BBC Culture

Between the Lines

Whodunnit? Crime writers to read now

About the author

Jane Ciabattari is a journalist and book critic based in New York and California who has written for The Boston Globe, The Daily Beast,, The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, and the Paris Review. She is a vice president of the National Book Critics Circle, having served as its president from 2008-11, and is the author of the short story collection Stealing the Fire.

  • Cara Black

    Black’s captivating Paris-based series about private investigator Aimée Leduc has immersed readers in since the first instalment Murder in the Marais in 1999. Leduc’s personal history, including her abandonment by her mother, shows up in Murder Below Montparnasse, when her mother appears on Interpol’s most wanted list. Black weaves in ‘90s politics and a lush sense of Leduc’s Parisian home into the books. In 2014’s Murder in the Pigalle, based on a real-life crime, Paris is gearing to host the 1998 World Cup. Black captures the sensuality of record temperatures, with the description of the cassis-limon ice cream at Berthillon, and the fear that permeates the Pigalle as Leduc races to save a young friend who has been abducted by a rapist. (Soho Press)

  • John Burdett

    Burdett’s Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai police force is an indelible character, the Buddhist son of a Vietnam-era American GI and a Thai bar girl named Nong. Sonchai’s narration combines the street smarts of a native of Bangkok’s red light districts with sly, often comic musings on karma and the practical daily chores of an officer solving horrendous crimes. Bangkok 8 (2004) opens with an American marine locked in a Mercedes Benz with a giant python and 20 cobras. In Bangkok Tattoo a mutilated CIA agent is found in the bar owned by Sonchai’s mother and his boss, Colonel Vikom. In The Godfather of Kathmandu Colonel Vikom sends Sonchai to Tibet to meet with his connection in the heroin trade. Vulture Peak opens with a triple murder, carried out with clinical precision, all possible transplant organs removed. (Corgi)

  • MP Cooley

    Accomplished newcomer Cooley opens Ice Shear with the shocking image of a woman impaled on an ice spike in the frozen Mohawk River. First on the scene is Officer June Lyons, a recently widowed FBI agent who has returned to her home town of Hopewell Falls, NY to work on the police force where her father was once chief. The victim is the rebellious daughter of a congresswoman. Lyons’ background in undercover work for the FBI crime gang task force in the West gives her an edge. She discovers that the grieving husband of the congresswoman’s dead daughter is a former member of a California outlaw biker gang. After his younger brother is brutally murdered with an axe in the congresswoman’s backyard, Lyons connects both victims to the meth trade. Cooley’s high-energy plot keeps the surprises coming. She is an author to watch. (William Morrow & Company)

  • Alan Glynn

    Imagine a first-rate investigative reporter digging into global corruption and turning what he learns into fast-paced fiction, and you have Irish noir star Glynn. His first novel, The Dark Fields, about the rise and fall of a New Yorker given supercharged brainpower by experimental drug, was the basis for the 2011 film Limitless, with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. His second, Winterland, opens with a double murder and never lets up, racing through the shady deals, unlikely connections and political downfalls that accompanied the precipitous decline of the Celtic Tiger. Bloodland, which won the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction, sets an out-of-work journalist on the trail of the connection between a starlet’s death in a helicopter crash off the coast of Ireland, a murder in the Congo, an ambitious US presidential candidate and a former Irish prime minister. (Faber & Faber)

  • Ian Hamilton

    A former journalist and diplomat, Hamilton writes cutting edge crime novels about Ava Lee, a feisty Toronto-based forensic accountant whose Hong Kong business partner, “Uncle,” has roots in Wuhan, China and ties to the triads. Lee follows the money trail and, if necessary, uses her training in the ancient deadly martial art of bak mei. In The Red Pole of Macau, she tangles with the Hong Kong triads involved in a construction project swindle in the booming gambling center of Macau (the “red pole” of the title is the triad enforcer). In The Wild Beast of Wuhan she tracks an art forger who has cheated a mainland billionaire out of $100m. The Disciple of Las Vegas features an audacious online gambling scam. In 2014’s The Water Rat of Wanchai, Lee is hired to reclaim millions lost in a failed frozen fish venture. She proves as equally effective at navigating Bangkok’s katoey culture as fighting for her life in Guyana, where one powerful man controls her fate. (Picador USA)

  • Deon Meyer

    South African author Meyer’s novels offer a whip-smart, culturally nuanced look at post-apartheid South Africa. Four novels, beginning with Devil’s Peak (2004), about a former freedom fighter vigilante who targets child abusers, feature Inspector Benny Griessel, who works for the South African Police Service’s elite Hawks squad. In Meyer’s forthcoming novel, Cobra (out 7 October in the US, 5 November in South Africa), a British citizen is kidnapped from a guest house in the Franschhoek valley outside Cape Town. Two bodyguards and a hotel worker are dead, shot with bullets engraved with a spitting cobra. The missing man is the creator of the Adair Algorithm, which identifies terrorists in the international banking system. Adair’s secret upgrade also reveals corrupt government officials and banks. Someone has hired a deadly assassin. Gangsters? Or governments? A young pickpocket ends up with a wallet that holds the key to the mystery, and the Cobra violence spills over into the city’s waterfront and commuter trains. A crack crime writer at work. (Hodder & Stoughton)

  • Kathy Reichs

    How many readers can name the forensic anthropologist whose life and work inspired the hit TV series Bones and 17 crime novels? Author Kathy Reichs is not as well known as her literary avatar, Dr Tempe Brennan, whose rare skills make her a first-rate investigator. In the first in the series, Deja Dead (1997),, Brennan tries to solve the murder of a woman whose decapitated body has been found buried in the centre of Montreal. In Bones Never Live, due out in the US in September, Tempe tracks a serial killer who once attempted to set her on fire. A series of disappearances near Tempe’s new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, make it seems as if the female killer, who preys on teenage girls, is taunting the investigator. Reichs’ combination of psychological insight, carefully calibrated plotting and nuanced characters will keep readers enthralled. (William Heinemann)

  • Leonardo Sciascia

    Sciascia was one of the first writers who dared to reveal how the mafia controlled small towns in his native Sicily. In his first detective novel, The Day of the Owl (1961), he describes how the Sicilian code of silence defeats a murder investigation conducted by a detective newly transferred from Parma. In Equal Danger, a district attorney and two judges are murdered – crimes the ruling party wants blamed on the Left. Rogas, the investigator, is caught in a morass of falsification, his phones tapped, his integrity and his life at stake. “Rogas had principles, in a country where almost no one did,” writes Sciascia. In his novella Open Doors, a courageous judge resists the Fascist attempt to force him to impose the death penalty on a prisoner. Sciascia detailed with clarity and sardonic realism how widespread institutional corruption in politics, the church and the police works through collusion, favoritism and payoffs to create a country riddled with injustice. (New York Review of Books)

  • Peter Temple

    South African-born former journalist Peter Temple has won five Ned Kelly Awards and a Miles Franklin award in Australia and the UK’s Golden Dagger for his atmospheric thrillers, narrated in pared-down, frequently poetic prose. Central to most of his novels is Melbourne, which he describes as a gloomy place of neighbourhoods and tribes that is “much more European” and “much, much darker” than anywhere else in Australia. His four Jack Irish novels, beginning with Bad Debts (1996), feature a former criminal attorney well acquainted with the shadier sides of gambling, horseracing and debt collection. In his 2009 novel Truth, Inspector Steven Villani navigates scandals, political intrigue and ethical issues while investigating the murder of a young woman in a luxury apartment and a triple homicide. (Quercus)

  • Sarah Weinman

    Sarah Weinman has made her mark as an editor of crime fiction. The 14 short stories in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, which she edited and compiled, offer a sampler of domestic crime authors from the 1940s to the 1970s, championing the work of female authors like Gillian Flynn and Sue Grafton. In addition to brand names like Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson, Weinman gives us a reading list of a dozen nearly forgotten writers, such as Vera Caspary, who wrote Laura, a 1943 novel about a private eye obsessed with a woman in a portrait, made into a film starring Gene Tierney. Margaret Millar, now best known as the wife of crime writer Ross Macdonald published 25 novels; Beast in View from 1955, about a bedridden woman terrified by a series of phone calls won an Edgar Award; she was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1983. (Penguin Books)