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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Far from the Tree

Russ Thomas Why did I love 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.

By Rob Parker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Far from the Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brendan Foley has worked to balance the responsibilities of a demanding job and a troublesome family. He's managed to keep these two worlds separate, until the discovery of a mass grave sends them into a headlong collision. When one of the dead turns out to be a familiar face, he's taken off the case. 

Iona Madison keeps everything under control. She works hard as a detective sergeant and trains harder as a boxer. But when her superior, DI Foley, is removed from the case, her certainties are tested like never before. 

With stories of the Warrington 27 plastered over the…


Book cover of The Man on the Street

Russ Thomas Why did I love 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.

By Trevor Wood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man on the Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GRITTY, NEWCASTLE-SET CRIME FOR FANS OF IAN RANKIN AND ROBERT GALBRAITH.

WINNER OF THE CWA JOHN CREASEY DAGGER AND OF THE SPECSAVERS DEBUT CRIME NOVEL AWARD. A THEAKSTON'S NEW BLOOD AUTHOR FOR 2020 AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON'S OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD.

'Fresh, original, authentic and gritty - should be an instant classic' LEE CHILD

'Intricate, expertly paced with a shocking conclusion ... Jimmy is a character you root for from page one ... Simply supberb' M. W. CRAVEN, author of THE PUPPET SHOW

It started with a splash. Jimmy, a homeless veteran grappling with PTSD,…


Book cover of Sirens

Russ Thomas Why did I love 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.

By Joseph Knox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sirens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Brooding, blistering. Sirens is a remarkable literary thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin and James Lee Burke' AJ Finn, author of The Woman in the Window

WATERSTONES THRILLER OF THE MONTH

I stopped going to work. I went missing. We still live in a world where you can disappear if you want to. Or even if you don't.

Detective Aidan Waits is in trouble

After a career-ending mistake, he's forced into a nightmare undercover operation that his superiors don't expect him to survive.

Isabelle Rossiter has run away again

When the teenage daughter of a prominent MP joins Zain…


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

Russ Thomas Why did I love 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. 

By John Barlow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Right to Kill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first in a gripping new crime thriller series set in Yorkshire, for fans of Ian Rankin and Joseph Knox. 'A striking debut' Peter Robinson

On a Thursday night in February, DS Joe Romano finds himself back on home turf in Wortley, West Leeds. He's following up on the disappearance of drug dealer Craig Shaw.

It's the start of a case that could make or break Romano's career. Because Shaw is about to go from missing to murdered.

While some don't think Shaw's killer should be brought to justice, Romano believes every life counts. But he's running out of time.…


Book cover of The Dark Winter

Russ Thomas Why did I love 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.

By David Mark,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dark Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times hails David Mark's work as "in the honorable tradition of Joseph Wambaugh and Ed McBain." DARK WINTER is the first book in the internationally acclaimed Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy series.

A series of suspicious deaths have rocked Hull, a port city in England as old and mysterious as its bordering sea. They have captured the attention of Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy. He notices a pattern missed by his fellow officers, who would rather get a quick arrest than bother themselves with finding the true killer. Torn between his police duties and his aching desire to spend…


You might also like...

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,

Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The plan was insane. The trap seemed to snap shut on Bruce and Maggie Tate, an isolation forced on them by the pandemic and America's growing political factionalism. Something had to change.

Maggie's surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. With no experience, and knowing little about seafaring, diesel motors, or navigation, Maggie, Bruce, and the family dog decided to take on the six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They would have to navigate canals, rivers, seas, and locks. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

For nine months, Bruce and Maggie navigated shallow rivers, bottomless lakes, joy, and loss. Against all odds, they conquered the Great Loop, and along the way, found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,


Topics
  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Northern England, the United Kingdom, and police procedurals?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Northern England, the United Kingdom, and police procedurals.

Northern England Explore 13 books about Northern England
The United Kingdom Explore 560 books about the United Kingdom
Police Procedurals Explore 70 books about police procedurals