The 50 best crime fiction books of all time

From gentle detective stories to gritty true-to-life cases, our edit of the most exciting crime fiction will have you turning the pages late into the night. 

Few books are as satisfying as a crime fiction novel you can really sink your teeth into. Including gripping detective novels and cosy crime series, here’s our edit of the most exciting crime fiction of 2023, what's to come in 2024, and the best crime fiction of all time. 

If you're looking for even more unputdownable reads, don't miss our edit of the best thriller books. 

The Raging Storm

by Ann Cleeves

Detective Matthew Venn returns in The Raging Storm, the next captivating novel in the Two Rivers series from Ann Cleeves. When enigmatic sailor Jem Rosco arrives in Greystone, Devon, the town are delighted to have a celebrity in their midst. But when he disappears and is later found dead during a storm, DI Matthew Venn faces an uncomfortable case. Having left the Barum Brethren community in Greystone, Venn's judgment is clouded by superstitions and rumors as another body is discovered in Scully Cove. Isolated by the storm, Venn and his team embark on a perilous investigation, unaware that their own lives may be at risk. 

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A Calamity of Souls

by David Baldacci

1968, southern Virginia. Jack Lee is a white lawyer who has never pushed back against racism until he decides to represent Jerome Washington, a Black man charged with killing a white couple. Desiree DuBose is a Black lawyer who has devoted her life to furthering the cause of justice. Lee and DuBose could not be more dissimilar. On their own, neither one can stop the prosecution’s deliberate march towards a guilty verdict and the electric chair. But together, the pair fight for a chance for a fair trial and true justice. A Calamity of Souls is the latest book from crime thriller aficionado, David Baldacci. 

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Good Bad Girl

by Alice Feeney

In a tale of intertwining crimes, a baby's abduction two decades ago connects to a murder in a care home. Unravelling the truth rests on the shoulders of a complex yet intriguing character, the 'good bad girl.' Edith, determined to escape her nursing home, forms a bond with Patience, a caretaker harbouring secrets. Meanwhile, Edith's daughter Clio remains distant, and a looming presence approaches Clio's doorstep with ill intentions. With mistrust brewing, the women must navigate a web of suspects, murders, and a singular victim, unearthing the fates of the vanished baby, the grieving mother, and the ties that bind them all.

All Of Us Are Broken

by Fiona Cummins

Thirteen-year-old Galen has wanted to see the wild dolphins at Scotland’s Chanonry Point for as long as she can remember, and lone mother Christine is determined she gets her wish. But their trip is interrupted when DC Saul Anguish is called to investigate the shooting of an ex-police officer –  the first of a string of killings by Missy and Fox, a damaged young couple hell-bent on infamy, their love story etched in blood. In pursuit, Saul follows their trail north. Meanwhile, the paths of the Hardwickes' and the deadly couple are about to collide . . . 

Other Women

by Emma Flint

Based on a real case from the 1920s, Other Women tells the story of Beatrice, one of the thousands of invisible unmarried women trying to make lives for themselves after the First World War, and Kate, the wife of the man Beatrice has fallen in love with. When fantasy and obsession turns to murder, two women who should never have met are connected forever. Mesmerising, haunting and utterly remarkable, this is a devastating story of fantasy and obsession inspired by a murder that took place almost a hundred years ago.

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder

by C L Miller

Freya Lockwood has avoided the quaint English village she grew up in for the last twenty years, until she is forced to return when her estranged mentor and antiques dealer, Arthur Crockleford, suspiciously dies. She receives a letter from Arthur and discovers his journals, plunging her back into her past. Joining with her Aunt Carole, Arthur's loyal friend, they attend an antiques weekend at a manor. There, amidst poor replicas and guests with hidden agendas, they have to solve the mystery and uncover the killer before it's too late.

Death on the Lusitania

by R. L. Graham

Set on the RMS Lusitania's final journey in 1915, Patrick Gallagher, a government civil servant, escorts a British diplomat back to England. But after a passenger, secluded in a locked cabin, is believed to have killed himself with a missing firearm, Gallagher is requested to investigate. Was it suicide or a meticulously planned murder? Gallagher believes one of the passengers is a deadly killer who could strike again to protect their true reasons for being on board. And all the while, the ship sails on towards Europe, where deadly submarines patrol dark waters.

Bright Young Women

by Jessica Knoll

January 1978. Tallahassee. When sorority president Pamela Schumacher is startled awake at 3 a.m. by a strange sound, she’s shocked to encounter a scene of implausible violence – two of her friends dead and two others, maimed. The only person to see the man responsible, she is thrust into a terrifying mystery, entangled in a crime that captivates public interest for more than four decades. This extraordinary novel is inspired by the real-life sorority targeted by America's first celebrity serial killer in his final murderous spree.

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The Cat Who Solved Three Murders

by L T Shearer

Rescue cat Conrad is no ordinary feline. Since he moved onto retired police detective Lulu Lewis’s narrowboat, the pair have become a secret crimefighting duo. When Lulu travels by boat to Oxford for a friend’s party, tracking down a murderer is the last thing on her mind. But when a murder is committed and a priceless painting is stolen without a trace, the pair find themselves with two mysteries to solve. The perfect autumn read for cat lovers, discover the sequel to L T Shearer's The Cat Who Caught a Killer.

The Murder Wall

by Mari Hannah

Months after failing to solve a brutal double murder that rocked a sleepy town in the Northumbrian countryside, DCI Kate Daniels is still reeling from the case and looking for a new chance to prove her mettle. When she’s called to the scene of a murder in Newcastle’s city centre, her opportunity to make amends is clouded when she realises she knows the victim. Caught in a dilemma of whether to disclose what she knows, Daniels soon finds herself being watched and fearing that she might be the killer’s next target. The Murder Wall is the first novel by Mari Hannah to feature veteran investigator DCI Kate Daniels. 


by Jane Harper

When a young mother vanishes from a bustling spring festival, leaving her young baby alone in her pram, her disappearance casts a long shadow over her small outback town. One year later and no closer to finding out what became of Kim Gillespie, Detective Aaron Falk sets out to unearth the secrets behind her disappearance once and for all. With its gripping plot, evocative Australian setting and haunting tale of a woman who vanishes without a trace, Jane Harper’s new thriller is one of the most anticipated crime fiction books of 2023. 

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Cast a Cold Eye

by Robbie Morrison

With violence erupting between rival gangs and political tensions rising, for war veterans turned investigators Dreghorn and McDaid, murder on their patch in interwar Glasgow is nothing new. But when a man is left brutally executed on a narrowboat on the city’s Forth and Clyde Canal, the pair quickly realise that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill killing. Capturing the tension and grit of interwar Glasgow in this thrilling historical mystery, Cast a Cold Eye is the second Dreghorn and McDaid novel by Robbie Morrison, winner of Bloody Scotland’s Scottish Crime Debut of the Year. 

The Blame Game

by Sandie Jones

There are two sides to every story, but only one truth. He came to me for help with his marriage. I was alone and afraid. She was there when I needed to talk. I needed to make him understand that he had to get away. I knew what I needed to do. I just couldn’t do it on my own. I trusted her. Now it has gone too far. And I can’t tell anyone what I have done. Now I have nowhere to turn and I just pray they find me before she does. In The Blame Game, a psychologist becomes involved with a patient and each blame the other for what happens next. This is a dark, entertaining and suspenseful thriller from Sandie Jones. 

The Murders at Fleat House

by Lucinda Riley

The sudden death of a pupil in Fleat House at St Stephen’s – a small private boarding school in deepest Norfolk – is a shocking event that the headmaster is very keen to call a tragic accident. But the local police cannot rule out foul play and the case prompts the return of high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter to the force.  As staff at the school close ranks, the disappearance of another young pupil and the death of an elderly Classics master provide Jazz with important leads, but as snow covers the landscape and another suspect goes missing, Jazz must also confront her personal demons.

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Stop Them Dead

by Peter James

Stop Them Dead is the latest instalment of Peter James's award-winning Grace series. In the dead of night, a farmer hears a suspicious noise. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: a break-in. When he confronts the intruders, he has no idea that he will be left lying in a pool of blood just minutes later. But the chilling truth lies not in the act itself, but what the perpetrators were willing to kill for. And Roy Grace’s investigation into this deadly trade pits him against some of the most ruthless people he has ever encountered.

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Palace of Shadows

by Ray Celestin

Artist Samuel Etherstone, impoverished and isolated in London, accepts a commission from mysterious heiress Mrs Chesterfield for her house on North Yorkshire's Smugglers' Coast. Warned about the haunted lands, Samuel hears eerie tales of missing girls, mad locals, and fate of house's first architect, Varano. Upon arrival, the eerie details of Varano's disappearance and the ever-expanding wings of the house puzzle him. As he explores deeper, he begins to understand the terrifying nature of his project.

Ritual of Fire

by D. V. Bishop

In Summer 1538 Florence, a merchant is found hanged and ablaze, mirroring the execution of puritanical monk, Savonarola, forty years ago. It raises fears of the revival of his holy terror regime. While Cesare Aldo is busy in the Tuscan countryside, Constable Carlo Strocchi investigates this murder. As more merchants are publicly burned, panic ensues. A blend of growing religious zeal and intense heatwave brings Florence closer to madness. Aldo and Strocchi's collaboration is Florence's only hope of avoiding destruction. Ritual of Fire is the third book in B. V. Bishop's historical crime series, preceded by City of Vengeance and The Darkest Sin.

The Square of Sevens

by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

A historical crime fiction novel packed with fortune-telling, travels and mystery, The Sqaure of Sevens an epic and sweeping novel set in Georgian high society. A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar. But soon, she can't ignore the burning questions about her family. The pursuit of these mysteries takes her across the country in an tale of intrigue, heartbreak and audacious twists. 

Black Thorn

by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary's compulsive psychological crime thriller will have you questioning how much you know about the people who live next to you.  An exclusive new housing development, Blackthorn Ashes, is the new home for six families hoping for a peaceful life on the cliffs overlooking the Cornish sea. But six weeks later, paradise is lost. Six people are dead. One of its surviving residents, Agnes Gale, is determined to discover the truth about what happened, even if that truth is deadlier than she could have ever believed possible. 

The Wild Coast

by Lin Anderson

A remote shoreline. A lethal killer. Forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod faces a disturbing case when she encounters a shallow grave on Scotland's west coast adorned with a stickman made of twigs in the victim's mouth. Rhona realises a predator is targeting wild campers as another young woman goes missing from a nearby campsite, with a similar sinister figurine discovered in her van. An idyllic coastline known for providing peace and serenity, now the area is a hunting ground. With a young woman's life hanging in the balance, time is running out, and Rhona must unravel the truth.

A Twist of the Knife

by Peter James

Peter James's A Twist of the Knife is a thrilling collection of short stories, including the novellas The Perfect Murder, Footloose with Val McDermid, and In The Nick of Time written with Ian Rankin. Each story begins with a chilling twist of a knife, featuring characters from a revengeful woman to a man planning a life-altering meeting. Readers are introduced to detective Roy Grace in his first case, the inspiration for James's series. Each tale carries a twist that will haunt readers for days after they turn the final page.

The Cat Who Caught a Killer

by L T Shearer

Essential reading for Richard Osman and S. J. Bennet fans, and all those who love their crime cosy. Follow Lulu Lewis as she seeks to resolve the suspicious death of her mother-in-law, Emily, in L T Shearer's gripping whodunit. As a former police detective fraught with grief following the death of her husband, Lulu's retirement is turned upside-down when Emily dies. However, Lulu's not alone. Amidst her quest for answers is Conrad, a remarkable cat who is with her every step of the way.

Into the Dark

by Fiona Cummins

DS Saul Anguish, a brilliant detective with a difficult past, must face his own demons as he untangles the painful story behind the sudden disappearance of an entire family. 

The kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, but the house is deserted. In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words: Make Them Stop. In a gorgeous Art Deco home looking out to the bay of Midtown-on-Sea, a terrible crime has come to light. An entire family – Piper and Gray and their two teenage children – has vanished. 

Dirt Town

by Hayley Scrivenor

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation of the disappearance of twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi from her home in the small rural Australian town of Durton. For Esther's mother Constance this is the worst thing that could possibly happen. But as the investigation continues, things get worse still. Esther's best friend Ronnie is doing her own investigation. Who is the strange man Esther was seen with at the creek? And why are witnesses refusing to speak to the police?

The Darkest Sin

by D. V. Bishop

It's spring in Florence in 1537, and Cesare Aldo is investigating a report that a convent in the northern quarter has been breached. Soon Aldo finds himself immersed in a bitterly divided community. And when a man's body is found in the convent, it seems as if one of the nuns must be the murderer. Meanwhile, Constable Carlo Strocchi finds human body parts in the Arno, which turn out to be the remains of a much feared officer who went missing in the winter. Aldo and Strocchi search for the truth, in an investigation that is increasingly full of peril.

The Daughter of Time

by Josephine Tey

Voted the top crime novel of all time by the UK Crime Writers’ Association, The Daughter of Time has an unusual premise for a crime novel: investigating the role Richard III played in the death of his own nephews. Inspector Alan Grant is laid up in hospital with a spinal injury and he’s bored. Renowned for his ability to read a face, he passes the time looking at old portraits and one which particularly grabs his attention is of Richard III. Grant doesn't accept the face in the portrait is one of a villain so he sets out to investigate what really happened to the children. So, unusual, yes; but also extremely clever and engrossing, brilliantly plotted and written with enormous charm and erudition.

The Franchise Affair

by Josephine Tey

The Franchise Affair is a gripping thriller detective, perfect for fans of true crime and classic crime fiction. Fifteen-year-old Betty Kane has never put a foot wrong. Naturally, everyone is shocked to hear her story – that she was kidnapped, tortured and held prisoner by Marion Sharpe and her elderly mother, owners of the mysterious old house, The Franchise. But are the two women really guilty of such a horrendous crime? Every page resonates with tension as the story unfolds – did they or didn’t they take a young girl prisoner? And whose story can you trust?

Malice Aforethought

by Francis Iles

Malice Aforethought is one of the earliest and finest examples of the inverted detective story – we know who committed the crime, the question is, will he get away with it? Dr Edmund Bickleigh and his insufferable wife Julia are hosting a tennis party where gossip rivals tennis as the most interesting sport. The seemingly genteel doctor is unable to tolerate Julia’s henpecking any longer, and as his passion for the mysterious Madeleine Cranmere grows so does his resolve to murder his wife. Set in stuffy 1920s England and told from the perspective of the devious Dr Bickleigh himself, Malice Aforethought is impeccably plotted and darkly comic.

Brighton Rock

by Graham Greene

Set among the seaside amusements and dilapidated boarding houses of Brighton’s pre-war underworld, Brighton Rock is both a gritty thriller and a study of a soul in torment. Pinkie Brown, a neurotic teenage gangster commits a brutal murder – but it does not go unnoticed. Rose, a naive young waitress at a rundown cafe, has the unwitting power to destroy his crucial alibi, and Ida Arnold, a woman bursting with easy certainties about what is right and wrong, has made it her mission to bring about justice and redemption. A classic of modern literature, it maps out the strange border between piety and savagery. 

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor

by Cameron McCabe

1930s King's Cross, London. When aspiring film actress Estella Lamare is found dead on the cutting-room floor of a London film studio, Cameron McCabe finds himself at the centre of a police investigation. There are multiple suspects, multiple confessors and, as more people around him die, McCabe begins to perform his own amateur sleuth-work, followed doggedly by the mysterious Inspector Smith. But then, abruptly, McCabe's account ends. Who is Cameron McCabe? Is he victim? Murderer? Novelist? Joker?

The Mother

by Yvvette Edwards

Marcia Williams thought she knew her son. She was wrong. Marcia is heading to the Old Bailey. She's going there to do something no mother should ever have to do: to attend the trial of the boy accused of her son's murder. She's not meant to be that woman; Ryan, her son, wasn't that kind of boy. But Tyson Manley is that kind of a boy and, as his trial unfolds, it becomes clear that it's his girlfriend Sweetie who has the answers Marcia so badly needs and offer Marcia some kind of hope for the future. But Sweetie is as scared of Tyson as Ryan should have been and, as Marcia's learned the hard way, nothing's certain.

Sixteen Horses

by Greg Buchanan

Near the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, local police detective Alec Nichols discovers sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. After forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen travels to the scene, the investigators uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in the community – disappearances, arson and mutilations – all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground. A story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind, Sixteen Horses is the debut literary thriller from an extraordinary talent. 

The Interview

by C. M. Ewan

It is Friday, 5 p.m. You're being interviewed for the job you always wanted, in an office thirteen floors above the city. There's nobody else around but you and the interviewer, and their questions are getting stranger and more unsettling. Your fear is rising, and the only route out is to answer a seemingly impossible question. This nail-biting novel comes from bestselling mystery and thriller author C. M. Ewan.

The Decagon House Murders

by Yukito Ayatsuji

Book cover for The Decagon House Murders

A Japanese cult classic, Ayatsuji's murder mystery puzzle will delight fans of classic whodunnits. Tsunojima is a desolate, rocky island known for a series of gruesome and unsolved murders – the perfect choice for the K-University Mystery Club's annual trip. But after a club member turns up dead, the Mystery Club realise they might have taken on more than their amateur sleuthing skills can handle. Will any of the survivors deduce the murderer's horrific plan before it's too late?

The Honjin Murders

by Seishi Yokomizo

Book cover for The Honjin Murders

Hailed as Japan's greatest classic murder mystery, Seishi Yokomizo's story has been translated into English for the first time. In the depths of winter, 1937, excitement grows throughout the rural Japanese village of Okamura as the wedding of a son of the famous Ichiyanagi family approaches, despite the worrying presence of a masked man lurking in the village. But on the night of the wedding, a terrible death upends the Ichiyanagi household – with the only clue being a bloody samurai sword left in the snow outside the house. Can amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi find the killer, and unravel what is appears to be an impossible crime?

The Shape of Water

by Andrea Camilleri

Escape the winter chill and step into the sun-soaked Sicilian setting of Andrea Camilleri’s brilliantly witty Inspector Montalbano series. The Shape of Water introduces Camilleri’s beloved sleuth as he investigates the mysterious death of a respected and brilliant engineer, whose unexpected death his colleagues are all too ready to declare as due to natural causes. With its corrupt politicians, red herrings and the island’s ever-present mobsters, The Shape of Water is escapist crime writing at its page-turning best.

Last Bus to Woodstock

by Colin Dexter

Last Bus to Woodstock is the first novel in Colin Dexter's gripping Inspector Morse crime fiction series. The death of Sylvia Kaye figured dramatically in Thursday afternoon's edition of the Oxford Mail. By Friday evening Inspector Morse had informed the nation that the police were looking for a dangerous man – facing charges of wilful murder, sexual assault and rape. But as the obvious leads fade into twilight and darkness, Morse becomes more and more convinced that passion holds the key. 

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Black Water Rising

by Attica Locke

Book cover for Black Water Rising

After saving a woman from drowning in the Houston bayou, lawyer Jay Porter finds himself entangled in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice – or even his life. But as he attempts to make sense of a dark mystery that threatens the hierarchies of corporate power, while confronting his own banished demons of the past. Shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Black Water Rising was Attica Locke's incredible debut onto the crime fiction scene. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book cover for My Sister, the Serial Killer

Korede faces a daunting predicament when Ayoola, her sister, seeks her assistance after killing her third boyfriend under the pretence of self-defence. Bearing the responsibility of clearing her sister's mess, Korede grapples with the idea of approaching the police, but familial loyalty holds her back. That is until Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other.

Blanche on the Lam

by Barbara Neely

Book cover for Blanche on the Lam

Blanche White is middle-aged African-American housekeeper, working in the homes of the decorous rich in North Carolina. But after one employer refuses to pay her, she goes on the lam and begins to work at a summer home for a wealthy family. It's a great plan, until she finds herself as the prime suspect of a murder investigation. Using all of her quick wit and years of experience as a domestic made, she must uncover the truth and clear her name. Revealing the quirks of southern society with a biting irony, Barbara Neely's Blanche White has quickly become one of the most original and well-loved characters to appear in crime fiction.

A Little Local Murder

by Robert Barnard

This classic small-town murder mystery from Robert Barnard has everything you could ask from a cosy crime novel. A radio documentary on the small village of Twytching provokes a fierce rivalry among the villagers. Inspector George Parrish is keen to stay out of all the fuss until the murder of one of the villagers and a rash of letters uncovering secrets about Twytching's leading citizens force him to get involved. Robert Barnard skilfully demonstrates that no one is more cunning in preparing the reader to expect the unexpected and his incisive character portrayals impart a dimension rarely found in English detective fiction.

Tell Me Your Secret

by Dorothy Koomson

Book cover for Tell Me Your Secret

Ten years ago, Pieta survived a weekend with a serial killer. She never told anyone what happened, but now he’s back – and staying alive might mean revealing her darkest secret. Fifteen years ago, Jody, a policewoman, made a mistake that resulted in the killer going free. When she discovers Pieta’s story, she realises she now has a way to catch him. 

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie

Book cover for Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie belongs on any essential reading list, and Murder on the Orient Express is widely regarded as her most famous murder mystery. A train journey is delayed by thick snow. So when a passenger on the train is found murdered in his bed, it is the perfect opportunity for Agatha Christie's famous detective, Hercule Poirot, to prove his ability and solve the crime using the power of his brain. Now also a major motion picture, delve into the suspense, twists and turns of this story from the queen of mystery herself. 

Dead Simple

by Peter James

When a young husband-to-be vanishes three days before his wedding after a prank on his stag night goes awry, his distraught fiancée enlists the task of finding him to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. As Grace attempts to recreate the timeline from that fateful night, he finds that some of the wedding party are holding onto secrets that may help him crack the case. The first novel in Peter James DS Roy Grace, Dead Simple will leave you guessing until the final page.