Looking for the best crime books ever written? Look no further. We've searched far and wide to make reading lists of the best classic thrillers, along with old crime novel favourites like the best Sherlock Holmes books, Agatha Christie books and the best of Wilkie Collins.
We also have country-specific recommendations, including the best Italian crime fiction, the best Australian crime and the best Norwegian crime writing. Don't know quite what you're looking for? That's fine, too: there are expert interviews recommending the best human drama books, and the best whodunnits. Our experts include many of the best crime novelists writing today, including Simon Brett, Lucy Atkins, Michael Dirda, Massimo Carlotto and even leading academics who study crime novels like Jason Hall.
We have a separate section for those of you looking for the best true crime books.
The Best Classic Crime Fiction, recommended by Sophie Roell
Since the early stories of the 18th and 19th centuries, crime fiction has been an incredibly popular and enduring genre, the investigation of murder somehow capturing the imagination of millions of readers around the globe. Here, Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books, uses strict but simple criteria to pick out the best classic crime fiction, from the Victorian age through to the 1950s.
Best Police Procedurals, recommended by Louisa Scarr
Crime fiction told from the point of view of the police investigating a crime is hugely popular, with dozens of books published each year. Here British writer Louisa Scarr, author of a series set in Southampton and featuring DS Robin Butler and DC Freya West, talks us through some of her favourite police procedurals and explains why they’re so fun to read and write.
The Best Detective Fiction, recommended by Jeffrey Archer
With so many works of detective fiction coming out each year, which books stand the test of time? Here, bestselling British author Jeffrey Archer talks us through some of his favourites, the books he found completely unputdownable and made him want to read everything the author had written.
The Best Australian Crime Fiction, recommended by Emma Viskic
Australian crime fiction—sometimes dubbed ‘Outback Noir’—is enjoying a boom, and its authors are rapturously received overseas. Emma Viskic, the award-winning crime writer, selects five of the best crime novels by her compatriots: outstanding books that blur the line between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction.
The Best Classic Thrillers, recommended by Lucy Atkins
Every week, dozens of new thrillers appear in bookshops. But, often, the classic ones are the best of all. If you haven’t read any of these five yet, you have a treat in store.
Massimo Carlotto recommends the best Italian Crime Fiction
Journalists are no longer able to properly investigate organised crime in modern Italy — leaving it to crime fiction writers to pick up the slack, says the acclaimed Italian novelist, Massimo Carlotto. Here he chooses five noir novels that explore the reality of Italian corruption in highly original ways.
The Best Books by Wilkie Collins, recommended by Jason Hall
Wilkie Collins, the sensationalist author and inventor of the detective novel, knew precisely how to “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait”. Jason Hall, Victorian literature expert and editor of a new edition of Jezebel’s Daughter, chooses the five best books from Collins’s extensive oeuvre – and considers the voracious appetites and unorthodox lifestyle of this intriguing Englishman.
Lynda La Plante recommends the best Crime Novels
The writer of the hugely successful Prime Suspect television series, Lynda La Plante, selects her own favourite crime novels. We haven’t completed the interview with her yet, but her brief email comments appear beside her choices.
The Best Sherlock Holmes Books, recommended by Michael Dirda
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels starring his fictional sleuth. Michael Dirda – Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, writer and lifelong Sherlockian – gives us his personal choice of the best Sherlock Holmes books and tells us more about their creator.
The best books on Swedish Crime Writing, recommended by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström
The celebrated Swedish crime-writing duo take turns to recommend gripping and grisly Scandinavian thrillers, as well as to tell us about visiting prison – and being in it
The Best Crime Fiction of 2021, recommended by Sophie Roell
If you’re into crime fiction as a form of relaxation, a wide range of books continue to be published, set in places around the world. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books and a keen reader of the genre, picks out some of her favourites from 2021.
The Best Crime Fiction, recommended by Peter James
The best crime novels grip you right from the first sentence and don’t let go, says bestselling crime author, Peter James. He picks his own favourite crime novels.
The Best Whodunnits, recommended by Simon Brett
When it comes to whodunnits, the latest ones aren’t always the best. Veteran crime writer Simon Brett talks us through some of his all-time favourites.
Irvine Welsh recommends the best Crime Novels
We learn much more from failure than we do from success, says Irvine Welsh. The author of Trainspotting recommends his own favourite crime novels.
Jo Nesbø recommends the best Norwegian Crime Writing
The bestselling Norwegian crime writer, Jo Nesbø, recommends some of the classics of his genre, many of which have not (yet) been translated into English.
Best Crime Fiction of 2020, recommended by Sophie Roell
If you’re looking for escapism, crime novels can be a good way to go. Which is strange, given that nearly all of them revolve around murder. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books and an avid consumer of the genre, picks her personal favourites published in 2020.
The Best Nordic Crime Fiction, recommended by Ann Cleeves
Crime writer and Golden Dagger winner, Ann Cleeves, insists the bleak, snowy, wild spaces of Nordic crime fiction are more than a backdrop. The environment really affects the people that grow out of that landscape.
The Best Crime Fiction of 2019, recommended by Val McDermid
It’s been a great year for crime fiction – with soaring sales and global bestsellers emerging from writers all over the world. Crime writing is rightly in the ascendancy, says the celebrated Scottish novelist Val McDermid as she selects the best crime fiction of 2019: five books that stand as great novels in their own right.