Y es, we all enjoy sitting down to a spellbinding classic tale by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Ed McBain (who also wrote Alfred Hitchcock’s script for The Birds). We adore the quirky characters and colourful dialog of Elmore Leonard and the surprises of Stieg Larsson within the finely crafted Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, Mickey Spillane — these and many more are masters, the architects of the noir series of pulp fiction crime solvers, and have influenced writers, filmmakers and television producers (and maybe inspired a few villains for good measure). Yet our criteria for this list is discovering the successors to these greats: those who can spin a tale, bring new friends to life and keep us turning pages, cowering under our covers long after we should be fast asleep.
So, here we give you, our top 50 best crime writers to watch (and devour) in no particular order.
Read The Affair
Author of the Jack Reacher chronicles and other novels, Lee had a career in law and television before he was fired and sat down to write the first Jack Reacher novel. He is a winner of both the Barry and the Nero awards for best novel.
Read Dead Simple
Peter’s hero Detective Superintendent Roy Grace actually investigated a burglary at Peter’s home, which launched his career as a fictional detective. The books contain real crimes interwoven with drama and style.
Read The Fatal Touch
Alec Blume, the hero in the first two Fitzgerald novels, is an American ex-pat cop who lives and works as a Commissioner with the Italian police in Rome. The crimes are solved by weaving through the intricate Italian system, as seen from the eyes of an outsider on the inside.
Read The Ghost Riders of Ordebec
The French historian, archaeologist and author, Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau blends imaginative crimes with the supernatural. This bestselling author tells tales of Commissaire Adamsberg – chief of Police in Paris. She is a three time winner of the CWA international Dagger Award.
Read The Birds That Never Flew
A new novel by a television script writer with a hit about two women, revenge, abuse and the resilience of the human spirit, Margot McCuaig writes novels that capture the spirit and thrill of crime solving, while transporting you into the pages to experience the real deal.
A New York Times bestselling author, combining crimes such as kidnapping and murder which escalate world tensions, Rollins thrillers have plot twists and scientific deductions to find international criminals and bring them to justice.
Read Plain Jane
Carolyn’s Harbinger Murder Mystery series will point you in a logical direction, then pull the rug out from under you. Advertised as “not for the faint of heart”, these grisly mysteries sometimes border on the fantastic, but always keep you turning the pages.
Read You’re Next
Gregg is a critically acclaimed NY Times bestselling author of award-winning crime and mystery novels. His gritty dialog and real to life characters capture your imagination as you go through a thrill ride of cat and mouse games, with the hero often becoming the protagonist to solve the crime and the mystery of his past.
Read Humpty Dumpty
In collaboration with Carolyn McCray, this team has written 5-star psychological thrillers about twisted serial killers, tough forensics and a bit good humour in their Nursery Rhyme Murder series. The ending of Humpty, however, is not for children or the weak of heart.
Read The Bat
Jo’s Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is often the proverbial “duck out of water”. In the first in the series of his adventures in crime solving, he travels to Sydney to observe a murder investigation about a young Norwegian woman, but ultimately is instrumental in solving it. Jo has been described as a master of the Norwegian noir style, and a worthy successor to Steig Larsson of the Dragon Tattoo fame.
Read The Devotion of Suspect X
One of Japan’s bestselling crime authors has written a new novel for English language countries, combining unquestionable reasoning in the Japanese tradition with unquenchable pain. His hero Dr. Manabu Yasuko, known as Professor Galileo, applies innovative techniques in a high level battle of wits to outthink the perfect alibi.
Read When Good Men Do Nothing
Paul brings his experience as a soldier, policeman and member of the Divisional Intelligence Unit in the UK to work undercover. His books have all of the realism that the streets treated him to, and he serves it to us in intricate crime mysteries — often with expanded implications.
Read White Heat
Set in an Arctic Setting “so real, it will give you frostbite”, Edie Kiglatuk is half Inuit and half outsider. However, even as the best guide in the Arctic, she still commands little respect. When tourists start dropping from bullets, she and police sergeant Derek Palliser are the only two who care enough to follow the clues in that frozen land of mystery and illusion.
Read The Pyramid
Known for complex, rich characters, this Swedish author has built a career for his fictional detective, Kurt Wallander. Since Wallander first came on the scene, twenty years of his career have been examined in cases he has solved over two decades. The popular detective has been portrayed in films and television, and his adventures have taken him from the Swedish Tundra to the plains of Africa. Henning recently gained international acclaim after Steig Larsson made Swedish detectives attractive, and he has never disappointed.
Read Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go
George Pelecanos sets his stories in and around Washington, DC, and is the recipient of several international awards for his gritty crime novels. He is also known for producing, writing and story for the acclaimed HBO series, The Wire. Steven King called him “perhaps the greatest living American crime writer”. His gritty modern noir hero, Nick Stefanos is a boozer and angst-ridden low life, but he still has detective instincts and a nose for the street.
Read The Hollow Man
London Police Detective Nick Belsey is known as “London’s coolest cop” But that coolness doesn’t pick him up from rock bottom – it is solving an identity theft and murder twisted in police procedurals and a threat to his life that motivates Oliver’s hero. Oliver plays the flaws well, and his hero trips into trouble as fast as he finds a solution.
Read Live Wire
Myron Bolitar is Harlan’s flawed hero – a sports agent, problem solver and private detective. Edgar winner and New York Times bestseller asks a provocative question in Live Wire – “is a pretty lie better than the ugly truth?” Solving this question brings Bolitar back to his family roots at breakneck speed with an explosive ending that will shock you.
Read Shutter Island
Dennis is Boston based, and his first novel won the Shamus award. Since then, his suspenseful novels with plot twists, riveting story lines, suspenseful endings and beguiling characters have been made into movies. But don’t substitute the movie for the books, the subtle plot twists and the horrifying description far exceed the screen versions and leave you breathless with the raw emotions so eloquently described.
Read Rogue Island
Bruce enjoyed a long career as a journalist in Providence, Rhode Island, so it is fitting that his hero, Liam Mulligan is also an old school newspaper man. In Rogue Island, Liam begins reporting on a rash of arson fires which are killing lifelong friends. Launching an investigation, he takes his own life in his hands at the cost of his job, reputation, well-being and even becomes a suspect in the very crimes he has a notion about. Tremendously entertaining and a rollercoaster ride to the end.
Read The Facts of Life and Death
Belinda’s novels are dark, character-driven psychological thrillers. Ten year-old Ruby Trick has the idea of helping her Daddy catch a killer, a strategy to avoid school bullies. Set in a very accurate and brutal rural England working poor town, this novel will have you holding your breath as the ten year-old child you recognise from your own family treads innocently amongst dangers even more real than those posed by her school mates.
Read Luther: The Calling
While Detective Chief Inspector John Luther will be familiar to television viewers, this standalone novel is a prequel to the hit show and draws out character and angst like TV cannot portray. This novel is about a serial killer that haunted Luther, making it difficult to tell if he is a force for good – or hell-bent on his own destruction. Winner of several prestigious awards, whether you are a fan of the show or not, don’t miss this book.
South African crime writer Deon masterfully introduces intricate plot twist with brutal action, featuring his anti0-hero Lemmer, a skilled bodyguard with a hairline trigger. You inhale the African scenery in every breath while you enjoy the plot twists, eccentric characters and discover the essence of modern South Africa from the veld as well as the inner workings of the complex social scene.
Tom Rob Smith
Read the trilogy: Child 44, The Secret Speech, Agent 6
Child 44 is a mesmerizing novel set in the Soviet Union in 1953. Called a frightening, chilling horror story regaling tales of the murderous ways of Stalin’s black boots, Leo Demidov loves his country until he discovers that a serial killer of children is stalking those around him. Through twists and turns, with danger at every turn, he follows the clues until it leads to a deadly and horrible conclusion. He is once again threatened by the ghosts of his past deeds during the Khrushchev era in The Secret Speech, and once more during the Afghanistan crusades in Agent 6. Named one of the top 100 crime thrillers of all time by NPR, these books have won awards worldwide.
Read Lust, Money & Murder
Mike is known as the unputdownable author of fast-paced international criminal stories, featuring Elaine Brogan, a model who becomes a Secret Service agent assigned to track down international counterfeiters. Sexy, action packed and fast paced, your only worry will be how soon you can get the other two books in the series.
Read Cold Steal
Set in Reykjavik, Iceland, Bate’s Sergeant Gunnhidur ‘Gunna’ Gísladóttir is a member of the Icelandic Serious Crime Unit. Investigating a series of burglaries, she discovers that the housebreaker may have broken into the wrong house. Murders, vanished clues and warnings from her bosses cannot keep Gunna from investigating this ever expanding criminal enterprise while navigating complicated relationships at home and the office.
Read An American Outlaw
John Stonehouse’s debut novel is a blockbuster. Readers find out about the crime and the people who commit it: the book weaves a spellbinding and action-packed story with young Marshall John Whicher chasing a group of rogue combat vets across Texas to discover the motive, prevent more mayhem and serve up some Texas-style justice. Interesting back stories flesh out the characters, and twists and turns along the way leave the reader wondering which ones are the bad guys.
Read The Sister
In 1967, two children witness a murder. Forty years later, DCI John Kennedy reopens the only case he never solved. Through breathtaking twists and turns, uncovering a diabolical criminal who has remained in the shadows for decades, the crime will only be solved when Kennedy finds the grown witness’s seemingly unrelated murder. A riveting novel by a master storyteller, China balances a cast of characters and crimes that all tie together neatly into a satisfying finish.
Read The Killing Pool
If you are ready to visit the mean streets of Liverpool, and enjoy Elmore Leonard-style characters, coarse language and cut-throat humour, you can’t go wrong with Kevin Sampson’s tales. Fast paced, with a first few paragraphs that take your breath away and propel you into the madness, watch as Detective Chief Inspector Billy McCartney finds a headless corpse and starts a marathon chase. The clock is ticking, but you won’t put this one down.
It is said that “nobody writes dialogue better than Price”. Clockers is a tale of two men, Strike Dunham who is a lieutenant for an unstable drug king, and Rocco Klein, an almost retired homicide cop who’s current concern is which actor will play him in an upcoming movie. The resulting paths of treachery, self-discovery and revelation provide nerve-shattering plot twists, a searing character study and a clear indictment of America’s drug policy. There are no winners in the drug trade, and nobody can win the war on drugs.
Follow at @clockersprice
Read A Deadly Trade
This author team, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip (both from Africa) have once again put Detective Kubu of Botswana out of his comfort zone and into a chase, leaving bodies in the wake as he investigates the mysterious murders of two tourists camping close to the border to neighboring Zambia. Readers will delight in reading about the African landscape and local customs, especially Kubu’s happy home life. Yet the contrast of the violent criminal acts, and the falling bodies, drive Kubu out of his comfort zone and back to the remote tourist camp, where a climactic battle gives rise to the solution he never wanted to find.
Read The Long Way Home
The latest in a series of nine books about Armand Gamache, we find the former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec happily retired in the small Canadian village of Three Pines. This is until his neighbor Clara brings him a missing person’s case – her ex-husband has not appeared as promised. But Peter has ventured so far that he doesn’t want to be found. Inspector Gamache must travel to the very ends of civilization, to a remote area so desolate that it is known as “the land God gave to Cain” to discover the damage inflicted by a sin-sick soul.
Bee is called home to London at the news that her younger sister, Tess, is missing. But Tess is found dead, in an apparent suicide. Without the family’s approval, Bee begins her own murder investigation and discovers secrets and shady characters in Tess’s life, an affair with a married man, a stalker, a secret pregnancy and participation in a dangerous medical trial that may have gone wrong. In gaining the interest of the police, she stirs up some evil that could cost Bee her own life. Rosamund has once again written a compelling and award winning tale that is sure to strike a familiar note in all of us.
Read Sick City
What could go wrong when two heroin addicts meet in drug rehab in gritty LA and concoct a scheme to sell a so-called secret Sharon Tate group sex film? O’Neill’s story is written in the new Gonzo noir style which embraces dark humor to describe the worst tendencies of contemporary culture on the down low. Skewering the exploitive pretensions of the arrogant and clueless media recovery gurus, this outlandish chase mixes Celebrity Rehab with the best freak fest Tarantino might imagine. There are no heroes in this crime rollercoaster ride, but the mishaps and wrong turns will keep you turning the pages and disappointed when they run out – disappointed only because the ride comes to a stop. You want to buy another ticket and go again!
Read The Goldfinch
There’s good news, bad news and great news about this thriller. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, it is 784 pages and it is a wonderful and engaging tale of a young boy who lost his mother in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, which results in incredible longing for his lost parent as well as possession of a valuable painting entitled The Goldfinch. His life, from that day forward, revolves around the painting, art history, and a globe-spanning search for the painting after it has been stolen. The quest for the painting takes us all on a journey of discovery, pathos, rumination and all of the stages a young man must progress through without a matriarch.
Follow at @donnatartt
Read The Cuckoo’s Calling
It is no longer a mystery that the crime suspense novel The Cuckoo’s Calling was actually written by JK Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter books. But there is a good reason for the subterfuge. This adult fiction was far removed from the stories that made her famous, and she wanted to publish without the fanfare of her fame and receive feedback on the book’s merits — not just its famous author’s established genre. And rave reviews were earned. This story of a land mine survivor turned detective, Cormoran Strike, almost at the end of his rope financially, is given the job of investigating the death of a supermodel’s supposed suicide by her brother. You may think you understand detectives, but Strike will immediately surprise you. You may have notions about the rich and famous, but under a Strike investigation, who knows what will turn up? Leave all preconceptions at home. You are in for an awakening.
Read Dark Places
Libby Day was only seven when her mother and sisters were slaughtered by a killer in a Satanic-style ritual. Libby testifies that the murderer was her 15 year-old brother, and he is sent to prison. Forward twenty five years, and Libby is accosted by ‘The Kill Club’ a group fascinated with notorious crimes and of the opinion that her brother was wrongly convicted. Libby accepts a fee to talk about the crime, and that sets off a chain of events that ultimately has her running for her life from a killer who wants to finish the job started so long ago. Set in the present with flashbacks detailing the grisly crime In Cold Blood Style, once this book catches up to the past, it moves forward at a terrifying pace.
Read Song Dog
It is 1962 in South Africa, the year of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and the oppressive culture has yet to see its incredible transformation. Young Lieutenant Tromp Kramer has been sent to Jafini, a small dusty outpost in northern Zululand to investigate the death of Chief Detective Maaties Kritzinger, an Afrikaner maverick with countless secrets. Enlisting the talents and local knowledge of Bantu Detective Sergeant Micky Zondi, the two form a bond that adds danger to their partnership in apartheid South Africa. Yet it also brings two different worlds together in a necessary trust that takes them and the readers on a journey to forbidden and secret places in a very foreign land. This is an excellent introduction to the pair who goes on to solve other crimes in McClure’s Soho Crime Series. Unfortunately, James passed on in 2006, but his Kramer and Zondi series stand out as excellent reads.
Read Wife of the Gods
The first book featuring Detective Inspector Darko Dawson of Ghana’s capital city, Darko is assigned to lead a murder investigation in the remote village of Ketanu, where a young woman and promising medical student have been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Facing resistance from local police who don’t take to an outsider’s perspective, this is a story about the clash of modern police methods against superstition and age-old customs. Mix in an estranged relationship with his family who he left behind decades ago and the similarity to his own mother’s inexplicable disappearance, and the emotions and conflicts go full throttle. Dawson does uncover the secrets to the linked crimes, but the results may hit very close to home.
LAPD Lt. Milo Sturgis takes on a sensitive murder investigation, after the body of Elise Freeman is discovered battered, tortured and the victim of sadistic killers. Suicide? Who commits suicide by lying down in a bathtub full of dry ice? The evidence leads to the very exclusive and ultra-prestigious Windsor Prep Academy, and there the cat and mouse game begins. Bringing in Dr. Alex Delaware, a psychologist (like the author) and frequent partner of Sturgis, the two of them begin to discover secrets of the victim, the faculty and the other students as the uber-privileged form ranks to protect themselves from discovery and the unpleasantness of exposure. This is not the gritty side of LA, but it is just as dangerous and diabolical. Is Jonathan Kellerman the master of psychological suspense? He sure has the chops and the Alex Delaware stories only serve to prove this point.
Read Bangkok 8
Asian flavors are generally a complex mix of seemingly incongruous yet simple flavors that are perfectly blended to create something you will never taste anywhere else. With John Burdett’s novels, you could say the same is true. Mixing Buddhist philosophy, black comedy and a horrific crime need a certain expertise to come out right, but when the recipe works, you will find yourself begging for more. And so it is with John Burdett’s crime novels. Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep investigates the death of a man locked in a car with venomous cobras. From there, the bizarre becomes normal as Jitpleecheep narrates with outrage, amusement, cynicism and humor the pathway to solving the murder. This is another can’t-put-down page turner and a travel guide to the back alleys of Thailand.
Read Still Water
John Harvey is the author of over 100 books, including eleven Charles Resneck stories. He is the recipient of multiple awards including the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement. Still Water explores the devastating consequences of sexual violence, laced with intrigue and moral quandary. In this ninth book in the Resneck series, Charlie is called out of a Jazz concert to begin an investigation of the first of many young women found murdered, left naked in the canals. One of the all-time great fictional characters, this book has consistent five star ratings on Amazon.
Read Dog Soldiers
Set in Saigon just as the American offensive in Vietnam is winding down, an unlucky journalist concocts a get-rich-quick scheme involving smuggling a load of heroin back to the US. Enlisting his partner-in-crime, Ray Hicks, they attempt the improbable. With renegade CIA agents, amateur drug dealers, innocent hippies and profiteering cops all try to put their hands in the cookie jar, all hell breaks loose as things go from ridiculous to dangerous in a heartbeat. An epic tome on the business of survival when honor and morality are trampled by those trying to survive – and win a huge profit in illicit activities, this National Book Award winner has earned its place among the premier crime morality stories of the century.
Forensic pathologist and Chief Medical Examiner from Richmond, Virginia, encounters a human monster – a strangler who leaves no clues and frustrating false leads. She calls on the latest forensic tools to determine the identity of Mr. Nobody, but this time she is being watched and sabotaged by a colleague. When she is attacked by the strangler, she is saved by another unexpected source, and the chase is on to catch the criminal before he can kill again.
Martin Cruz Smith
Read Gorky Park
Welcome to Arkady Renko’s Moscow, used by his superiors for rubbish jobs, unloved by his wife, living in a country more like an insane asylum where the patients are in charge. Renko is charged with the murders of three people in the old Soviet Union, but in order to solve it, he has to climb the precarious ladder into political intrigue, corruption at the highest levels, incompetence within the Soviet police procedures and international implications when the chief suspect turns out to be a wealthy American, highly connected at the top of the Soviet government. This is another novel that is so much better than the film, and the heat of Cru Smith’s writing will take you into more of his work — you will be richer for that, to be sure.
Read Cotton Comes to Harlem
Chester Himes wrote hard boiled crime fiction with a twist. His Harlem Detective novels provide the reader an insight into 1960’s Harlem, New York City through the eyes of two black NYPD detectives – Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Deke O’Hara, a recently released con man pulls off the con of a lifetime, but his reward is high jacked by white gunmen and the detectives are forced to recover the ill-gotten loot in a complex but fascinating scheme of “who has what, when and where?” Chester Himes is considered one of the best storytellers of all time; his writing exposes the pathos and ridiculousness of the human spirit while taking the reader on a thrill ride through an exotic landscape set right in the middle of a modern city.
Read American Tabloid
Part of James’ Underworld Trilogy, American Tabloid was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best BOOKS of the year. This is the tale of the American crime syndicates as it intersects with politics in the late 50’s and 60’s. Featuring realistic portraits of Jack Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and mob figures; FBI wire tapper Ward Little; sadistic ex-LA cop Pete Bondurant; and the government dirty deeds CIA man, Kemper Boyd – the culmination is a horrible crime of the highest level – the assassination of the President. This is revisionist history; with some liberties taken with the historical record, but it is a fascinating read about power and exploitation at the very highest level.
Virginie Despentes is a well-known French radical post-punk filmmaker, writer and provocateur. Baise-Moi (translating as F—k Me) is not a read for the calm and conservative type. It moves at a ragged pace and is filled with violence, vengeance, and a swift kick to the reader’s genitals. Taking female rage past the limits, two women – part Thelma and Louise, part Viking Hoard – go on a rampage after one is brutally raped and decides there is nothing worth leaving behind. Her compatriot, a nihilist and radical feminist accompanies her on her destructive march across country, luring men into honey traps, and then using them up, robbing and killing them without mercy. A protest about sexual alienation? A statement about the downward spiral of vicarious sex and violence in our society? You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Read Let it Bleed
Detective John Rebus is not a popular figure in the Edinburgh, Scotland police department. He tends to drink heavily, talks trash to authorities and loves to play the Stones at full volume. But he is dogged if not unflappable, and when the higher ups call him off a case for suspicious reasons, he digs deeper into a corrupt political system that has symptomatically created two seemingly unrelated crimes — a double ‘suicide’ and a kidnapping gone wrong. The trail follows the hidden clues to embezzlement, then murder and finally corruption at the highest level. Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels have been bestsellers because of the intricate plots and the brilliantly-realised John Rebus.
Read The Black Echo
This time, it’s personal for LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch. The body stuck in the drainpipe of Mulholland dam is Billy Meadows, a fellow Vietnam war veteran and tunnel rat who worked side-by-side with Bosch clearing Viet Cong in the 60’s. Now, he returns to hell under the earth to revisit the dangerous underground mazes under LA, being used by a criminal enterprise to pull off a criminal heist. Connelly’s descriptions of autopsies, murder schemes, crime scenes and police procedures are treats for forensic fans. And how the crime is solved, with the help of a seductive FBI agent and the treachery of enemies within his department, is a second march through spine tingling twists and turns as he finally faces a killer from his past who truly shocks him.
Read Move to Strike
This New York Times bestseller by Perri O’Shaughnessy (actually the penname for two Northern California sisters – Mary and Pamela O’Shaughnessy) takes us into the courtroom after Nina Reilly, an attorney and single mother running a one woman law firm in South Lake Tahoe takes on the case of a friend of her son – 16 year old Nikki Zach. Did Nikki, a rebel and known thief steal something from her uncle, or did she slice him up with an ancient Samurai Sword? Twists and turns and more dead bodies – including Nikki’s brother who dies in a plane crash the same night their father was murdered – a bitter struggle over a mining claim, enraged former patients of the uncle, and ties to other crimes, this is a case that has to be wrapped up in a surprise courtroom admission. Pictured: one-half of the duo, Pamela.