Top 10 Crime Novels

3rd June 2024
Top 10 Crime Novels

Thinking of turning to crime? Reading crime novels, that is. June is National Crime Reading Month, so if you've not read much crime before, it’s a perfect time to give it a go.

‘Crime’ is a catch-all term but can include stories about a detective or a team of police, a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, a thriller, or even an action story - anything that involves a crime of some sort. In style they can range from full-on gore to ‘cosy crime’, which are classic whodunits for those who prefer the gruesome parts to happen offstage.

If you're just discovering the world of crime fiction, here are 10 novels that provide a good starting point. Read on to see what our librarians say about each book, and click the titles to reserve and borrow.


 1. The Crossing Places - Elly Griffiths

A child's bones are discovered on the windswept Norfolk marshes. Believing them to be ancient, the police call in Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. But this is no prehistoric grave. A cold missing person case has now become a murder investigation.

Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child's bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier - or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth's expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest. But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she's getting ever closer to the truth...

Our librarians say: The first book in my absolute favourite crime series. Doctor Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist with a complicated love life, a serious love of chocolate and a dangerous tendency to get caught up in murder.


2. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, a priceless yellow diamond, is looted from an Indian temple and maliciously bequeathed to Rachel Verinder. On her eighteenth birthday, her friend and suitor Franklin Blake brings the gift to her. That very night, it is stolen again. No one is above suspicion, as the idiosyncratic Sergeant Cuff and the Franklin piece together a puzzling series of events as mystifying as an opium dream and as deceptive as the nearby Shivering Sand

Our librarians say: This is thought to be first of the modern crime genre with all of the, now so familiar, classic elements, a rambling country house, a talented detective and a dark family secret.


3. Murder on Lake Garda - Tom Hindle

On the private island of Castle Fiore - surrounded by the glittering waters of Lake Garda - the illustrious Heywood family gathers begrudgingly for their son Laurence's wedding to Italian influencer Eva Bianchi.

But as the ceremony begins, a blood-curdling scream brings the proceedings to a devastating halt. With the wedding guests trapped as they await the police, old secrets come to light and family rivalries threaten to bubble over. Everyone is desperate to know...Who is the killer? And can they be found before they strike again?

Our librarians say: A modern locked-room mystery. Plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing in this popular crime writer’s latest offering.

4. Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

The psychologists would call it folie a deux...

'Bruno slammed his palms together. 'Hey! Cheeses, what an idea! I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?''. From this moment, almost against his conscious will, Guy Haines is trapped in a nightmare of shared guilt and an insidious merging of personalities.

Our librarians say: Two strangers meet by chance and agree to dispatch each other’s problematic victims in order to avoid suspicion, with chilling consequences.


5. Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie

The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything - until she lost her life.

Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: 'I'd like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.' Yet in this exotic setting nothing is ever quite what it seems...

Our librarians say: Classic Poirot. A luxurious cruise along the Nile is ruined when a glamorous socialite is murdered in this tale of love and betrayal.


6. A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

In 1137 the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to her final resting place in Wales, where they find the villagers passionately divided by the Benedictines' offer for the saint's relics.

Canny, wise and all too worldly, Cadfael isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder. The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself dealt the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that a carnal hand did the killings, but he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the wages of sin may be scandal - or his own ruin.

Our librarians say: An ex-soldier and monk, Brother Cadfael, uses his many life experiences and skill as a herbalist to solve medieval mysteries.


7. Last Bus to Woodstock - Colin Dexter

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…

Our librarians say: The first in the series featuring (in my opinion) the best detective duo ever, the curmudgeonly Morse and the ever-loyal Lewis.

8. My Sister the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in "self-defence" and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, 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...

Our librarians say: A darkly comic story of sisterhood which demonstrates that blood is always thicker than water, and harder to get out of the carpet.


9. A Line to Kill - Anthony Horowitz

There has never been a murder on Alderney.

It's a tiny island, just three miles long and a mile and a half wide. The perfect location for a brand new literary festival. Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne has been invited to talk about his new book. The writer, Anthony Horowitz, travels with him.

Very soon they discover that not all is as it should be. Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour. The visiting authors - including a blind medium, a French performance poet and a celebrity chef - seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets. When the festival's wealthy sponsor is found brutally killed, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows that he doesn't have to look too far for suspects.

There's no escape. The killer is still on the island. And there's about to be a second death...

Our librarians say: Obviously we love the local connection! Our favourite installment in the Daniel Hawthorne series, all of which are well worth a read.


10. The Cuckoo - Camilla Lackberg

As a heavy mist rolls into the Swedish coastal town of Fjällbacka, shocking violence shakes the small community to its core. Rolf Stenklo, a famous photographer, is found murdered in his gallery. Two days later, a brutal tragedy on a private island leaves the prestigious Bauer family devastated. With his boss acting strangely, Detective Patrik Hedström is left to lead the investigation. Tensions rise threatening cracks in the team of officers at Tanumshede police station and pressure mounts as the press demand answers.

In pursuit of inspiration for her next true-crime book, Patrik’s wife Erica Falck leaves behind their three children and travels to Stockholm to research the unsolved decades-old murder of a figure from Rolf’s past. As Erica searches for the truth, she realizes that her mystery is connected to Patrik’s case. These threads from the past are woven into the present and old sins leave behind long shadows.

Our librarians say: Camilla Lackberg is known as ‘the rock star of Nordic noir’ and this novel is one of the best examples of the dark Scandi genre.


Looking for more reading inspiration? Click here.