The Best Crime Novels You Should Read This Spring

A Crime scene from a thriller
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This spring we decided to venture into the world of crime fiction with an open mind and find killer reads that defy the canons of the genre. So forget everything you know about murder mysteries and pick one of these twelve unique whodunnits that will surprise you with dark humour, multi-layered characters and end-of-chapter cliffhangers, keeping you guessing to the very end. 

The Last Hunt by Deon Meyer

Image Credit: Atlantic Monthly Press

Plunge into the world of crime and politics in this gripping novel that will take you on an electrifying race for the truth across two continents. A patriotic rebel in France, who is plotting the assassination of his country’s leader, might not have much in common with a troubled detective investigating a cold case aboard a luxurious train in Pretoria. Yet, thanks to Meyer’s skilful storytelling, these two seemingly unrelated strands are brought together in a satisfying climax. Scrupulously researched and flawlessly executed, the story represents a chillingly accurate portrayal of life in corruption-stricken South Africa, where nothing is what it seems. 

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The Postman always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

IMage Credit: Black Lizard

One of the most scandalous crime novels of the 20th century, this racy thriller was first banned in Boston for its explicit sexual content and intense violence upon its publication. 

In rural California, a sordid affair between a young drifter and the saucy wife of a diner owner proves fatal when a love triangle begins to suffocate them. Soon they hatch a plan to eliminate the only obstacle to their future happiness together- Cora’s husband. This obsession sends Frank and Cora down a slippery slope to gruesome murder and karmic revenge. 

Laced with perverse acts of sadomasochism and extreme brutality, this heady concoction is not for the faint-hearted. 

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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Image Credit: Dover Inc. Publication

The hopes to enjoy her summer vacation in a remote New England home are shattered for an old spinster Miss Iness. The main character is joined by her niece and nephew, both of whom are in their early twenties. Soon after they move into the mansion, a series of unexplained nocturnal events take place. The atmosphere of terror and potential danger reaches its climax when a body is found at the base of the Circular Staircase. Determined to solve the murder, Miss Iness takes matters into her own hands.

The queen of thrillers, Rinehart mixes romance, suspense and humour, enriching the novel with gory details like the visions of a ghostly veiled lady, the big fire and a midnight grave exhumation.

American classic whodunit that will send chills down your spine. 

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A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

Image Credit: Harper Collins Publishers

If these hills could talk, they would tell you a story of a puzzling disappearance right in the heart of the Peak District. A crime, which engulfed the entire town in panic, baffled DI Bennett with inconsistencies. A thirteen-year-old girl, who was last seen in the sleepy village of Scardale, vanished into thin air. With no body and very few clues, this homicide inquiry remained open. Many years went by before the cold case received media attention from a journalist who is now keen to turn this murder mystery into a bestseller. As new shocking evidence emerges, it’s more important than ever to get this story straight before it finds its way into fiction. 

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Through the Wall by Cleveland Moffett

Image Credit: Appleton and Company

The horrific discovery of a dead celebrity in a luxury restaurant shakes the Champs-Élysées to the core. Disguised as a suicide, this carefully staged crime scene raises the suspicions of detective Paul Coquenil. As he peels back the layers of this locked room mystery, he spots a pattern in a series of incidents across Paris. Soon Coquenil becomes convinced that he is investigating the most exquisitely orchestrated murder. In a diabolical game of cat and mouse, the young detective matches wits with an elusive killer, whose connections to the higher echelons of French society might jeopardise the entire investigation. 

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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Image Credit: Viking

Nestled in an upmarket village in Kent, Thursday Murder Club opens its doors to senior citizens with a flair for criminology. Having retired from high-powered careers, four self-styled detectives make use of every resource at their disposal to try and solve cold murder cases. Their past experience, wide range of skills and access to an extensive database that even MI5 would envy make this quartet a force to be reckoned with. So when a property developer gets killed on their doorstep, the TMC members launch their own live investigation. In their bid to catch the perpetrator, the amateur sleuths will beg, borrow and steal to charm their way into the police inquiry. Never underestimate a gang of country pensioners on a mission!

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Image Credit: Harper Collins

A harmless minstrel song chimes through the mansion on an isolated island, where ten strangers have been lured in a grand act of retribution. Bound by the gravest of sins, the visitors are forced to relive the past they would rather forget. Soon they begin to suspect foul play as the shadow of death claims its first victims. It’s not long before the guests arrive to a chilling conclusion: the killer uses a nursery rhyme as a blueprint for murders and he is among them. One by one, an invisible hand of justice obliterates the perpetrators who have gone unpunished for so long. 

Dead Simple by Peter James

Image Credit:Pan

It is hard to stay positive in a dark, cold coffin. With every minute passing, claustrophobia and despair are squeezing out any hope left in a man whose life hangs on a thread and a breathing tube. This exceptionally eerie setting becomes the leitmotif of a crime which is not yet committed, yet meticulously planned…

For Michael Harrison, a night of decadence before nuptials turns into a fight for survival when an innocent stunt leaves the groom buried alive.

The only chance of finding a missing person now lies in the hands of Superintendent Roy Grace. But with one silent witness and the rest of the party dead, Grace will have to exhume the ghosts of the past to avert the tragedy. 

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The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley

Image Credit: British Library Publishing

For six London intellectuals, a true-crime club represents a creative outlet, where they can hone their sleuthing skills. Each member has their own unique approach to investigation: some rely on their intuition, some- on deductive reasoning, while others draw conclusions from their own research. Yet some cases prove more challenging than others. 

A wealthy socialite is found dead when a cruel twist of fate places poisoned chocolates at the wrong household. This high-profile murder, which has puzzled even the most seasoned detectives of Scotland Yard, piques the interest of The Crime Circle. One by one, amateur sleuths attempt to unravel this baffling mystery by presenting their version of the homicide for discussion.

With six different theories and solutions, which one of them is going to crack the case?

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The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

Image Credit: Penguin Publishing

A last-minute trip to the alma mater turns Richard’s world upside down after a midnight stroll down a familiar lane leads an Oxford graduate to a toyshop. When curiosity lures Richard inside the store, last thing he expects to find is a corpse of an elderly woman and a murderer breathing down his neck. It’s not long before he comes around with a thumping headache and a shocking realisation that he might just have witnessed a crime. By the time he returns with the police, he discovers a grocery store in place of a toyshop with no dead body in sight. Desperate to make sense of it all, the poet enlists the help of his old friend, Gervase Fen, whose investigative skills might be their only hope of solving this mind-boggling case. 

A rich menu of scintillating dialogue and literary allusions make this funny romp a perfect companion to anyone looking for a comic crime novel with a twist. 

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Image Credit: Wandsworth Classics

Shrouded by mystery and superstition, the Indian diamond finds its way to the English countryside. Soon after Rachel Verinder is presented with the ‘Moonstone’ on her 18th birthday, the gem goes missing. Investigation into the theft of the precious stone leads Sergeant Cuff, a prototype of Sherlock Holmes, to London. Cuff is followed by the faithful Indians trailing the diamond that disappeared from the forehead of the Hindu Idol in the 18th century. The plot thickens when a suicide and a murder are committed. One of the most influential works of fiction, this suspenseful tale combines all elements of a good thriller. You can fully expect romance, sinister secrets, colourful characters, opium addiction and even clairvoyance thrown in for good measure. 

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Image Credit: Alma Books Limited

A master storyteller, Arthur Conan Doyle created the timeless collection of detective stories that have transcended literature and continue to enthral readers around the world. Each story revolves around sleuth Sherlock Holmes who uses the science of deduction and exceptional powers of observation to catch the criminals. From A Scandal in Bohemia to The Boscombe Valley Mystery, each tale has a unique plot interweaving unexpected turns, perfectly executed red herrings, grand climaxes and exhilarating conclusions.

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Stella is a Marketing Consultant and has been writing content for Full Text Archive since 2015. When she is not writing, she is meticulously planning our social and e-mail campaigns. Stella holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian Literature, which has provided a broad foundation from which she continues to explore the written world.

She spends her free time reading, visiting old castles and discovering new coffee shops. She can be reached at stella

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