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19 top crime novels set in England

From Liverpool to Cambridge, Norfolk to Northumberland, English crime writers have found inspiration up and down the country in both the rolling green countryside and the rough, tough streets of the capital city.

If you’re on the hunt for a good book to help immerse yourself in different locations in good ol’ Blighty then look no further. With these gripping crime and thriller reads you can pay a visit to Oxford with Cara Hunter, explore the darker side of Manchester with Joseph Knox and escape to the Lake District with Paula Daly.

Here’s our pick of crime novels set in England, by both English crime writers and those from further afield.

The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox

The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox – Manchester

As a series of rolling blackouts plunge Manchester into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job: to extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away.

Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of The Sleepwalker. But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness. Can he solve his last case before fleeing justice? Or will his name be next on the hit list?

Read a chapter from the book here.

The Child by Fiona Barton

The Child by Fiona Barton – Southampton

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her. For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered. And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

Read a chapter from the book here.

No Way Out by Cara Hunter

No Way Out by Cara Hunter – Oxford

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Adam Fawley has ever worked. It’s the Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life. Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true. Because this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder. And the killer is still out there.

Read a chapter from the book here.

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson – Brighton

Brighton Beach, 1993. Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer. But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz – London

A woman is strangled six hours after organising her own funeral. Did she know she was going to die? Did she recognise her killer?

Daniel Hawthorne, a recalcitrant detective with secrets of his own, is on the case, together with his reluctant side-kick – a man completely unaccustomed to the world of crime.

But even Hawthorne isn’t prepared for the twists and turns in store – as unexpected as they are bloody…

The Killing Pool by Kevin Sampson

The Killing Pool by Kevin Sampson – Liverpool

DCI Billy McCartney discovers the body of a key informant near Liverpool Docks – a killer setback as he closes the net on a major drug smuggling scheme.

McCartney’s investigation into the murder peels back layer after layer of a decades-long dynasty of heroin trafficking – but Billy has a secret, and each revelation takes him back to an unsolved crime that he cannot leave behind.

If he is to catch the men responsible and end a lifetime’s torment, he must act fast…

Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge

Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge – New Forest

The last thing Tom Campbell remembers is camping in the New Forest with his girlfriend, Melissa. Now he is helpless, alone and consumed by fear, hunted through the woods by a sinister, masked figure…

When Tom’s body is found, displayed with grisly relish, DI Helen Grace takes the case. But before she can catch her breath, a second victim is taken – there’s a serial killer on the loose. Something dark and deadly is stalking the forest. Helen and her team must race against time to catch the perpetrator, before more blood is shed. But the hunt will take Helen back into the eerie twilit woods – and this time she might not make it out alive.

Read a chapter from the book here.

You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood – London

A young man stands accused of murder. The evidence is overwhelming. But at his trial, this man tells an extraordinary story.

It is about the woman he loves, who got into terrible trouble. It’s about how he risked everything to save her.

He swears he’s innocent. But in the end, all that matters is this: do you believe him?

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware – Cornwall

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago.

Hal desperately needs the cash and makes a choice that will change her life for ever. She knows that her skills as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. But once Hal embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life.

Read a chapter from the book here.

Streets of Darkness by A A Dhand

Streets of Darkness by A A Dhand – Bradford

The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.

Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law.

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly – Lake District

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate. Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make.

Need You Dead by Peter James

Need You Dead by Peter James – Brighton

Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan – Cambridge

A local schoolgirl has been missing for weeks when Margot Lewis, agony aunt at the Cambridge Examiner, receives a letter: Dear Amy, I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man. I don’t know where I am. Please help me. Bethan Avery

This must be a hoax. Because Bethan Avery is another young girl, who went missing twenty years ago.

As more letters arrive, Margot becomes consumed by finding the sender and – unlike the police – convinced that the girls’ disappearances are connected. Solving this puzzle could save someone’s life – but could it also cost Margot her own?

The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah

The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah – Northumberland

Eleven months after discovering a brutal double murder in a sleepy Northumbrian town, DCI Kate Daniels is still haunted by her failure to solve the case. Then the brutal killing of a man on Newcastle’s Quayside gives Daniels another chance to get it right, and her first case as Senior Investigating Officer.

When Daniels recognizes the corpse, but fails to disclose the fact, her personal life swerves dangerously into her professional life. But much worse, she is now being watched.

As Daniels steps closer to finding a killer, a killer is only a breath away from claiming his next victim.

The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons

The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons – London

Twenty years ago, seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now, they’re being murdered one by one, in the most violent way imaginable.

Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row. Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.

As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves. Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life.

Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

Long Way Home by Eva Dolan – Peterborough

A man is burnt alive in a shed. No witnesses, no fingerprints – only a positive ID of the victim as an immigrant with a long list of enemies.

Detectives Zigic and Ferreira are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to track the killer, and are met with silence in a Fenland community ruled by slum racketeers, people-trafficking gangs and fear.

Tensions rise. The clock is ticking. But nobody wants to talk.

Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey

Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey – Nottingham

Thirty years ago, the Miners’ Strike threatened to tear the country apart, turning neighbour against neighbour, husband against wife, father against son – enmities which smoulder still.

DI Charlie Resnick, recently made up to inspector, and ambivalent at best about some of the police tactics, had run an information gathering unit at the heart of the dispute.

Now, in virtual retirement, and still grieving over the violent death of his former partner, the discovery of the body of a young woman who disappeared during the Strike brings Resnick back to the front line to assist in the investigation into the woman’s murder – forcing him to confront his past in what will assuredly be his last case.

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill – Norfolk

None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.

Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable. But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick. And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets.

Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel. Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer. And Nick must confront his own version of events. There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?

Read a chpater from the book here.

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood – Herne Bay

Kate Rafter has spent her life running from her past. But when her mother dies, she’s forced to return to Herne Bay – a place her sister Sally never left. But something isn’t right in the old family home. On her first night Kate is woken by terrifying screams. And then she sees a shadowy figure in the garden…

Who is crying for help? What does it have to do with Kate’s past? And why does no one – not even her sister – believe her?

What are your favourite crime novels set in England? Have we missed any of your favourite English crime writers? Let us know in the comments below!

Travel further afield with our recommended reads set in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.


    Can’t believe that no one has added MC Craven’s Tilly & Poe series (set in Cumbria) or Michael Wood’s Matilda Darke series (Sheffield)

    Don’t forget William Shaw writing wonderful detective stories placed in Dungeness,

    Elly Griffiths, Ann Cleeves and Peter May are my top reads for their locations.

    I’m going to mention 2 authors who are old favorites Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter. If you’ve only seen the TV shows you’ve missed the beauty of their writing. Fabulous. Dexter wrote the Inspector Morse series set in Oxford and Hill is set in Yorkshire.

    Christopher Fowler for his London based Bryant & May books. Superb.
    Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series set in the borderlands around Ledwardine. Crime and spookiness

    lets not forget Ann Cleeves, J R Ellis, Richard Osman, Josephine Tey

    The Angela Marsons series set in and around the West Midlands are a gripping read. Hard to put down.

    Further afield, Peter James’ Lewis Trilogy, set on the Isle of erm, Lewis. Very evocative.

    Added so many of these recommended books to my list to read 🙂 thank you all for the help! Also, what about Robert galbraith and the strike series.. so good. Jk Rowling has outdone herself. I’ve also just finished all of the Tana French books, which had me flipping pages all night

    Christopher Fowler – Bryant and May novels – witty, intelligent and full of London history – The Victoria Vanishes – all about London pubs, is one of my favourites.

    Cooper and Fry series, set in the Peak District.
    And I cannot agree with all the praise for the books of Elly Griffiths as most of these are written in the present tense, a modern craze that I dislike intensely; I refuse to read any books written in the present tense. And one of the worst offenders is Hilary Mantel, with her book Wolf Hall.

    I agree the Elly Griffiths series of books featuring Dr Ruth Galloway and Nelson are a must. Currently working my way through them and really enjoying them. No one has mentioned J M Dalgliesh. His Hidden Norfolk series is also worth reading. Haven’t read his Dark Yorkshire series yet but they are on my to read pile.

    I enjoy the author Jim Kelly and his detectives Valentine and Shaw..set on the Norfolk coast..very evocative ..good plots and great writing

    LJ Ross Ryan books are set in Northumberland – the whole series is very good. Malcom Hollingdrake -DCI Bennet books are set in Harrogate – very good series.
    What about Scotland?

    Haven’t read all these, but the ones I have were all good. Additions: Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway, Norfolk)
    Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery, London and Bristol/Bath)
    Mark Billingham (Tom Thorne, London)
    Luca Veste (Murphy & Rossi, Liverpool)

    Definitely L J Ross every book is a 5 star read can not wait for another Ryan book

    Tooth and Nail the third Rebus book by Ian Rankin. Set in London.

    I’ve recently read The lying room by Nicci French. A book that kept me reading through the night. Set in London I have also Anarted the series of L J Ross . Holy Island. This had a slow build but as its based in the North East it kept me going and intrigued me with a a few surprises it was worth the read.

    All great reads….a couple more to add, if I may
    Leigh Russell and Robert Bryndza

    Jane Casey’s DC/DS Maeve Kerrigan series set in London are the best. So well written and watching the evolution of Maeve is a delight to read, especially her partnership with DI Josh Derwent. She’s the daughter of Irish immigrants which makes her fit in properly in either society.

    Graham Hurley – wonderful writer – police procedurals set in Portsmouth with great characters, a superb ear for dialogue and brilliant plots.

    I have read a couple of the McAvoy novels .They have a Scottish main detective but are set in Hull. Written by David Mark an ex-Crime journalist on the Yorkshire Post they are very plotted and have great characters. If you know Hull or the areas around you will enjoy even more. Does for East Yorkshire what Peter Robinson’s books do for the Dales.

    I have read two of the books on this list and I have now added Dorothy Koomson and Cara Hunter to my list of must read further books by them. I personally love Stephen Booth’s books set in the Peak District

    C J Sansom’s latest novel “Tombland”, in his series about the Tudor lawyer and “detective” Matthew Shardlake, is set in Norwich at the time of Kett’s Rebellion. It combines a murder investigation with Royal connections and a historical account of the huge social unrest that occurred at that time. An interesting and enjoyable read both for those who are familiar with Norwich and those who have never visited and no nothing about Robert Kett.

    I am astonished that Elly Griffiths’ wonderful Ruth Galloway series set in Norfolk isn’t on your list. Also the Charlie Priest books by the late Stuart Pawson. And then there’s Sharon Bolton and Mark Billingham, both of whom set books in London.

    The series of books by C.J.Sansom set in the reign of King Henry VIII about a lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. Also very good (but not newly published) are a series of crime novels by Georgette Heyer.

    What about Elly Griffiths and her Dr Ruth Galloway books based in Norfolk?

    Elly Griffiths’s Galloway and Nelson books set in North Norfolk are wonderful.

    Anything by Damien Boyd. Set throughout Somerset, his murder mysteries are excellent stories first and foremost. His detective, DI Nick Dixon, is an ordinary copper, just doing his job – but he never, ever gives up. His ‘sidekick’ and love interest is Detective Sergeant Jane Winter and his best friend is his Staffordshire bull terrier, Monty. There’s not a dry eye in the house when Monty gets poisoned…

    Damien Boyd – huge fan of his books set around Cheddar and Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.
    Graham Hurley – Portsmouth based books excellent, and he’s now writing about Ex mouth in Devon where he now lives.

    Sharon (or S.J.) Bolton excels in creepy atmospherics – in particular “The Craftsman” set in and around Pendle Hill, or the Lacey Flint series set around London.

    Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series are all wonderful, as are Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce books.

    Another “must read” author is Elly Griffiths. Her Ruth Galloway character series is spectacular, but you must begin with the first in the series and read each consecutively so you have a complete understanding of how each character evolves through the years and their relationships to one another – completely mesmerizing!

    ELLY Griffiths is one of my favourite authors her books include, The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone, there is quite a collection by Elly also a series set in Brighton in the 1950s Smoke and Mirrors, the blood card

    The authors you have listed are very good but I would like to LJ. Ross who writes really great novels based in Northumberland and the city of Newcastle.

    Elley Griffiths with her Dr Ruth Galloway novels set in and around Norfolk.

    Angela Marsons writes a good series of crime novels with her detective Kim Stone.The are easy to read,as they have short chapters

    I Agree about Angela Marsons. Great series set in the Black Country. Also Helen Field’s inspector Callanach series, set in Edinburgh, and Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.

    What about the fabulous Ruth Galloway Norfolk novels by Elly Griffiths; surely a must in any English road trip.

    Agree. And they bring the Black Country alive to me.

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