7 Great British Crime Writers ...


I’d like to bring to your attention some of the great British crime writers. Crime and detective fiction is one of the most popular genres with many books being transferred to the screen – movie and TV. We’ve a wealth of crime writers in Britain – some parochial, others with worldwide fame. If you like crime fiction, there might be something to your taste in the works of these British crime writers.

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Martina Cole

Martina Cole At the forefront of the crop of modern British crime writers is Martina Cole, the Essex born author who explores the seedy and gritty world of London’s gangster scene, predominantly featuring female protagonists within the city’s Irish community. She has released twenty novels to date and has sold in excess of ten million volumes in the United Kingdom alone, with four of her very best novels including Dangerous Lady and The Runaway being adapted in to extremely popular television dramas.


Martina Cole is one of the most successful British crime writers of the modern era. Born in Essex, she has explored the dark and gritty underworld of London’s gangster scene and has featured female protagonists from the city’s Irish community in her work. She has published twenty novels to date and has sold over ten million copies in the United Kingdom alone. Four of her novels, Dangerous Lady, The Runaway, The Know, and The Ladykiller, have been adapted into highly successful television dramas.

Her writing style is often characterized as dark and gritty, and she is known for her ability to create complex and powerful female characters. Her stories often explore themes of betrayal, revenge, and loyalty, and she has been praised for her realistic and captivating portrayals of life in the criminal underworld. Her novels have been translated into several languages and she has won numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Award for Best Novel and the WHSmith People’s Choice Award.


Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin Though he claims he did not set out to become a crime writer, Scottish author Ian Rankin is listed among the very best creators of crime fiction that Britain has to offer. Undoubtedly his most notable works are the Inspector Rebus novels, which currently sit as a series of nineteen books that feature the crime solving expertise of the titular Edinburgh based detective. Thirteen of the novels were dramatized for the long running show Rebus between 2000 and 2007, and a number of the stories have also been adapted for a radio audience by the BBC.


Ian Rankin's prowess in weaving intricate mysteries has not only captivated a vast audience but has also garnered critical acclaim, complementing his commercial success. His creation, Inspector Rebus, is a compelling character steeped in complexity and realism, often navigating the darker corners of Edinburgh's society. This gritty realism, combined with Rankin's nuanced storytelling, has solidified the author's standing in the pantheon of great contemporary crime fiction writers. Moreover, his work echoes a profound understanding of humanity and justice, making his contributions to the genre both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Frequently asked questions

A British crime writer is an author from the United Kingdom who writes books about crimes, often including detectives solving mysteries and criminals committing illegal acts. Their stories are usually set in Britain and can be either fiction or based on real events.

Certainly! Some famous British crime writers include Agatha Christie, known for her character Hercule Poirot, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Ian Rankin, known for Inspector Rebus series, and Val McDermid, recognized for her psychological thrillers.

Yes, there are many talented female British crime writers. Some well-known names are Agatha Christie, who is one of the best-selling authors of all time, P.D. James, who created the Adam Dalgliesh series, Val McDermid, and Ruth Rendell, also known as Barbara Vine, who wrote both police procedurals and psychological thrillers.

British crime writers create a variety of books such as detective novels, where a detective solves mysteries, psychological thrillers that explore characters' minds and motives, and legal or procedural crime stories that focus on the process of solving a crime. Some British crime novels are also cozy mysteries, which are crime stories set in small communities without graphic violence.

You can find books by British crime writers at your local library, bookstores, and online. Look for book lists or recommendations on a women's books website, read reviews, or join online forums and social media groups dedicated to crime fiction to discover new and classic British crime writers.


Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie The undisputed queen of British crime writers, Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and during her long and illustrious career published 66 crime novels. Within these 66 novels are some of the most beloved and memorable crime fighting characters in the world, including Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence and Hercule Poirot, all of which have enjoyed long and successful television runs. Christie holds the record for being the most translated individual author of all time, with her crime stories being made available in more than one hundred and three languages across the globe.


P. D. James

P. D. James Very much labeled as somewhat of a natural successor and front-runner of the post-Agatha Christie era, P. D. James has published more than 15 acclaimed crime novels in a long and illustrious career. Still going strong at ninety four years young, James’ most recent novel, 2011’s Death Comes To Pemberley, is a murder mystery filled continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, and was recently adapted into a popular three part miniseries for the BBC. Her most famous creation is Adam Dalgliesh, a detective that has featured in fourteen of her novels.


P. D. James' legacy in the crime fiction genre is nothing short of remarkable. Her Adam Dalgliesh series skillfully intertwines complex psychological insights with intricate plots, setting her apart in the pantheon of mystery writers. Her stories often unfold in richly detailed settings, showcasing her gift for atmospherics and deep characterizations. James also penned The Children of Men, a dystopian novel that illustrates her versatility and reaches beyond traditional crime stories. Her unmatched blend of suspense and literary prowess has solidified her standing as a powerhouse in British literature, respected by readers and peers alike.


Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell Born in London in 1930, Ruth Rendell is most well known for her long running and widely popular series of novels featuring Inspector Wexford, the first being published in 1964 and the latest as recently as 2013. Away from Inspector Wexford, Rendell also has twenty-seven standalone novels under her belt, and also writes more psychological crime works under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.


Ruth Rendell is a prolific British crime writer who has been writing since the 1960s. She is best known for her Inspector Wexford series, which has twenty-one novels in total. The first novel of the series, From Doon With Death, was published in 1964 and the most recent novel, No Man's Nightingale, was published in 2013.

Rendell also has twenty-seven standalone novels, which focus on psychological crime and often explore the darker side of human nature. In addition to her novels, she has also written several short stories and non-fiction works.

Rendell has won numerous awards for her writing, including three Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers' Association, and the Sunday Times Literary Award. She has also been awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, Rendell has written psychological thrillers which explore the psychological effects of crime. Her works under the Vine pseudonym have been highly acclaimed by critics and have won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Famous Quotes

Meaning is not what you start with but what you end up with.

Peter Elbow

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle A man that almost needs no introduction, Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle is responsible for the creation of perhaps the archetypal character in the crime fiction genre, Sherlock Holmes. Doyle injected his vast intelligence and sharp wit in to the Holmes stories, and they have remained incredibly popular to this very day, with the modern television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric detective receiving global recognition.


Nicci French

Nicci French Interestingly, Nicci French is not an individual person but rather a creative persona adopted for the joint works of crime writing husband and wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The duo write incredibly gripping psychological thrillers including 1997’s The Memory Game and 1999’s Killing Me Softly, the latter of which was given a big screen Hollywood adaptation starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes in 2003.

There’s something for all lovers of crime fiction among the great British exponents. Have you read any of these writers or seen shows of their works? What other crime writers do you recommend (of whatever nationality)?

Feedback Junction

Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

Ann Cleeves and Elly Griffiths.. both major omissions in your list

And JK Rowling

What about Peter Lovesey

Great list, but you need to add Dorothy L. Sayers and Anne Perry!!

Well the Strike novels by J K Rowling are most definitely crime novels

Why does Linda La Plant not get a mention I think she is the best crime writer

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