Top Ten Crime Novels

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Don't worry - these are not the top ten crime books which you ought (dreadful word!) to read or the most-hyped books. These are ten books which we think you'll love – the ones where you just have to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. There are a few names you'll know well, but quite a few which might be new to you. Why not tell us about your favourites?

Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

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The sixteenth in the Inspector Rebus series moves into new territory as Rankin tackles the problems of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in Edinburgh. It's an excellent plot with plenty of other sub-plots in the background and a satisfying finale. It's worth buying as it's a novel that could easily be reread.

All the Rebus stories can be read as stand-alone novels. You might like to start at the beginning and work your way through, but the later novels are generally better. Full review...


Cold in Hand by John Harvey

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After a decade away Resnick returns in a gripping, atmospheric story which looks at gun running, people trafficking and prostitution. The plot is complex but not convoluted and it's a superb read. Highly recommended.

Harvey has rather suffered from Rankin's popularity but his books are comparable in quality and it would be a shame if he was to be overlooked. Full review...

Cabal by Michael Dibdin

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One of the best of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series, set in Rome and the Vatican. It's well-worth buying as you're likely to come back to it in the future. Despite being published in the nineteen nineties it doesn't feel at all dated.

It's often said that Zen is based on Dibdin's own personality, with depression as the default setting, but it's sad that there will be no more following Dibdin's death in 2008. He's one of the few authors to have captured Italian crime from the outside. Full review...

Dark Angels by Grace Monroe

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Kailash Coutts first hit the headlines in connection with a simple scandal involving a senior corporate lawyer. When she is accused of murder she specifically asks for the only criminal defending barrister on the practice's books. McLennan takes the case against her better judgement and gets drawn into the darkness of politics and power, and unsolved serial killings spanning decades previous.

Grace Monroe is the nom-de-plume of the writing team Maria Thomson and Linda Watson-Brown. They're newcomers. They're also a name to watch. Full review...

The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell

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The sixth book in Mankell's Kurt Wallander series is pure police procedural but written with style and panache. It's a substantial, but worthwhile read. Although there are a few incidental points about previous cases in all the books they read well as stand alone novels with no plot line spoilers.

Mankell has moved away from the Kurt Wallander novels but they still make for good reading and never seem dated. Full review...

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

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The first in a new crime series from Benjamin Black, better known as Man Booker winner John Banville, is set in nineteen-fifties Dublin. It's pacey, atmospheric and totally compelling. The hero, Quirke, is a pathologist but it's not a story based on pathology along the lines of Patricia Cornwell. It comes highly recommended by Bookbag.

Banville's books are not generally known for being action-packed, but in Christine Falls he proves that he can do plot as well as character and superb writing. Full review...

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

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This novel won the Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger for 2006. Based in Shetland, it's neatly constructed, perfectly paced and beautifully written – the psychological crime novel meets the old-fashioned whodunit.

It's good to see a talented writer carrying on this tradition and we hope to see a lot more from Ann Cleeves. Full review...

Lullaby by Claire Seeber

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An elegantly-constructed mystery about the disappearance of baby Louis and husband Mickey during a visit to the Tate Modern will have you turning the pages until the neat twist at the very end, which I certainly didn't see coming! Highly recommended by The Bookbag.

When I first saw this book I feared that it might be capitalising on the dreadful disappearance of Madeline McCann, but fortunately this isn't the case. Full review...

The Paper Moon by Andrea Camilleri

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The ninth book in the Montalbano series and they're still fresh and original. Superb plotting and excellent characters make this as close to perfect as a police procedural can be. All the Montalbano books are relatively short reads but they're still exceptional value.

If you want you can start with the first book in the series, but they all read well as stand alone novels and, as with so many writers, the later books are better than the earlier ones. Full review...

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland (translator)

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A disgraced financial journalist and a legally incompetent computer hacker join forces to solve a forty-year-old mystery. An atmospheric and enthralling crime novel with a cast of strong characters. Recommended.

It's a great shame that Larsson died not long after he delivered the manuscripts for the three books in this series to his publisher. Full review...

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