There’s nothing better than curling up with a thrilling page turner, getting to the heart of the story and finding out whodunit in a matter of pages. Short stories can be a fantastic way to escape into crime fiction if time is limited or to enjoy bite-sized mysteries that quickly pack a punch.
From vintage classics to contemporary bestsellers, here’s our pick of the best collections that offer cracking crime capers in small portions.
16 top collections of crime short stories:
No Middle Name by Lee Child
Jack Reacher aficionados will love this selection of eleven stories and one thrilling novella about the ex-military cop who has captured the imaginations of millions.
As it’s the first time all of Lee Child’s shorter fiction featuring Reacher have been brought together in one volume it’s an enthralling read, shedding light on how he grew up and transformed into the nomadic hero. Reacher fans definitely won’t be disappointed.
The Beat Goes On by Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin is a connoisseur of the short story genre, amassing an array of shorter work as accomplished as his novels.
Brought together for the first time, this ultimate collection of stories featuring DI Rebus includes brand new material on the much-loved detective. Rebus enthusiasts will delight in this compilation, which is also a fantastic introduction for those yet to discover the long-serving protagonist.
The Pyramid by Henning Mankell
Swedish detective Inspector Kurt Wallander is one of the most fabulously grumpy detectives in crime fiction and Mankell’s series of novels has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
This collection of five short stories set in the investigator’s hometown of Ystad, Sweden, charts Wallander’s unknown years as he moves through the ranks of the Swedish police. Scandi crime fiction at its best, you’ll relish these stories and only wish they were longer.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The most famous super-sleuthing duo of crime fiction, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have inspired generations of crime readers and writers.
In this, Conan Doyle’s first collection, Sherlock and Watson set out to solve seemingly unsolvable mysteries against the backdrop of Victorian England. A vintage classic, it remains as captivating and entertaining as it was when it was first published over a century ago.
Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories by Andrea Camilleri
Featuring twenty-one classic whodunits, this treasure trove of Inspector Montalbano stories has been personally selected by Camilleri, one of Europe’s greatest crime fiction authors.
Following Italy’s famous detective from his first case in Vigàta, the stories are bursting with Camilleri’s wit and narrative ingenuity. If you’re not a Montalbano convert yet, you will be very soon.
22 Dead Little Bodies and Other Stories by Stuart MacBride
A short novel, two short stories and a novella are brought together in this volume featuring two of MacBride’s most popular characters – DS Logan McRae and DCI Roberta Steel.
Dark, disturbing and violent, you’ll experience Logan’s week from hell, Steel’s nightmare before Christmas, an explosive shootout on a Scottish island and the ultimate test of their relationship. Formidable, funny and fierce.
Dead Men’s Gift and Other Stories by Simon Kernick
The son of an MP is abducted and the kidnappers demand the MP must sacrifice his own life for his son’s. A dead man’s gift no less…
This emotive and heartbreaking story is collected together with four other equaling thrilling shorts. With heart-thumping action from the first page to the last, it makes for a deadly collection and a gripping read.
Mr Campion and Others by Margery Allingham
First published in 1937, this assortment of classic murder mysteries sees master sleuth Mr Albert Campion tested against thirteen dastardly cases, which prove to be as charming as they are inventive.
This is escapism crime fiction from a bygone era to be savoured and enjoyed. Fans of Agatha Christie will relish this delightful collection.
Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot needs no introduction. Appearing in Agatha Christie’s first novel in 1920 right through to her last in 1975, he is known the world over as one of the most brilliantly endearing detectives.
This fantastic volume brings together fifty-one Poirot stories arranged in chronological order of original publication date and includes an extra special story that hasn’t been read for over seventy years. A work of literary history to be treasured.
Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler
It was the pulp detective magazines of the 1930s and 1940s where Raymond Chandler made his name as a connoisseur of the hard-boiled detective story. This selection of eight of Chandler’s punchy short stories showcase the genre and are rich in darkness, tragedy and justice.
Familiar readers will recognize characters and flashbacks from the Marlowe novels and new readers will be thrilled by Chandler’s mastery.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Legendary master storyteller Stephen King is at his best in this collection of short works delivering chilling stories on a multitude of themes including morality, the afterlife, guilt and, of course, death.
What makes this collection so special is each story is prefaced with a note from King on when, why and how he came to write each one, giving a fascinating insight into his writing process. An essential addition to any crime fan’s bookshelf.
Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler
Arthur Bryant and John May work for London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit and there are some cases which are best not talked about. But now, in a wonderfully unique collection, eleven of these previously unseen investigations are uncovered in true anarchic style.
With gentle humour and murders solved along the way, what’s not to love? Fans of the Bryant and May series will also enjoy an exclusive look into the Peculiar Crimes Unit and more insider treats.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe is a master of the grotesque and never fails to surprise with his short stories, which are a celebration of horror, madness, violence and the darkness of humanity.
His uniqueness of imagination shines through every tale and his cracking characters and tumultuous twists and turns of the narrative will keep you on the edge of your seat. A collection to enjoy again and again.
Offshore by Ann Cleeves
Eight islands, all off the coast of the UK, are the settings for the eight strikingly different cases featured in this collection. Capturing the spirit of each island, an array of detectives unearth secrets, lies and hidden truths.
Followers of Cleeves’ novels will recognize old faces including Vera Stanhope, Willow Reeves and Jimmy Perez, and revel in new characters amongst the surprises.
Now’s The Time by John Harvey
Inspector Charlie Resnick is John Harvey’s no-nonsense jazz and cat loving detective who appears in ten of his novels. Here, Resnick is reprieved in twelve bite-sized stories, including two which have never been published before. Widely praised for his gritty urban backdrops and attention to the limits of the law there’s plenty to keep you gripped and thrilled from story to story.
Stranded by Val McDermid
Val McDermid is a force of nature of crime writing and this volume is no different. Nineteen nail-biting shorts feature a diverse collection of narrative voices, both female and male, including McDermid’s popular series character private eye Kate Brannigan.
If you’re looking for punchy plotlines and contemporary storytelling then you won’t go far wrong with this eclectic read.
Have we missed a criminally good collection of crime short stories? Let us know in the comments below…