The best crime novels to mark the trials and tribulations of the North of England

Who am I?

The North of England is home. I was born here, I work here and it’s where I will see out my days. It’s a place with its own character, a place largely forged on hard industrial work and one trying to find a new purpose after decades of financial neglect. My home city of Hull captures this in miniature as we’ve shared a journey over the last decade via my novels from 'UK Crap Town of the Year’ to ‘UK City of Culture.’ Tied in with my background in studying Social Policy and Criminology, I’ll continue to map the city and the region’s trials and tribulations.

I wrote...

Sound of the Sinners

By Nick Quantrill,

Book cover of Sound of the Sinners

What is my book about?

When his former business partner and mentor, Don Ridley, is found dead shortly after asking for his help, Private Investigator Joe Geraghty knows he has to return to Hull and a city he thought was in his past. Weighed down with guilt, Don’s death points to his days with the police and an off-the-books investigation into the unsolved ‘Car Boot Murder’ decades previously. With dangerous secrets and a conspiracy of silence, the city might have had a makeover during Joe’s absence, but some things don’t change in the northern sea port. With his own life on the line, Joe is unable to stop, a debt to be repaid, but powerful people with vested interests will always seek to ensure some stories stay covered in darkness.

The books I picked & why

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Jack's Return Home

By Ted Lewis,

Book cover of Jack's Return Home

Why this book?

Published in 1970, it’s a touchstone crime novel for all writers wanting to explore the small towns and cities of the industrial north. Leaving London to return home to Scunthorpe, Jack Carter is a man on a revenge mission and wants to know who murdered his brother. With a keen eye for social attitudes and lives in a one-horse town, the novel transcends the page, and under the title of Get Carter, it gives us one of the great crime films of the 20th century. More than that, the novel’s Humber setting taught me I could also write about my neglected home city of Hull.

No More Heroes

By Ray Banks,

Book cover of No More Heroes

Why this book?

Set in Manchester, Ray Banks’s gift to us is a razor-sharp contemporary Private Investigator series, a relative rarity within the UK crime writing scene. His surly PI, Cal Innes, may be battered and bruised, but his big heart continues to beat. Finding himself in the centre of a racist uprising in the city, it’s a place that needs a hero and he’s going to be the man who rises to the occasion. Using the classic PI template created by the great US writers, it showed me that I could also adapt the format and apply it to my own writing and PI, Joe Geraghty.

Long Way Home

By Eva Dolan,

Book cover of Long Way Home

Why this book?

Stretching the geographical boundary a little, Dolan’s police series takes us to Peterborough, another location scared by political and financial neglect. It’s the terrain I tread in the Joe Geraghty series, our cities are not too different. Beyond that, Dolan also makes giving the police series a fresh shot of adrenaline looks easy. Based in the Hate Crimes Units, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, give voice to those who are marginalised and without voice, a welcome rebalancing and one that questions the power and position of the police.

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?

It’s always strange when another writer tackles the same city you’re mapping, but it’s also a reminder that we see places in fundamentally different ways. I write about Hull as an insider looking out with David taking the opposite approach, arriving in the city as a journalist. In the debut outing for DI Aector McAvoy, it may be his writing background that allows him to look the place in the eye and draw a fantastically vivid city dealing with multiple social issues, but also one in which he finds its heart packed with spirit and hope.

Death at the Seaside

By Frances Brody,

Book cover of Death at the Seaside

Why this book?

The North of England isn’t all post-industrial urban centres of decay. As well as being home to large and important cities, its green spaces are plentiful and attract numerous tourists to its many attractions. Frances Brody’s PI Kate Shackleton series makes use of Yorkshire’s picturesque and pleasant rural settings, not least the rolling moors leading to the coastal town of Whitby in the series’ eighth outing. Set in the 1920s, Brody’s series is also a reminder of the importance of subverting and challenging social norms, but never at the expense of entertaining the reader.

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