t’s a late weeknight evening, far past my self assigned bedtime, and I am curled up on the sofa, cup of tea in hand, with my fellow crime solving enthusiast housemates. Suddenly, episode nine of Netflix’s latest crime drama freezes and we’re hit with a disapproving: ‘Are you still watching?’ pop up.
Of course we’re still watching – we’re just about to find out whether the brother’s sister’s girlfriend’s dad was actually the killer or whether it was all a set up by the mum’s uncle’s cousin.
Shamefully, the crime drama binge watching is not a one off for me, but I’m assured that I am not alone in this. In fact, most of the top watched series on Netflix are either true-crime dramas, epic stitch-ups or captivating thrillers with the likes of Inventing Anna, Squid Game and Money Heist making it into the top ten most popular shows.
Be it a true crime podcast, a gritty TV police drama or a sat-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-holding-your-breath film, our fascination and intrigue into the world of crime is undeniable; and it all started with the humble book.
A genre that’s age old, crime books have continuously kept us captivated right up to the last page where we discover who the killer was and their motive – usually a complete shock despite our best efforts to guess along the way.
Such a large genre naturally has its subsections. For example there’s noir fiction – crime with a dark theme or subject matter that heavily involves violence – or cosy mysteries, the antithesis to noir that features an amateur sleuth working in an often small and intimate community.
Whatever type of thrilling crime reads you enjoy, we’ve got your next book sorted in our roundup of the best crime novels with everything from contemporary bestsellers to classics that can be read over and over.
Thursday Murder Club Series 2 Books Collection Set
In a nutshell: cosy crime novel set in a retirement village following OAP amateur detectives
Pointless presenter Richard Osman won over crime novel fanatics and newbies alike with his 2020 debut novel: The Thursday Murder Club. The book follows four retirement home friends who find themselves in the middle of a murder case which they are intent on solving.
As if one murder case wasn’t enough for this brilliantly unorthodox gang, they return again in Osman’s second book – The Man Who Died Twice. Both books are perfect cosy crime novels that are equally witty, suspenseful and fiendishly clever.
In a nutshell: work alongside two law students to uncover the truth as information comes in
Ever watched or read a crime drama and thought to yourself that you would make a great detective? Well now’s your chance to prove it with Janice Hallet’s cleverly created masterpiece: The Appeal.
Working alongside two law students, Charlotte and Femi, its your job to review evidence, presented in text, email and letter format, in order to solve the murder case that’s taken the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood by shock. With 15 potential suspects, all with means and motive, will you be able to figure out whodunnit?
The Jigsaw Man
In a nutshell: a policeman and criminal join forces in this game of cat and mouse
If you’re bored of run-of-the-mill crime books that follow a flawed police detective as they catch an elusive serial killer, then try out Nadine Matheson’s crime thriller debut book, The Jigsaw Man.
As a collection of body parts are discovered on the banks of the river Thames, it’s troubled DI Anjelica Henley that is placed in charge of solving the crime. She soon realises that without the help of convicted killer, Peter Oliver (AKA The Jigsaw Man), it may not be possible to catch this copycat killer; so begins a tale of an unlikely team working against the clock.
The Family Upstairs
In a nutshell: a story of twist and turns in a house harboured with secrets that will kill
From bestselling author whose book The Night She Disappeared made it into our top thriller reads comes another gripping and twisted tale of a family brought together under unusual circumstances, each with their own set of secrets and lies.
This clever family noir, set in upmarket Chelsea, jumps between time periods and characters in order to present a chilling story of how three dead bodies came to be found on the kitchen floor and who has been tending to the well-fed and cared for baby lying awake upstairs.
Cain’s Jawbone: A Novel Problem
In a nutshell: a fiendishly tricky puzzle where you have to match the victim to the murderer
If you’ve been anywhere on social media in the last year, chances are you will have seen people talking about Cain’s Jawbone – one of the most difficult puzzles of all time which notoriously only three people have been able to solve since its publication in 1934.
In Torquemada’s murder mystery novel all 100 pages have been jumbled up, meaning that the reader – through their powers of deduction and logic – must reorganise the pages and by placing them in the correct order they will reveal six murders and their victims.
Do note, this puzzle is most definitely not for the fainthearted so prepare to dedicate an infuriating number of hours to solving this crime novel.
The Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection 30 Books Box Set
In a nutshell: reworked classic stories of the great London detective designed for children
Young fans of mystery and detective novels will absolutely love this children’s adaptation of the iconic Sherlock Holmes stories. Designed for kids aged between seven and nine, each book in this set of 30 is guaranteed to engage kids and keep them guessing right up to the last page, whilst also providing the perfect introduction to classic literature.
The illustrations throughout the book break up the text nicely and the language is simple with the odd slightly more complicated word littered in, ensuring children develop their vocabulary as they read. At just £40 for 30 books (working out to £1.33 per book), this set will keep kids busy throughout the school holidays.
Inspector Montalbano Books 1-20 Collection Set
In a nutshell: Sicilian police commissioner solves the towns continuous stream of crimes
Set in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata comes a witty and engaging cast composed of comedically accident-prone police officer, Catarella, the quarrelsome girlfriend, Livia and of course disgruntled but righteous Italian police officer, Montalbano. Together they navigate the labyrinth of Sicilian corruption, trigger-happy Mafia and snooping town members to solve a host of crimes.
Not only is each book an engaging mystery in itself but the colourful descriptions of Sicilian life – the sun drenched food, the nosy old women gossiping and the sordid private lives of the town- will transport you to the heart of the action.
The Complete Collection of Arsène Lupin
In a nutshell: a master of disguise thief artfully and enigmatically galivants around France
Many of us will have first heard of Arsène Lupin from the successful Netflix crime drama that follows gentleman thief Assane Diop as he adopts Lupin’s disguises and tricks to avenge his father.
This set of 10 books, written by Maurice Leblanc in 1907, brings to life the enigmatic and mysterious world of underground France as master of disguise – Lupin – creates masterful plans, devious schemes and shoddy scandals all in the name of justice.
Read Arsène Lupin VS Herlock Sholmes for a thoroughly enjoyable and humorous read of the battle of wits between two of the greatest criminal and detective masterminds.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
In a nutshell: Botswana’s finest female detective solves a slew of mysteries
If slow paced cosy crime that is almost whimsical in examinations of people and place is what you’re after, then you’ll be enthralled by the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency set.
The books follow the endearing and big-hearted Precious Ramotswe who runs a detective agency in Botswana. As she sits at the bottom of Kgale Hill, cup of redbush tea in hand, she awaits her clients who seek answers – be it a missing spouse, a questionable identity or a search for justice. Be prepared to be transported to a sleepy town that’s simmering with something sinister.
Baker Street Classics Sherlock Holmes: Complete 9 Book Set
In a nutshell: the classic detective solves the pressing crimes of the day in Victorian London
We all know and love the quick witted and sharp London detective and his endearing sidekick from either the numerous movies, TV series or books themselves. This nine book set featuring all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories – with original cover illustrations from the 1920s editions – makes a great gift for crime lovers or a perfect bookshelf addition for yourself.
These hardback retro books contain both well known stories such as The Hound of the Baskervilles as well as lesser known ones such as The Valley of Fear that explores a mysterious murder in a countryside village and introduces genius criminal mastermind, Professor Moriarty.
A Perfect Spy
In a nutshell: semi autobiographical work of an intelligence officer mysteriously disappearing
Regarded as a crime genre defining book, this Le Carre masterpiece traces the story of British intelligence officer, Magnus Pym, who is also discovered to be a double agent working in Czechoslovakia.
This suspenseful spy novel not only has elements of crime and thriller but also explores deeper motifs such as the idea that we never truly know others and we merely present carefully curated versions of ourselves in order to accomplish various things.
The Folio Society’s A Perfect Spy is a beautiful collectors item for those looking to delve deeper into the world of one of the most renowned spy fiction writers of all time. The hardback book features many illustrations throughout that bring the story to life.