Short Stories About Crime

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

See also:

“Honor and . . .” by Sandra Brown and C. J. Box

Joe Pickett is scouting the Gros Ventre Range, filling in as game warden. He hears high snapping sounds in the distance. They were gunshots, and not all of the same caliber. It doesn’t sound like hunters. He weighs his options. Another sound settles it for him.

This story also features Lee Coburn.

It can be read in the preview of Matchup(15% into preview)

“Heavy Insurance” by Theodore Sturgeon

Phil is brought down a gloomy corridor to talk to an acquaintance, Al, through a grated window. Al explains what led him to this point. He was in debt and not earning much money when he saw an opportunity.

“Heavy Insurance” can be read in the Amazon preview of The Ultimate Egoist Volume 1: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. (32% into preview)

“If You Want Something Done Right . . .” by Sue Grafton

Lucy is picking up some medication for her husband, Burt, a successful divorce attorney. He needs to stock up while Lucy is away. They were going to go on vacation together for their twenty-fifth anniversary, but Burt pulled out from fear of catching something in India. He also has a history of infidelity. She reaches her breaking point when she hears some news from their estate attorney.

“If You Want Something Done Right. . . ” can be read in the Amazon preview of Deadly Anniversaries: A Collection of Stories From Crime Fiction’s Top Authors. (22% into preview)

“School Shooter” by Dr. Harper

A therapist has been treating a high school boy, Alex, for about a year. He was rejected by a girl and is very angry. Suddenly, he’s calmer because he claims to have figured things out. The therapist is concerned about what this means. He makes a questionable ethical decision to investigate.

Some of “School Shooter” can be read in the Amazon preview of “I’m a Therapist, and My Patient is Going to be the Next School Shooter.” (This book is fiction, and the author is not really a doctor.)

“The House on Turk Street” by Dashiell Hammett

The narrator is canvassing Turk street, looking for a man. He tells the householders a cover story of trying to locate a man who witnessed an accident. No one saw anything. He gets invited in to an elderly couple’s home. They give him tea, cookies and a cigar. They try to help him, but no one fits the description just right.

“The House of Turk Street” can be read in the preview of The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, and Selected Stories(Pg 3)

“The .50 Solution” by Lee Child

A rich man approaches an assassin about a job. He’s very particular about the type of weapon that has to be used.

This story can be read in the preview of Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology.

“The Malefactor” by Anton Chekhov

Denis Grigoriev is brought before a magistrate after being spotted by the watchman stealing nuts from the rails. Grigoriev is questioned about his crime, and he explains himself.

This story can be read in the preview of Stories of Anton Chekhov(65% into preview)

“Victory Lap” by George Saunders

Alison Pope, a teenager, daydreams about turning down potential suitors. She looks down on the boy next door, Kyle, whom she used to hang out with as a kid. There is a knock at Alison’s back door. Meanwhile, Kyle, who lives in a regimented household, comes home and finds the chore that’s been left for him. Eventually, he notices a van pull up outside.

This is the first story in the preview of Tenth of December: Stories.

“Maddened by Mystery: or The Defective Detective” by Stephen Leacock

The Great Detective is sitting in his office when a baffling case is presented to him. The Prince of Wurttemberg has been kidnapped. The Great Detective devotes the full power of his analytical brain to the case.

This story is a parody of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s the first story in the preview of Complete Nonsense Novels(13% into preview)

“How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles” by 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.

This story can be read in the preview of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories(66% into preview)

“Blue Book Value” by S. A. Cosby

Trey is out hunting on land owned by the aunt of his friend, Randy. He winged a huge buck and is following the trail. This kill could carry his family through the winter, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He has an encounter with the wounded animal, and also finds something unexpected.

This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Collectibles(70% into preview)

“The Paperhanger” by William Gay

The doctor’s wife is home with her four-year-old daughter, Zeneib, while workers are renovating the place. She has a hostile exchange with the paperhanger before leaving the room. She goes to her car in the driveway and calls Zeneib. There’s no answer.

This story is in the anthology The Best American Noir of the Century.

“A Retrieved Reformation” by 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

“The Green Leaves” by 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” by 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.

“The Parsley Garden” by William Saroyan

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

Read here

“A Television Drama” by 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 Hiding of Black Bill” by 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 “The Hiding of Black Bill”

“Clean Sweep Ignatius” by 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” by 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.

“A Lodging for the Night” by 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” by 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” by O. Henry

A policeman makes his rounds, checking that the shop 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” by 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 “Oil of Dog”

“The Killers” by 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” by 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.

“A Jubilee Present” by 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” by 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” by 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 “Thank You, Ma’m”

“The Substitute” by 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” by 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.

“The Hitch-Hikers” by 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.

“Barcelona” by 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” by 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” by 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.

“Daughter” by 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.

“Sorrow-Acre” by 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.

“To See the Invisible Man” by 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” by 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.

“Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet” by 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” 

“All the Years of Her Life” by Morley Callaghan

Alfred, an adult, is caught stealing from his place of work, a drugstore. His boss calls his mother in to talk before calling the police, but she persuades him not to take the matter further. Alfred is fired.

Read “All the Years of Her Life”

“Guy Walks Into a Bar” by Lee Child

Jack Reacher, a former military cop, is in a bar in New York. There is a young woman, blonde and rich, who is clearly taken with the band’s guitar player. While scoping out the room, Reacher sees two suspicious guys.

Read “Guy Walks Into a Bar” (New York Times)

“Trial by Combat” by Shirley Jackson

Emily Johnson, who lives in a boarding house, notices a few small items have gone missing from her room. One day she catches someone leaving her place. She plans to confront the tenant.

Read “Trial by Combat”

“Wild Mustard” by Marcia Muller

While having brunch, Sharon and Greg see an old Japanese woman picking something on a slope above the ruins of the Sutro Baths. They speculate about her and talk about the ruins. Sharon’s interest in the woman grows over a few months.

“The Last Kayfabe” by Ray Banks

The narrator, a former pro wrestler, is making a deal with Leon and Monty. He’s given the money to Leon, but Monty is a bit slow turning over the product.

Read “The Last Kayfabe”

“Cat’s Paw” by Bill Pronzini

The narrator is hired as an additional night watchman at a San Francisco zoo. Several valuable animals have been stolen recently. The grounds are seventy acres so it’s virtually impossible for the crew to monitor everything. At one point during the night, the narrator and one of the other guards hear a loud noise.

“The Honest Blackmailer” by Patricia Moyes

Harry, after working as a police officer and then a private investigator, became a blackmailer. He set up a profitable business and everything went well for years. When he lost some clients due to events outside his control, he wanted to make up the lost revenue. He chose a politician who had steadily paid for a long time, informing him that their arrangement would have to change.

“The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight

When the narrator pulls up to a car lot, the attendant recognizes him and shrinks away. The man gets a torch out of the adjacent shed and proceeds to melt parts of his car. He leaves, and coming across a tennis match, he orders the players away. They obey him quickly. He follows one of the players and confronts her. She does her best to ignore him.

“The Marked Man” by Ursula Curtiss

Walter’s face is scratched. A gas station attendant is unconscious on the floor. He needs a place to hide and he has an idea. He finds a phone booth, looks up a name, and calls an old acquaintance, Dex. Feeling obligated to help, Dex thinks he knows a suitable place for Walter to lie low.

“The Bookseller” by Roald Dahl

William Buggage owns a rare book shop where he’s assisted by Miss Tottle. She pays little attention to the shop and Buggage pays almost none. The real money is made in the back room. Today alone, three cheques have come in. They target people with titles and anyone else who has money.