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Debut crime novels to watch out for in 2021

There are lots of exciting things coming our way in the next twelve months, especially if you’re on the hunt for a standout read packed with thrills and chills that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

From psychological dramas to gothic thrillers, shattering crimes to an outstanding original thriller from a bestselling Japanese author, the next twelve months offers an array of highly anticipated novels from some brilliant debut authors.

So, clear a space on your bedside table, ear-mark a spot on your bookshelf of choice and find some time to get acquainted with these crime-tastic delights.

15 of the best new crime books by debut authors:

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push by Ashley Audrain
out 7 January

Blythe is determined to be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby that she herself never had. But during those exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter.

What happens when your experience of motherhood is nothing what you hoped for, but everything you feared? That’s the question Ashley Audrain’s standout debut asks. Guaranteed to send a chill down your spine, this is a must-read that’s pacy, absorbing and incredibly hard to put down.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

Girl A by Abigail Dean
out 21 January

Growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors house has left Lex Gracie with wounds that don’t heal easily. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she knows she must finally face the childhood they shared.

Girl A is an emotional, character-led psychological drama about trauma, abuse and survival. It’s a difficult read at times, but one that’s brilliantly written – and it’ll stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Shiver by Allie Reynolds
out 21 January

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps, she drops everything to go. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there.

Mind games, a hyper-competitive cast of characters and a dangerous natural environment make Shiver a seriously suspenseful mystery, with tension that builds and builds. Prepare to be chilled!

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode
out 4 February

Femi Kayode’s debut is the first in a new crime series featuring investigative psychologist Dr Philip Taiwo – a man more interested in understanding the why of a crime than actually solving it.

Transporting us to Nigeria, this is an atmospheric, vivid and beautifully written mystery that oozes with intrigue, and a brilliant first novel from the winner of the 2019 UEA Crime Writing Prize.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
eBook out 4 February; hardback out 18 February

High in the Swiss Alps, a luxury hotel opens in what was once a sanatorium, but the new design can’t hide the building’s dark history for long…

Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Shari Lapena and Ruth Ware, The Sanatorium effortlessly combines a locked-room mystery with a modern day gothic thriller, and introduces readers to Detective Elin Warner, who’s already set to feature in Sarah’s second novel.

When They Find Her by Lia Middleton

When They Find Her by Lia Middleton
eBook out 26 March; hardback out 13 May

When They Find Her is a haunting, emotional and nerve-shredding debut about a desperate mother, a tragic accident and a terrible lie that spirals out of control.

Penned by a barrister specialising in crime and prison law, this is a sharp, sophisticated and intense thriller combining a dark plot with white-knuckle pace – and we couldn’t put it down.

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka
out 1 April

Five killers find themselves on a bullet train from Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. Who will make it to the last station?

Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller from a prize-winning Japanese bestseller – and it’s already set to be a major film, directed by David Leitch and boasting a star-studded cast including Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor Johnson and Joey King. We can’t wait.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey
out 1 April

When a 17-year-old girl goes missing, the façade of Whistling Ridge – a tinder-box of small-town rage – is split wide open, and it’s only a matter of time before the community’s dark secrets come to light.

Brilliantly crafted, with first class writing and all the twists and turns of a thriller, Tall Bones is a slow-burning, atmospheric novel that readers of Jane Harper and Gillian Flynn will love.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Mirrorland by Caroline Johnstone
out 1 April

Mirrorland tells the story of two twin sisters, the man they both love and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind. When El mysteriously disappears, Cat is forced to return to where they grew up, only to find someone has left clues all over the house – a treasure hunt that will reveal long-held secrets…

If you like your thrillers a little different, this one is for you. It’s a suspenseful, psychological slow burner, blending reality and fantasy to create a truly original thriller.

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner
eBook out 1 April; hardback out 15 April

When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she’s not expecting to meet the extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen’s friend – and find out every last one of Helen’s secrets…

Told from multiple viewpoints, Greenwich Park is a creepy, twisted and highly entertaining thriller full of brilliantly crafted characters and drip-fed clues that will keep you guessing right to the very end.

The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury

The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury
out 27 May

Kamil Rahman, a disgraced detective turned Brick Lane waiter, is about to find himself embroiled in a case that might just change his life – for better or for worse.

Full of wit, this absorbing debut set in Kolkata and London comes from the winner of the inaugural Harvill Secker Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Competition, and it’s as gripping and page-turning as they come.

Scorpion by Christian Cantrell

Scorpion by Christian Cantrell
out 24 June

Around the world, people have been murdered. The victims fit no profile, the circumstances vary wildly, but one thing links them all: in every case the victim is branded with a number – and with police around the globe floundering, CIA Analyst Quinn Mitchell is called in to investigate.

I Am Pilgrim meets Minority Report in this relentless international cat-and-mouse thriller with an ending you won’t see coming.

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker
out 24 June

Readers who loved Room, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Lullaby won’t want to miss Nancy Tucker’s fiction debut when it hits shelves later this year.

Claustrophobic and compulsive, this dark, thought-provoking read asks a question that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?

Damage by Caitlin Wahrer
out 8 July

Damage is a compulsive drama about a family torn apart by an alleged assault and the cracks that begin to show in the aftermath.

Addictive and twisty, this fast-paced and shocking debut explores themes of justice and doubt, ultimately asking how far you would go to protect your family – and once you’ve read it, you’ll be desperate to discuss it with everyone you know.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
out 2 September

Chloe looks like an ordinary university student, but she’s actually a psychopath with an IQ of 135. When two students are found dead, she discovers there are more like her on campus and a gripping competition to find the killer begins.

Vera Kurian uses her experience as a social psychologist to tell a hugely authentic, entertaining edge-of-your-seat story in her whip-smart debut perfect for fans of You and Killing Eve.

Know of any great new crime books by debut authors that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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