9 crime authors pick their favourite book series
There are few things better than turning the final page of an addictive crime novel, only to discover it’s just one instalment in a brilliant series of books. A favourite crime series can get us through tough times, dig us out of reading slumps and bring a smile to our faces like an old friend, guided by characters we watch develop from book to book and root for from start to finish.
We asked some of our favourite crime authors to share the best book series that they turn to time and time again – so if you’re looking for a recommendation, why not give one of these a try?
It’s a strange admission for someone who writes in this genre, perhaps, but I don’t tend to read very many crimes series. Mainly it’s because my reading time is so limited, and there are so many great writers out there, I want to experience as many as I can. One exception to the rule, however, is the DI Adam Fawley series created by Cara Hunter. I love the books’ innovative structure and relentless pace, as well as the exceptional quality of the writing. And not once have I seen the end coming. For both my wife and I – and now also my son – the novels have become an annual treat.
Finding a new crime series to devour is like striking gold, so if you haven’t yet discovered Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series, then you are in for a treat. Set in the fictional cathedral town of Lafferton, Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler is a compelling main character. What I love about these books are the multiple sub-plots that run in parallel to the mysteries, all dealing with complex themes and ethical considerations that illustrate and enhance the central storylines. The personal life of Simon Serrailler and that of his family is a continuing and evolving thread throughout the series, and this family-driven element is as satisfying to read as the ultimate solving of the crimes. As you would expect from a writer of Susan Hill’s calibre, the prose has both accessibility and intellectual depth.
I’m a huge fan of Peter May’s Lewis trilogy. I love the wild setting in the Western Isles, beautiful landscapes, close-knit community with a lurking dark underbelly. I was supposed to be on a visit to the Isle of Lewis at the moment, but will have to re-experience it through the pages of this addictive series instead!
What I have always loved about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books is that I can tell that he still enjoys writing them. This is not always the case with series writers – more often, you can tell that the series writer becomes bored, trapped and claustrophobic, stuck in their series. This is not the case with Lee Child and Jack Reacher. The series feels as fresh today as it did all those years ago with Killing Floor. Reacher is so much more than an iconic tough guy – in big Jack’s pared-down, stuff-free life, I think we all get a glimpse of how life could be in a world without keys, credit cards and chores. To me, Jack Reacher is as free as a character in On The Road by Jack Kerouac, going where fate and the wind take him, always up for adventures, romantic diversions and standing up for the underdog. It all helps, of course, that Lee Child is a fine writer – writing in a pared-down prose that is closer to Ernest Hemingway than Raymond Chandler.
There is also a special place in my heart for the James Bond books. Only one 007 film – Sam Mendes’ Skyfall – ever came even close to matching the hard, sour, knowing attitude of the Ian Fleming series, which were written very much in the shadow of the Second World War. The constant presence of death and an unfettered appetite for life fill the Ian Fleming books.
I have to choose Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries. Not since Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley and his complex relationship with Barbara Havers have I felt so invested in a character’s story arc that I’ve found myself waiting for the next instalment like a teenager!
When I started reading the first in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, I couldn’t understand what this surly, overweight one-legged war veteran was doing as the lead, but he didn’t take long to convert me. Cormoran is solid and intensely private, strong but vulnerable. You know that underneath the gruff exterior is a man with a big heart and a sharp intelligence. He yearns for Robin Ellacott but if he can’t have her, he can at least catch villains. And all this against my favourite back-drop: London. I adore the richness of detail in Galbraith’s depiction of the city; Strike walking up Queen Anne Street, ‘between white painted buildings that gleamed in the dusk.’
Only one?! Crime series are my go-to. I could fill a book with recommendations of others in this genre. But, on this occasion, I’d like to focus the spotlight on Susie Steiner and her Manon Bradshaw series. I discovered Manon in a small second-hand book-shop in Spain. Keen to find something to compliment my escapism in the sun, I picked up Missing, Presumed and started reading that same day. I never stopped.
Manon was fresh. Kick-ass but vulnerable. I loved following the case she was working. I remember finishing the book in the early hours and wanting more. I googled Susie Steiner and was delighted to find it was the first in a series. I bought Persons Unknown on my Kindle there and then – and devoured that too. I’m now waiting with bated breath for the third book, Remain Silent. I thoroughly recommend checking them out if you haven’t already.
Ian Rankin’s Rebus series hooked me in from the moment I turned the first page. Considering that I started reading Knots and Crosses at twelve, when an eye-catching new edition came out, it had a huge impact on me (and probably a slightly traumatic one, if I’m honest, but that’s definitely not Rankin’s fault…).
Having finished that first book, it was difficult to go back to the comfortable, clean crime I’d grown up on. This was gritty, atmospheric writing that helped form my thoughts about how I wanted to write. It ignited my love of police procedurals, too. I’ve never yet heard of a new Rebus release without getting that old rush of excitement.
The Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly are the reason I wanted to be a thriller writer. Although, somewhat embarrassingly for this piece, my introduction to Michael Connelly actually came with The Poet, which isn’t even a Harry Bosch novel, there were obvious advantages to this entry point: I was a few weeks shy of turning 20 when I read The Poet, so I got given The Black Echo, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde and The Last Coyote for my birthday. From there, I’ve never missed a beat: I’ve devoured everything Connelly has ever written, Bosch or otherwise.
But there’s something special about Bosch. His obsession with the work, the shadow of loneliness that pursues him, the richness of the world he inhabits, the gradual evolution of the character from hothead homicide detective to pension-age private eye feels as unique 28 years later as it did back at the start. Connelly is peerless, a master, frighteningly and consistently brilliant, and his work on the Bosch series has greatly influenced my own writing and my own series character, David Raker. Without doubt, this is my favourite series ever.
I have followed Sophie Hannah’s Culver Valley crime series from the start, and it’s one of the few I have on pre-order several months in advance. The plots are always brilliantly convoluted and I can guarantee I won’t see the ending coming, which is no small thing when you read a lot of crime fiction (and the number of twists and turns usually means that I won’t remember everything on a second read, which is an added bonus!). There’s always an intellectual aspect to Sophie’s thinking which lifts the narrative above the norm, and yet her writing is very accessible and even humorous in parts. Combine that with a cast of sometimes frustrating but always compelling police characters who genuinely progress and develop from book to book, and you have a winning formula.
What are your favourite book series? Let us know in the comments below!