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The home of killer crime books, drama and film.
The Sunday Times 50 Best Crime and Thriller Books
February 11, 2015
The Sunday Times has pulled together the best 50 crime and thriller novels of the past five years. From Lee Child to Gillian Flynn, Gerald Seymour to C J Sansom, these are the books that have made our hearts race and our pulses jump.
Split into the twenty-five best crime books and twenty-five best thrillers, the list below has been compiled by The Sunday Times ‘s regular crime fiction and thriller reviewers, Joan Smith and John Dugdale .
See the list online at www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/book , or you can view it on their digital special edition which has the first chapters of all the books on the list.
We wanted to celebrate this fantastic selection of crime books and have collected them together here for you to enjoy, in no particular order.
Best crime books:
The Vault by Ruth Rendell
The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas
Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason
1. The Vault by Ruth Rendell Chief Inspector Reg Wexford has retired. Wexford takes great pleasure in his books, but, for all the benefits of a more relaxed lifestyle, he misses being the law. But a chance meeting in a London street, with someone he had known briefly as a very young police constable, changes everything.
2. Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas Commissaire Adamsberg takes a case far outside of his jurisdiction: the disappearances of evildoers who have been visited by a band of ghostly horsemen.
3. Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason One cold autumn night, a woman is found hanging from a beam at her holiday cottage. At first sight, it appears like a straightforward case of suicide. Maria had never recovered from the death of her mother two years previously and she had a history of depression. But then the friend who found her body approaches Detective Erlendur .
The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach
Darkside by Belinda Bauer
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen
4. The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach For thirty-four year, Fabrizio Collini has worked diligently for Mercedes Benz. He is a quiet and respectable person until the day he visits one of Berlin’s most luxurious hotels and kills an innocent man. Young attorney Caspar Leinen takes the case.
5. Darkside by Belinda Bauer It is freezing mid-winter on Exmoor, and in a close-knit community where no stranger goes unnoticed, a local woman has been found murdered in her bed. This is local policeman Jonas Holly’s first murder investigation. But he is distracted by anonymous letters, accusing him of failing to do his job.
6. Mercy / The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen Copenhagen detective Carl Morck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes . His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead. Everyone says it’s a waste of time. He thinks they’re right. The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy.
Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor
Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves
The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier
7. Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor 1934, London. Into the decaying cul-de-sac of Bleeding Heart Square steps aristocratic Lydia Langstone fleeing an abusive marriage. However, unknown to Lydia, a dark mystery haunts the place.
8. Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves Murder can strike more than once…
9. The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier When it comes to crime, France is the new Scandinavia – an isolated, snow-bound valley and a series of strange murders set the scene in this gripping French bestseller.
Heartstone by C J Sansom
The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson
10. Heartstone by C J Sansom It’s Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII’s invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel…
2. The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths Strongly plotted, fast-paced crime fiction with a quirky, engaging heroine – third in a terrific series featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway.
12. The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson When bestselling crime author Josephine Tey inherits a remote Suffolk cottage from her godmother, it comes full of secrets.
Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek
Bed of Nails by Antonin Varenne
Cell 8 by Roslund & Hellstrom
13. Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek What if we could permanently erase our most terrifying experiences from memory? And what could go wrong?
14. Bed of Nails by Antonin Varenne The side of Paris the tourists don’t see…
15. Cell 8 by Roslund & Hellstrom A capital crime. A chilling conspiracy.
Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
Dogstar Rising by Parker Bilal
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
16. Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer They killed her best friend. Now they are chasing Rachel Anderson through the streets of Cape Town. The young tourist doesn’t dare trust anyone – except her father, back home in America.
17. Dogstar Rising by Parker Bilal The launch of a major new detective series set in modern-day Cairo – moving between its labyrinthine back streets, and its shining towerblocks – and featuring Makana, an exiled Sudanese private investigator, escaping his own troubled past.
18. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke On a dark night, out on the Houston bayou to celebrate his wife’s birthday, Jay Porter hears a scream. Saving a distressed woman from drowning, he opens a Pandora’s Box. Not the lawyer he set out to be, Jay long ago made peace with his radical youth, tucked away his darkest sins and resolved to make a fresh start.
Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder
Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky
19. Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdadottir Chilling Icelandic crime from the internationally bestselling author of Last Rituals and Ashes to Dust .
20. Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder One cold morning in December, in a small rural town on the Swedish coast, Ake Melkersson is on his way to work when his car breaks down. Luckily he spots a garage nearby, but as he approaches he realises something is wrong.
21. Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky The sixteenth V.I. Warshawski thriller from one of America’s greatest female crime writers, combining contemporary issues, the fight against injustice and fast-paced suspense.
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri
Hour of the Wolf by Hakan Nesser
The Night of the Mi'raj by Zoe Ferraris
22. August Heat by Andrea Camilleri The tenth novel in Camilleri’s engrossing mystery series featuring the irrepressible Inspector Montalbano.
23. Hour of the Wolf by Hakan Nesser The master of Swedish crime fiction returns with the winner of the prestigious Scandinavian Glass Key Award.
24. Night of the Mi’raj by Zoe Ferraris A compelling page-turner with a wonderful central character, which also gives a fascinating insight into the closed world of Saudi Arabia.
W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
25. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton Two dead bodies changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue. The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. The other was on the beach six weeks later. No identification only a slip of paper with Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone’s name and number in his pocket.
Best thriller books:
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
A Delicate Truth by John le Carré
Gone by Mo Hayder
1. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris Paris, 1895: an army officer, Georges Picquart, watches a convicted spy, Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of a baying crowd. Dreyfus is exiled for life to Devil’s Island; Picquart is promoted to run the intelligence unit that tracked him down.
2. A Delicate Truth by John le Carré A counter-terror operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted in Britain’s most precious colony, Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, and a private defence contractor who is also his close friend.
3. Gone by Mo Hayder Night is falling as murder detective Jack Caffrey arrives to interview the distraught victim of a car-jacking. What he hears horrifies him. The car was taken by force, and on the back seat was a passenger. An eleven-year-old girl. Who is still missing. Before long the jacker starts to communicate with the police.
61 Hours by Lee Child
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson
4. 61 Hours by Lee Child It’s winter in South Dakota. Blowing snow, icy roads, a tired driver. A bus skids and crashes and is stranded in a gathering storm. Jack hitched a ride in the back of the bus. A life without baggage has many advantages. And crucial disadvantages too, when it means facing the arctic cold without a coat. But he’s equipped for the rest of his task.
5. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs In a daring operation, two crooks-for-hire rob an Atlantic City casino. But their heist goes horribly wrong, and only one of them makes it out alive.
6. Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
Truth by Peter Temple
Dead Lions by Mick Herron
7. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre In kidnapping cases, the first few hours are vital. Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, no hope. But as he begins to understand more about Alex, he starts to realise she is no ordinary victim…
8. Truth by Peter Temple A teenage prostitute is found with her neck broken in an apartment in a wealthy area, three men are found tortured and murdered… Head of Homicide Stephen Villani faces the moral decline of a society and of himself.
9. Dead Lions by Mick Herron When a Cold War-era colleague is murdered far from his usual haunts, a team of disgraced MI5 spies under the leadership of irascible Jackson Lamb uncovers a shadowy tangle of secrets that lead to a man who hides his dangerous powers behind a false identity.
The Expats by Chris Pavone
A Deniable Death by Gerald Seymour
A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
10. The Expats by Chris Pavone Kate Moore is an expat mum, transplanted from Washington D. C. In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, her days are filled with play dates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris or skiing in the Alps. Kate is also guarding a secret – one so momentous it could destroy her neat little expat life.
11. A Deniable Death by Gerald Seymour An epic novel of high courage and low cunning, of life and death in the moral maze of the post-9/11 world.
12. A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming Winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012 for Best Thriller of the Year.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Last Child by John Hart
13. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King The instantly riveting Doctor Sleep picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
14. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Nick Dunne’s wife Amy suddenly disappears on the morning of their 5th anniversary. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. Then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.
15. The Last Child by John Hart A thirteen year old boy turns vigilante to investigate the abduction of his twin sister.
The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Norwegian by Night by Derek B Miller
16. The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn The phone rings. It’s your daughter. She’s been dead for four months.
17. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles The stunning new Penn Cage thriller in which a shocking murder from the 1960s finds new life – and victims – in the present.
18. Norwegian by Night by Derek B Miller He will not admit it to Rhea and Lars – never, of course not – but Sheldon can’t help but wonder what it is he’s doing here… Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo, with his grand-daughter and her Norwegian husband.
The Carrier by Sophie Hannah
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
Innocent by Scott Turow
19. The Carrier by Sophie Hannah An overnight plane delay is bad. Having to share your hotel room with a stranger is worse. But that is only the beginning of Gaby Struther’s problems. Gaby has never met Lauren Cookson. So how does Lauren know so much about her? How does she know that the love of Gaby’s life has been accused of murder? Why is she telling her that he is innocent? And why is she so terrified of Gaby?
20. The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton Prize-winning crime author Steve Hamilton’s hugely commercial mainstream breakout tells the extraordinary story of a safe-cracker trying to unlock the key to his past.
21. Innocent by Scott Turow The eagerly anticipated sequel to the huge bestselling landmark legal thriller Presumed Innocent .
Dare Me by Megan Abbott
The Litigators by John Grisham
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen
22. Dare Me by Megan Abbott There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls. Coach said that once. She said it like she knew, and understood.
23. The Litigators by John Grisham The Litigators is a tremendously entertaining romp, filled with the kind of courtroom strategies, theatrics and suspense that have made John Grisham the world’s favourite storyteller.
24. Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen Andrew Yancy–late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff’s office–has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its shadowy owner.
Djibouti by Elmore Leonard
25. Djibouti by Elmore Leonard ‘The 85-year-old writer reminds us just why his critical standing is so high … Leonard has found his mojo again, and has us in the palm of his hand’ – The Independent .
Is your favourite book in there? How many have you read? Let us know!
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Quinton Jardine writes amazing books. Mo Hayder is absolutely awesome too.
Tana French should be on here. Complex characters, exciting plots and beautifully written
Barbara Nadel, Kate Ellis, Aline Templeton, Christopher Fowler, P. D. James, though Allingham is still re-readable.
Someone suggested L J Ross – really, seriously? I made the mistake of reading one, utterly dreadful, makes the average Mills & Boon look like Shakespeare. I can’t think of a worse written book or one with so many clichés or such a ludicrous ‘plot’.
I loved reading through everyone’s comments – made my list of things to read even longer!!
Good list but no Stuart MacBride and m j Aldridge , they are great reads . Will try go through this list though .
No Donna Leon? Her Commissario Brunetti is the best.
Mr Mercedes is excellent. Julia Wong
I’ve only read 4 of these,looking forward to reading more
Henning Mankel , my favorite and I have read everything he wrote. I cannot fibd an author to match his writing. John Silva is my second favorite and surprused he is not listed nor is Jo Nesbo.
I don’t see any LJ Ross books on this list. Her DCI Ryan series are an addictive read.
Angela Marsons Kim Stone series is excellent.
yes i agree the best crime book for me was..steamboat Barry on amazon
Very good information. From Belgium.
Great list I have read all available Elly Griffiths I like Charles Todd and all so Diana Gabaldon and all sorts of other books. I look forward to some recommendations.
No Kolymsky Heights?
I would agree. I have read it 3 times and bought it for all of my friends!
Has anyone heard of Rachel Caine who wrote Stillhouse Lake? It’s quite gripping.
Great list. Includes my favourites Indridason (no. 1) , Ferraris, Bilal, John Hart, I loved all Gillian Flynn except “Gone Girl”, & Jussi Adler-Olsen. I would include Michael Robotham, John Verdon, Jo Nesbo, Michelle Rowe, Hjorth Rosenfeldt, Karin Slaughter, Ragnar Jonasson and Maurizio De Giovanni.
No Ian .Rankin! Can’t believe it. Looks like some good ones though.
How about Peter May ?
Look at a new author on Amazon Kindle Frank Kaye. It’s perhaps not the best ever written book but the plot and the detail is a gripping read.
I tend to stick to certain authors, but this list wll encourage me to try others. MJ Arlidge and Michael Robotham are my favourites, always reliable.
Only read 5 but now can look out for others.unfortunately here in Zimbabwe we are limited to the quantity and choice which is imported. I live in a retirement village and “I AM PILGRIM” was sent to me by my daughter in Singapore.
I am Pilgrim is one of the best book I have ever read. Period.
Tess Gerristen, Playing with fire
I have been reading Hidden Casino a Ryan James Casino crime thriller gripping read on amazon kindle
Where is Mr Mercedes for God’s sake?! That should surely be on the list!
Hi Fionn! Mr Mercedes was published after this list was created – but we love it too!
Jo Nesbo. I have read many but the king of crime is Nesbo with Harry Hole series. Never dull!!
I can’t believe not one of Ian Rankin’s books are included in this list. Has nobody even read him? What about the Inspector Rutledge novels? Can’t remember author right now, but to me, these 2 are the best of the best. But I am going to start taking your list into consideration – maybe I will prove myself wrong.
All good but no James Ellroy? He is a total master.
no James Lee Burke or Philip Kerr. I don’t think so
No Agatha Christie! This must be a biased list based on snob values.. Also, what about the two Peters, James and Robinson; Val McDermid. I could go on and on. Very disappointing to someone who has read thousands on crime novels in my 70 years.
These books are just from the past five years so unfortunately Agatha Christie couldn’t qualify. When we do a top 50 crime novels of all time, I’m sure she’d feature very heavily. Can’t say why the others weren’t included – the list was created by The Sunday Times.
SORRY MO HAYDER IS ON THE LIST BUT TRY JTELLISON
I CANT FIND SHARON BOLTON THE QUEEN OF CRIME MO HAYDER XXX M R HALL ?????
i can’t find NicciFrench can you tell me way? dick Olsthoorn utrecht, The Netherlands
Especially Bernard Minier&Camilla Ceder
Great list. I’ve read some. Can’t wait to read the others.
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Top 10 of Everything: Arts and Entertainment
- Top 10 Fiction Books
See the rest of TIME’ s Top 10 of Everything 2013 lists here
10. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth , Isabel Greenberg
A graphic novel set in a mythical time when the world is still young, about a man from the North Pole who travels to the South Pole, where he meets a woman. They fall in love, only to discover that because they’re from different poles they repel each other magnetically and therefore can never touch. (Never mind that opposed magnetic poles actually attract each other, just go with it.) To fill the void between them they spin stories—fantastical, funny, wise, often touching yarns, which Greenberg both tells and illustrates with warm, whimsical beauty. We get to listen in. — Lev Grossman
9. Lexicon , Max Barry
Secret societies are thick on the ground in fiction these days, but Barry has founded one of the most intriguing yet: the Poets, a shadowy group that has so mastered the art of persuasion that normal people have no choice but to do exactly what they say. Told with infectious humor from two points of view, one Poet and one non-, Lexicon starts at top speed and never slows down. It’s unquestionably the year’s smartest thriller. — Lev Grossman
8. The Interestings , Meg Wolitzer
Five oddball teenagers at an artsy summer camp become friends, and they decide to call their little group The Interestings. Summer ends, but life keeps going, and Wolitzer keeps on following the five into their various futures. The years and decades roll forward and their ambitions and crushes and jealousies and flaws mold their lives into strange, imperfect, unexpected shapes — one becomes a therapist; the other, the creator of a wildly successful cartoon; another, a fugitive from justice. Wolitzer’s novelistic vision is so broad that it embraces the entire tapestry of their interwoven fates, and her glorious novelistic intelligence maps the complex five-way bonds between them with magnificent precision. — Lev Grossman
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane , Neil Gaiman
Slender but exceedingly deep, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a little boy in mid-century rural England who is accidentally drawn into a struggle between an evil spirit who’s trying to take up residence on Earth and his neighbors, the Hempstocks, who are much more powerful and less human than they appear. It’s a strange and beautiful and frightening fairy tale; it’s also the master fantasist’s most emotionally raw, personal novel to date. — Lev Grossman
6. NOS4A2, Joe Hill
It takes a deep and thorough knowledge of the human soul to frighten properly, and the depth of Hill’s knowledge is fully apparent here. NOS4A2 is the license plate of the Rolls-Royce Wraith in which the book’s villain abducts children and takes them to a thoroughly demonic theme-park world called Christmasland; it falls to Vic, a woman with a curious gift for finding things, to stop him. This is a horror novel, no mistake, and a searingly, upsettingly scary one, but it’s also a rich study of human evil and a lavish display of raw writing talent. — Lev Grossman
5. The Signature of All Things , Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love made her a household name; now she reminds us that she began her career as a writer of fiction with this masterly tale of overflowing sensual and scientific enthusiasms in the 19th century. Gilbert’s heroine is Alma Whittaker, a cerebral, insatiably curious spinster who wanders the globe in search of exotic flora but who stumbles on that more elusive and baffling natural phenomenon, love. — Lev Grossman
4. The Lowland , Jhumpa Lahiri
A life-spanning novel about two brothers from Calcutta: one dies young, in an act of political violence, and one lives on, trying to make sense of his brother’s death and pick up the loose threads he left behind, which include a pregnant wife, whom the surviving brother marries. Lahiri’s graceful, measured prose ticks off the years and registers, precisely and with deep pathos, the strange, surprising, melancholy and very occasionally wonderful changes that time wreaks on us all. — Lev Grossman
3. The Flamethrowers , Rachel Kushner
Kushner’s second novel (and second to earn a National Book Award nomination) tells the story of Reno, a young woman striving for success in a man’s world of land-speed racing, the gritty 1970s New York art scene and (eventually) radical politics in Italy — three disparate settings brilliantly realized in Kushner’s vivid prose. Her heroine is a bracing twist on the archetypal self-made man. Observant and impressionable, adventurous and unsure, Reno is caught in the act of self-making, and her unguarded spirit mirrors the revolutionary spirit of the age. — Radhika Jones
2. Tenth of December , George Saunders
One of America’s premier satirists, Saunders has made a career out of laying bare the shallow, corporate-infused discourse of contemporary life. In his collection of 10 searing stories, he reveals what lies beneath that Orwellian language: not (as we might expect) spiritual emptiness, but love, hope, aspiration and compassion, amid the darkest of human experience. Individually the stories showcase a remarkable array of voices — the desperate mother of an unmanageable child; a cancer patient determined to die with dignity; a young boy torn between disobedience and heroism. Together they emphasize how little divides us, in our timeless desire to be understood. — Radhika Jones
1. Life After Life , Kate Atkinson
“Dying is an art, like everything else,” Sylvia Plath wrote in “Lady Lazarus.” “I do it exceptionally well.” So does Ursula Todd, who is born in England in 1910 and dies again, and again, and again. Whenever Ursula dies — at birth, or from drowning at the seaside, or at the hand of an abusive husband, or by her own hand — her life restarts, by some mysterious magic, and in her new life she tries to correct the mistakes of the old one. This is one of those fantastical novels, like The Time Traveler’s Wife, that tells us more about the realities of being human than most realist novels do. Among its harsh realities are life during wartime in both London (in one life) and Berlin (in another), set-pieces that can stand with anything in the literature of the Second World War. By its nature, Atkinson’s basic conceit gives rise to a gorgeous braid of storytelling that reminds us how gloriously polyphonic novels can be — Life After Life rhymes and chimes and harmonizes with itself, adding layers of complexity as it goes, in a bravura performance as great as anything published so far this millennium. Particularly as it all serves a story that is, in its essence, primally simple: like all of us, Ursula wishes only to live her best life, to be who she ought to be — watching her try and fail and ultimately triumph in this basic human task is the most thrilling and moving experience fiction has to offer this year. — Lev Grossman
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