The best crime novels set in the grim North of England

Who am I?

There’s a saying in England: It’s grim up north! Largely used pejoratively (by the south), it’s true to say it is generally colder and wetter, the landscape more unforgiving, the people – friendlier in my opinion – are more outspoken and candid. The cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, with their declining industries and rising unemployment, provide fertile ground for crime writers. So when I started my own series following the investigations of DS Adam Tyler and his cold case team it didn’t take long to settle on my adopted home of Sheffield as the setting. Be warned: we’re a long way from the sleepy villages of Agatha Christie here.


I wrote...

Nighthawking

By Russ Thomas,

Book cover of Nighthawking

What is my book about?

No secret can stay buried forever. Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens is an oasis of peace – until one morning the body of a young woman is found there, buried in a quiet corner. Police determine that she’s been there for months and would have gone undiscovered for years – except someone returned in the dead of night to dig her up. DS Adam Tyler and his team have many questions to answer – who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? And who dug her up?

Tyler’s investigation draws him into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable...and willing to kill to keep what they find.

The books I picked & why

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Far from the Tree

By Rob Parker,

Book cover of Far from the Tree

Why this book?

The first book in Rob Parker’s excellent Thirty Miles Trilogy sees twenty-seven bodies discovered, vacuum-packed, and buried in a woodland trench. DI Brendan Foley and his newly established police force are the ones tasked with cracking the case but is it a coincidence that these bodies have been buried in Foley’s hometown? Set in the historic town of Warrington, located midway between Manchester and Liverpool, the book explores the murky underworlds of the two cities and the consequences of a war between two drug-dealing gangs as it spills out into the surrounding area.


The Man on the Street

By Trevor Wood,

Book cover of The Man on the Street

Why this book?

Jimmy is a homeless veteran grappling with PTSD but when he hears the sound of something heavy falling into the Tyne after an argument he does his best to pretend it’s not his problem. Then he sees the headline about a girl looking for her missing father, and the girl, Carrie, reminds him of someone he lost. He decides to stop hiding from his past and take action but when the police don’t believe him it’s up to Jimmy and Carrie to find out the truth – whatever the cost. This Newcastle-set mystery is both gripping and incredibly moving, not least because of its tragic yet wholly loveable protagonist.


Sirens

By Joseph Knox,

Book cover of Sirens

Why this book?

The first in Knox’s Manchester-set Detective Aidan Waits series, Sirens sees disgraced cop Waits looking to redeem himself by rescuing the teenage daughter of a prominent politician. Waits finds himself forced into an undercover operation to infiltrate the shady world of Zain Carver, an enigmatic figure who lures young women into his world only for them to disappear. Dark, gritty, and gruesome, this is Northern Noir at its best.


Right to Kill: A gripping Yorkshire murder mystery for 2022 (DS Joe Romano crime thriller series book 1)

By John Barlow,

Book cover of Right to Kill: A gripping Yorkshire murder mystery for 2022 (DS Joe Romano crime thriller series book 1)

Why this book?

When a local drug dealer goes missing in the small town of Wortley, West Leeds, no one cares. No one except Detective Sergeant Joe Romano, back on home turf in ‘God’s Own County’ of Yorkshire. And even when the drug dealer turns up dead some believe it poetic justice. Romano believes every life counts though, and with the killer about to strike again he puts everything on the line, including his career, to prove that no one has the right to kill. This is a very modern take on the classic police procedural novel, a world-weary cop fighting against the world-weary system in order to do the right thing. 


The Dark Winter: A Detective Sergeant McAvoy Novel

By David Mark,

Book cover of The Dark Winter: A Detective Sergeant McAvoy Novel

Why this book?

The backdrop for this book is Hull, described by its hero, Detective Sergeant McAvoy as… “last stop before the sea, on the road to nowhere… falling to bloody pieces.” McAvoy is first on the scene when a young girl is killed in Hull’s historic church and stumbles across a killer who’s playing God. If you enjoy a classic police protagonist then McAvoy’s for you; an outsider with a troubled past, an unerring sense of justice, and a mission to be a good man in a corrupt world. And the tight plotting will have you endlessly turning the pages long after you should have switched off the light and gone to sleep.


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