1. Tom Ripley

Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley

No other character in fiction has creeped me out as much as Tom Ripley. Patricia Highsmith is the master of suspense in my book, and she created a character that still haunts me. Her secret is making you love Ripley before you realize what a monster he truly is. Because of that, you sympathize with his terrible actions and this makes him the scariest character around.

  1. Ridley Jones

Lisa Unger’s Beautiful Lies

I love Ridley Jones for many reasons, but mostly for her resilience. She is a journalist living in New York City so I was bound to like her based on that alone, but when I see how she handles her entire life unraveling underneath her, I can’t help but love her.

  1. Kay Scarpetta

Patricia Cornwell’s series

Kay Scarpetta is my paesana! As an Italian-American, I can tell you that it rocked my world to pick up a crime fiction book featuring an Italian-American character. She does autopsies and makes pasta Fagioli . My hero. Kay Scarpetta was a huge inspiration to me when I sat down to write my first book featuring Italian-American crime reporter Gabriella Giovanni. It was important that my character reflect her heritage. Kay Scarpetta proved that a woman could embrace her domestic side in the kitchen and still kill you if you crossed her.

  1. Kick Lannigan

Chelsea Cain’s series

Kick Lannigan kicks ass. She has survived possibly the most horrifying childhood imaginable and yet has managed to walk out of it with a purpose in life: to help other kids. Her toughness combined with her vulnerability makes her irresistible.

  1. Claire DeWitt

Sara Gran’s series

Claire DeWitt is a train wreck and a stellar detective. She walks on the edge of the dark side of life and has no regrets. As a detective, she somehow manages to pilfer drugs from the medicine cabinet of every house she visits. Although she doesn’t always follow the rules—which, let’s face it, makes her even more appealing to me—her heart is so big you can’t help but love her and want to hang out with her. If she were real, I would totally want to be her BFF.

  1. Hannibal Lecter

Thomas Harris’s series

This is a given. I don’t think there has ever been an antagonist in my mind as deliciously creepy as Lecter. I know I’m supposed to be terrified of him, but I find him totally appealing and want to hang out with him and pick his brain, much like Clarice did. His appeal is a masterstroke of brilliant writing.

  1. Smoky Barrett

Cody McFadyen’s series

Smoky Barrett manages to tackle some of the scariest crimes and criminals I’ve ever encountered in the crime fiction world. McFadyen’s dark books sometimes scare me and I’ve sat across from serial killers without flinching. Barrett is an FBI agent who was terribly damaged by a serial killer. I don’t know how she goes on in life after what she’s dealt with, but she does. She is a star.

  1. Tess Monaghan

Laura Lippman’s series

I came across Lippman’s awesome writing a few years back and have devoured her books. I love watching the evolution of her character and her writing over the years. Monaghan has matured into a mother and woman I could hang out with at the bar or café.

  1. Britt Montero

Edna Buchanan’s series

When I became a newspaper crime reporter in the 1990s, I gobbled up every single book Edna Buchanan wrote—fiction and nonfiction. Her series character, Miami-based newspaper crime reporter Britt Montero has been my inspiration for the past twenty years. She is the one who both terrified me and inspired me to attempt to write my own books featuring a newspaper crime reporter. I will always pay homage to Ms. Buchanan.

  1. Nick and Nora Charles

Dashiell Hammett’s series

They are a pair that could never be mentioned apart from one another. Nick and Nora epitomize San Francisco to this Northern California native. They set the bar for the kind of cool, classy crime character I am nostalgic for in every book I read. Just hearing their names makes me happy and evokes a sense of glamour wrapped in danger.

Kristi Belcamino is a writer, crime reporter, and Italian-American mama who makes a tasty biscotti. As a reporter, she flew in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and attended barbecues at the morgue. Her first book, Blessed Are the Dead, based on her dealings with a serial killer, was nominated for the 2015 Anthony and Macavity awards for best first novel. Find out more at

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