking home late at night in Harlem. A boy rushes up behind her and tries to grab her purse, but the strap breaks and he falls down. Mrs. Jones grabs the boy and brings him to her apartment.

Read here

The Substitute | Francois Coppee

Jean Leturc has been in trouble with the law since he was ten. After many years he finds legitimate work and tries to go straight.

Read here

Gold-Mounted Guns | F. R. Buckley

Pecos Tommy is an outlaw known for his gold-mounted guns. When a young man decides to start a life of crime, he finds Tommy and asks if he can ride with him. He even has an easy job lined up to get their partnership started.

Read here

Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction, The

The Hitch-Hikers | Eudora Welty

Tom Harris, a traveling salesman, is driving to Memphis when he picks up two hitch-hikers. Tom stops off at a hotel to find somewhere for his passengers to sleep. While inside, there’s a commotion with his car.

“The Hitch-Hikers”

Barcelona | Alice Adams

An American couple in Barcelona is out on the street when a man snatches the wife’s purse. Her husband pursues the thief.

Mandela Was Late | Peter Mehlman

A parole officer waits for an ex-con, Mandela, to show up for their meeting. He has a pessimistic view of the former criminals he deals with.

Read “Mandela Was Late”

The Donagh; or The Horse Stealers | William Carleton

The Meehan brothers, and their wives and children, move into the small village of Carnmore. The elder brother, Antony, is cruel looking and fierce. The people are superstitious and believe the Meehans have a deal with the devil. They are mysterious and only associate with a few undesirables.

Read “The Donagh; or The Horse Stealers”

Daughter | Erskine Caldwell

The Sheriff locks up Jim in the town jail. Lots of people come by to get the details, asking him if it was an accident. He says his daughter was hungry, and she had been a lot lately.

Read “Daughter”

The Bruce-Partington Plans | Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes is bored with the caliber of crime in London when he receives a telegram informing him of an urgent visit from his brother Mycroft. A young man was found dead on the train tracks. He had on him the plans for a top secret government submarine; the most important pages were missing.

Read “The Bruce-Partington Plans”

Sorrow-Acre | Isak Dinesen

Adam returns to his family home in Denmark as he is now the heir. A barn belonging to his uncle was burned down, and the main suspect is a young man, Goske. His uncle offers the man’s mother a deal: if she can complete a near-impossible job he will free her son.

The Blue Cross | G. K. Chesterton

Valentin, head of the Paris police and famous investigator, is in London on the trail of criminal mastermind Flambeau. While having breakfast at a restaurant, Valentin gets his first lead when he learns that two clergyman had stopped in earlier and one of them had made a mess before leaving. Valentin is open to oddities so he follows up on this unusual incident.

This story is the first appearance of the famous Father Brown.

Read “The Blue Cross”

The Red-Headed League | Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is visited by Mr. Jabez Wilson, a man with striking red hair. Wilson had responded to an ad in the paper from the Red-Headed League. He was hired to copy from the encyclopedia for four hours a day. One day he showed up for work but the League was gone without explanation.

Read “The Red-Headed League”

How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles | Lord Dunsany

Mr. Nuth is known as the best burglar in his area. One day he is visited by Mrs. Tonker and her son, Tommy. She wants Nuth to take Tommy as his apprentice. After she produces some evidence of Tommy’s talent, Nuth accepts him.

Read “How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles”

To See the Invisible Man | Robert Silverberg

A man is found guilty of the crime of coldness and sentenced to a year of “invisibility.” He receives a mark on his forehead that identifies him as someone to be ignored.

Read “To See the Invisible Man”

The Stub-Book | Pedro A. Alarcon

“Uncle” Buscabeatas has cultivated a crop of huge pumpkins. He knows each of his forty pumpkins by look and name. He is sad when the day comes to cut them and bring them to market. When he wakes up that morning he is furious with what he sees.

Read “The Stub-Book”

Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet | O. Henry

Jeff Peters relates a scheme he was involved in while posing as a medicine man. After being shut down by the constable, he meets Andy, a man with a similar trade. They want to go in on something together. Jeff gets an emergency summons from the mayor; he is sick and the local doctor is out of town.

Read “Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet”

The Dead Witness, or, the Bush Waterhole | Mary Fortune

A detective is riding thru the Australian bush and plains. A young photographer who had been staying in a public-house has been missing for a few days. A contact informs the detective that some cattle have uncovered a large blood stain in a field. They make an appointment to investigate the scene.

Read “The Dead Witness”

See also: The Malefactor (Communication), The Garden of Forking Paths (Philosophical)