27 of the best crime fiction books

Few books are as satisfying as a crime fiction novel you can really sink your teeth into. Here’s our edit of the most exciting crime fiction coming in 2021, the best crime books of 2020, and the most gripping crime novels of all time.

19/07/2021
4 minutes to read

There’s nothing better than a gripping crime fiction novel to keep you turning the pages late into the night. Whether you’re looking for a gentle detective story or cosy crime series, historical crime fiction or gritty true-to-life cases that will set your heart racing, we have the case for you. 

here, we've shared our edit of the most exciting crime fiction to look forward to in 2021 and the best crime books of 2020. We also take a look at the must-read crime novels of all time which crime fiction fans should be sure not to miss. 

If you're looking for even more gripping reads, don't miss our edit of the best thriller books of 2021. 

The best crime books of 2021

The Killing Tide

by Lin Anderson

Book cover for 9781529033687

A cargo ship has mysteriously run aground in the Orkney Isles, and forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is sent to discover how and why the three bodies aboard came to be there. Further south in Glasgow, a young woman has been set on fire. Links between the two tragic incidents point to a wider conspiracy, and Orcadian investigative journalist Ava Clouston gets on the case. Meanwhile the Met and Scottish police clash, as dark forces move to protect government interests and the death toll threatens to mount.

Left You Dead

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781529004243

Left You Dead is the latest installment in Peter James's award-winning crime fiction series starring DS Roy Grace, now a major TV series starring John Simm. Niall and Eden Paternoster start their Sunday the same way they always do – with a long drive, a visit to a country house and a quick stop at the local supermarket on the way home. But this Sunday ends differently – as while Niall waits in the car park for Eden to finish shopping, Eden never returns. She’s not waiting for him at home, and none of their family or friends have heard from her. Eden is gone without a trace.

Niall is arrested on suspicion of her murder, but when DS Roy Grace is called in to investigate it doesn’t take long to realize that nothing is quite as it seems – and this might be his most mysterious case yet . . . Discover the other Roy Grace books in order.

The Darkest Evening

by Ann Cleeves

Book cover for 9781509889556

Vera is back in the ninth crime novel in Ann Cleeves’s detective fiction series. When she comes across a car slewed off the road while driving home during a terrible blizzard Vera is shocked to find the driver's seat empty but a toddler strapped in the back seat. Vera takes the child to the first house she comes to, a stately home where her own father grew up. Inside a Christmas party is in full swing, but outside a woman – possibly the child's mother – lies dead . . .

Discover all the Vera Stanhope books in order.

Daughters of Night

by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Book cover for 9781509880829

This historical crime fiction novel is the second from Laura Shepherd-Robinson, following her award-winning debut Blood & Sugar. Set in London in 1782, it’s the story of Caroline Corsham, who is determined to seek justice for a string of murders of high-class prostitutes – crimes that the police are all too happy to ignore. As she delves deeper into the darkest, hidden corners of Georgian society, Caroline soon finds that much more than her reputation is at stake. . .

Edge of the Grave

by Robbie Morrison

Book cover for 9781529054019

Perfect for fans of Peaky Blinders, Robbie Morrison’s debut is a dark historical crime novel set in a Glasgow still recovering from the war, split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. When the son-in-law of one of the city’s wealthiest shipbuilders is found murdered, Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn is assigned to the case. But his troubled history with the victim’s widow may cause problems . . . Meanwhile, a sadistic murderer stalks the city’s streets, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind.

The Cook of the Halcyon

by Andrea Camilleri

Book cover for 9781529053357

In the twenty-seventh book in Andrea Camilleri’s crime fiction series, Inspector Montalbano is called on to investigate a murder and a suicide which leads him to the Halcyon, a mysterious ship that visits Vigàta’s port each day. On board, he finds very few crewmen, no passengers and a stern large enough to land a helicopter . . . 

Meanwhile, a rare trip to visit Livia may put the inspector’s position as the head of the commissariat in jeopardy.

City of Vengeance

by D. V. Bishop

Book cover for 9781529038774

Florence, 1536. When a prominent Jewish moneylender is found dead, Cesare Aldo, an officer of the criminal court, is tasked with solving his murder. Over the course of his investigation, Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the unstable ruler of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. Aldo is caught in a frantic race against time to solve the murder and stop the conspiracy, while keeping his own secrets safely locked away. This historical crime thriller is an exciting debut from D. V. Bishop.

The Hiding Place

by Jenny Quintana

Book cover for 9781529040401

This tense mystery from Jenny Quintana is a must-read for crime fiction fans. Marina was adopted as a baby after she was found wrapped in a blue shawl in a shared house in London. The press nicknamed her Baby Blue, but the circumstances around her birth are still unknown.  Marina longs to uncover the truth about her birth, so when a flat in the house where she was found is put up for rent, she seizes her chance.  But what if it's not just the house hiding secrets? What if someone knows what happened that day,  and wants to make sure the truth never comes to light?

Witness

by Mandasue Heller

Book cover for 9781529024289

Holly Evans is constantly on the move with her over-protective mum. When they move into an illegal sub-let in Manchester, Holly feels settled for the first time in her life, but why is she forbidden to go out, or even open the door when her mum's not there?

This gritty crime novel paints a dark picture of Manchester's underworld, and will have you gripped until the last page.

The Innocent Dead

by Lin Anderson

Book cover for 9781529033656

When Mary McIntyre disappeared, it tore the local community apart. When a child’s remains are found in a peat bog decades later, it seems that the mystery may finally be solved. Karen Marshall had been devastated by her friend’s disappearance, but did Karen have a part to play in what happened? Rhona MacLeod must use all her skills to determine what happened all those years ago . . . and who was really responsible.

The best crime books of 2020

The Long Call

by Ann Cleeves

Book cover for 9781509889600

From the author of the Vera and Shetland series comes The Long Call, the first novel in Ann Cleeve’s new Two Rivers crime fiction series. Detective Matthew Venn has returned to North Devon where he grew up in, and ultimately turned his back on, a strict evangelical community, losing his family in the process. He’s returned, not only because he is mourning the death of his father, but because he is taking on his first case in the Two Rivers region. A man has been found stabbed to death on the beach, and Venn’s investigation will take him straight to the heart of the community he left behind.

Find out more about Ann Cleeves's Two Rivers series.

The Sicilian Method

by Andrea Camilleri

Book cover for 9781529035605

When a body is found, it is discovered to be Carmelo Catalanotti, a theatre director with a formidable reputation. He is known for the acting method he developed for his actors: digging into their complexes to unleash their talent, a traumatic experience for all. Could this death be connected to another body which was recently discovered?  Inspector Montalbano thinks so, and he thinks the answer may lie in the theatre . . . Andrea Camilleri’s Italian crime fiction series is a must for mystery fans. 

Discover all the books in the Inspector Montalbano series. 

Hidden in Plain Sight

by Jeffrey Archer

Book cover for 9781509851348

This detective novel is the second in the William Warwick series by Jeffrey Archer. When Detective Sergeant William Warwick is reassigned to the drug squad his first case is to investigate notorious drug lord the Viper. As William and the team get closer to bringing the Viper down, Wiliam is faced with an enemy from his past. Can William bring both men to justice? 

Find out more about the William Warwick series.

The System

by Ryan Gattis

Book cover for 9781509843831

This intelligent, pacy crime novel is a journey through the American criminal justice system – from the moment before the crime is committed to the aftershocks of the courtroom verdict. When a drug dealer is shot in early ‘90s LA, two local gang members are arrested. One is innocent and one guilty, but the gang tells them both to take the charges. With two of the gang off the streets, newest member Little is given the serious job of discovering if this was a frame-up.

The Secret Life of Mr Roos

by Håkan Nesser

Book cover for 9781509892235

This is the thrilling third crime novel in Håkan Nesser’s Inspector Barbarotti crime fiction series. When fifty-nine-year-old Valdemar Roos wins the lottery, he sees the chance to escape the job he hates and the family he doesn’t get on with. Without telling anyone, he quits his job and begins spending his days at the hut he buys in the Swedish countryside. He couldn’t be happier, until recovering drug addict Anna – on the run from an abusive ex and looking for somewhere to hide – turns up. But her ex isn’t far behind . . . When a woman reports her husband missing, Inspector Barbarotti doesn’t take much notice. Until a dead body turns up near the man’s recently bought hut . . . 

Find Them Dead

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781529004304

Award-winning crime fiction writer Peter James is back with a thrilling new Roy Grace book. A Brighton gangster is on trial for conspiracy to murder, and on the first day of the trial, there is one person in the gallery observing the jurors with keen interest. The gangster’s henchmen need to influence two of the jurors if he is to be found not guilty – but which two? When Roy Grace is called to investigate a murder with links to the trial, he realises how powerful the accused really is. Peter James's Roy Grace crime series is a must for any crime-fiction fan.

Discover all the Roy Grace books here.

The Mobster's Lament

by Ray Celestin

Book cover for 9781509838967

Ray Celestin is back with the third instalment of his neo-noir City Blues Quartet crime series. It's 1947 and Private Investigator Ida Davis is called to New York to investigate the murders of four people. But it soon becomes clear that there is a greater conspiracy behind these deaths and it will take Ida right into the dark heart of New York City. Described as both 'a vividly written crime thriller' and a 'dynamic portrait of a teeming city, rife with corruption', The Mobster's Lament is one of 2020's best crime novels and not to be missed.

One Good Deed

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781529027501

Murder, secrets, revenge, and just a touch of romance combine in this noir-inspired crime thriller with a twist which is sure to keep you gripped until the very last page. Aloysius Archer wants to start a new, peaceful life in Poca City after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. But he takes on more than he bargained for when he starts work as a debt collector for local business tycoon Hank Pittleman and becomes involved with some of the town's most dangerous residents.

Explore more of David Baldacci’s books here.

Time for the Dead

by Lin Anderson

Book cover for 9781509866243

The sixth gripping book in Lin Anderson’s Rhona MacLeod crime series sees Rhona return to the Isle of Skye, where she stumbles across what appears to be a crime scene, but without a victim. When a body is found at the bottom of the cliffs two days later, Rhona begins to search for a link between these events and a group of missing army medics on leave from Afghanistan.

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. 

The best crime books of all time

Memory Man

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781529003307

Amos Decker returned home eighteen months ago to find the bodies of his wife and daughter. He didn’t think he could go on living, but when his former police partner tells him someone has confessed to the murders he knows he must seek justice for his family. When thirteen teenagers are gunned down at the local school it seems there is a link between the murders, and Amos must use his incredible memory – a remarkable result of a serious brain injury – to solve the case. 

Explore more of David Baldacci’s books here.

Dead Simple

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781509898824

In Dead Simple, Peter James introduces us to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace as he takes on his first major case. It appears that a harmless stag-night prank has gone terribly wrong, with the groom disappeared and his friends dead. With three days to go until the wedding, the bride is understandably distraught. As Grace investigates, he discovers one man who has a lot to gain if the groom would only stay missing  . . . This is the first book in Peter James’s bestselling Roy Grace crime fiction series. 

Discover all the Roy Grace books here.

Last Bus to Woodstock

by Colin Dexter

Book cover for 9781447299073

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 . . .

Discover all the books in the Inspector Morse series. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book cover for My Sister, the Serial Killer

Korede has always been a good big sister, stepping in to help her little sibling clean up her messes. Unfortunately, Ayoola’s messes tend to be lethal.  In fact, she’s dispatched her last three boyfriends in ‘self-defence’. Family comes first, until Ayoola starts dating the doctor at the surgery where Korede works . . . 

The Axeman's Jazz

by Ray Celestin

Book cover for 9781447258889

A serial killer stalks New Orleans in 1919 and issues an ultimatum: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim.
As the fearful city complies with his demands, three individuals are set on unmasking the killer’s identity. The Axeman’s Jazz features gruesome murders, a mystery and is based on true events. This is the first book in Ray Celestin's The City Blues Quartet.

Cover Her Face

by P. D. James

Book cover for Cover Her Face

Cover Her Face is the first crime novel in P. D. James’s much-loved crime fiction Adam Dalgliesh series. A parlour maid is found dead at Martingale manor house and Detective Chief-Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is called in to investigate, but he qickly becomes embroiled in the passions that run strong in this seemingly quiet English village. 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

by Agatha Christie

Book cover for The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Hercule Poirot is one of crime fiction's most famous detectives, and Agatha Christie’s hero gets his first outing in this, the first in Agatha Christie’s Poirot crime book series. When Captain Arthur Hastings was invited to the Styles country estate to recuperate from the injuries he sustained in the war, he didn’t expect to stumble across a murder. Luckily, he knows a former detective who has grown bored of retirement . . .