Broadchurch is one of those shows that takes over your life. We spend hours talking about it, wondering on the plots, the motives, the characters. It is rare that a drama can create such a furore of feeling. But what is it that makes Broadchurch stand out?
For one, the small town secrets leave us guessing constantly. Each character has a dark and sometimes disturbing secret, a back-story that we are not privy too, one damaging enough that they are fierce in protecting it and will lie to the police and their loved ones. It’s a powerful drama – not least because we love and think we know the characters who make up the community and who all react very differently to the revelation of a ‘not guilty’ plea. Living in such a small town means life is different for the inhabitants of Broadchurch; the community is interconnected in a way that just isn’t possible in the city. Broadchurch has such a profound sense of place that it shapes and influences the lives of those living there as though it were another character.
So what have we deduced, Watson? We love Broadchurch for the small town community, the secrets and motives that we can only guess at and the intense atmosphere of claustrophobia.
If, like us, you’re dreading the end of the third and final series, never fear – we’ve pulled together a list of books that we highly recommend for that Broadchurch effect.
9 small town crime novels for Broadchurch fans
Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton
The first book we think of when readers say claustrophobic crime, Sharon Bolton’s Blood Harvest was a fore-runner of Broadchurch and is perfect for those viewers who loved the first series. This bone-chilling, twisty thriller has a split narrative, focusing on several characters whose stories all intertwine, as all communities are knitted together. A new family has moved into the only new house in the village, which just so happens is built on a graveyard…
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
A cast of (very) few characters set in a (very) small village in Sweden gives this book that shudder-inducing edge. Everyone has a dark secret, no one’s motives can be quite believed, even the narrator is not to be trusted and the landscape itself is just as beautiful and deadly as the people. You won’t be able to put down this compelling thriller.
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
Susan Hill’s first book in the Simon Serrailler series set in the fictional cathedral town of Lafferton revolves around the mystery of a missing woman who disappears into the fog. Various characters are introduced and their narratives intertwine and cross, each revealing more about the others until the story and crime is unveiled.
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
This book has an eerie and disturbing set up. Chief Inspector Gamache arrives in the isolated village of Three Pines to investigate a murder. The victim is a nameless man and there’s no murder weapon and no obvious motive. The small, close-knit community of Three Pines is shocked and confused as to who could have been responsible. The setting of Three Pines as a small village in Canada where families spend their summer gives the place a definite sense of time and Gamache is very obviously viewed as an unwelcome outsider.
The Saltmarsh Murders by Gladys Mitchell
Have you noticed there’s something very classic crime about Broadchurch – it’s a small town whodunnit with a cast of characters that all connect to each other and fit within a certain set of archetypes. So it is for The Saltmarsh Murders with the Vicar’s pregnant housemaid and the village lunatic with the added sparkle that can only come from Mrs Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, one of the most memorable characters in crime fiction. If you like classic crime you can’t go wrong with a Mitchell.
Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett
This stand alone novel from the author of the David Hunter series is set in the humid and close atmosphere of southern France in the heat of summer. Running from an unknown crime, the narrator Sean takes refuge on an isolated farm and the novel revolves around the family he finds there. Through a series of flashbacks Sean’s past and future collide and leave the reader reeling.
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
You know we love Dear Daughter for its feisty heroine and clever set up but you might not know about the location. While investigating her mother’s murder Janie ends up in a small backwater mining town in the US. This town is a cross between those in Twin Peaks and Unforgiven with its mirror image neighbouring town that has been left derelict after the mines in the area ran dry. Sound creepy? It is.
The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer
On the beaches and cliffs of North Devon (sound familiar?), young women have become victims in a terrifying game where only one player knows the rules. And when those rules change, the new game is murder. But a madman on the loose feels very far from the crumbling, seaside home of ten-year-old Ruby Trick. Instead she lives in constant fear of school bullies, the dark forest, and the threat of her parents’ divorce. Helping her father to catch the killer seems like the only way to keep him close. As long as the killer doesn’t catch her first.
Broadchurch by Erin Kelly and Chris Chibnall
We could hardly have a list about Broadchurch-style books without including Broadchurch! Inspired by the first series of the show Erin Kelly’s novel follows the investigation into the death of 11-year-old Danny Latimer. Featuring our favourites local police officer DS Ellie Miller and disreputable Scottish outsider DI Alec Hardy, this novel gives us the perfect excuse to relive the Broadchurch rollercoaster all over again.
Did we miss any other great small town books? Let us know in the comments below!