8 Likable Murderers in Fiction

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If you want to be a likable person, one easy thing you can do is not murder anyone. I would go as far as to argue that not murdering people is indispensable to being likable. But we’re not talking about real life here. In fiction, we can explore the darker aspects of being human without the inevitable real-world consequences. A character can do harm without a corporeal person being hurt. 

But even in fiction, we tend to like characters who share our values. As a rule, I root for the protagonist and rarely feel sympathy for the culprit. And yet, I occasionally find myself hoping that the killer gets away with it. It’s stranger still when this happens to me as a writer. In my novel, Imperfect Lives, two strangers are thrust into turmoil when a contract killer makes a deathbed confession. At heart, my novel is about murder, but I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if it’s about villains.

Deciding if the killer is a villain is half the fun of reading the novels on this list. If you read them with friends, don’t be surprised if you find yourself engaged in a killer debate. 

You by Caroline Kepnes

When Joe Goldberg falls in love, he commits his heart and soul. Unfortunately, the world sometimes gets in the way of true love. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on who you are), Joe will do whatever he must to rescue his romantic entanglement. When murder is necessary, he may not like it, but he’s up for the task. He’s a rare individual who will do anything for love.

Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer

When Paul Phillips happens across a man in the woods beating a dog, a confrontation ensues, and Paul finds himself in a situation he’d never imagined. A carpenter living with his girlfriend Kate, a recovering alcoholic turned self-help writer, and Kate’s nine-year-old daughter, Paul is a man with a conscience who wants to be good. Is he good? Now, he has a toxic secret that is slowly seeping into every facet of his life.

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari

Does the universe give us karma or is the onus on individuals to make it happen? Dark Things I Adore won’t answer that question, but it does give us Audra, a plucky and compelling heroine. When she invites Max, her art professor and mentor, to her home in rural Maine, an almost foreign land to Max, he has no idea that his past is stalking him. Filled with beautiful art and ugly deeds, dangerous twists and shocking violence, this novel offers many dark things, some of which you may even adore.

Infinite by Brian Freeman

Dylan Moran is not a murderer. Of course, if he was, that would explain the untimely death of his beloved wife. In fact, in a parallel universe, Dylan Moran is a murderer. There are many Dylan Moran’s in many universes, and the one who lost his wife wants his life back. Traversing universes is a dangerous game and a thrilling one in this mind-boggling sci-fi novel. 

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

What can go wrong when a research psychologist designs a study that enrolls seven psychopaths as students at the same college? Before you answer, you should probably know that Chloe, one of the psychopaths, is there to stalk and exact vengeance on an old friend. Everything goes wrong and college life turns deadly when one of the psychopaths is murdered. Can Chloe carry out her own murder plot while avoiding being murdered by a fellow psychopath?

The East End by Jason Allen

Technically, no one is murdered in this novel, but there is a horrific accident followed by a desperate coverup. Leo Sheffield, a powerful businessman, is a complicated individual even before the dead body he must hide from his family. Corey Halpern, a Long Island local who resents the rich and their summer homes, witnesses everything. A mediation on social class and the insidious danger of secrets, this novel mixes literary writing with page-turning suspense.

Hitman by Lawrence Block

John Keller is as ordinary as his first name. Except that he’s a killer for hire. His work typically involves travel, and things often don’t go as planned. Luckily, John is as skilled at extricating himself from tricky situations as he is at killing people as he is at blending in.

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice 

When a vampire kills a human to feed, is it murder? If not, is it murder when a vampire kills a human for sport? Lestat de Lioncourt, born a mortal in France in 1760, transfigured into a vampire in 1781, was thoroughly demonized by Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with the Vampire (the first book in the series and the proper place to start). In The Vampire Lestat (the second in the series), Lestat defends himself through the telling of his long and exciting history. A philosopher at heart, Lestat searches the world for other vampires, always seeking to discover the meaning of immortality.

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