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The Best Books of 2020: Crime & Thrillers

Posted on 11th November 2020 by Mark Skinner

2020 has been a busy old year for sleuths and gumshoes of all descriptions. Whether a grizzled crime-solving veteran like Strike, Rebus or Montalbano or a collection of octogenarian amateurs such as those found in Richard Osman's sparkling The Thursday Murder Club, this year has produced some fiendishly clever whodunits and compelling police procedurals. Meanwhile, the page-turning thriller remains in rude health, with Robert Harris returning to the spies and saboteurs of the Second World War and Louise Candlish serving up another slice of ice-cold psychodrama.   

Detective Novels

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The fifth installment of J.K. Rowling’s acclaimed pseudonymous crime series delivers more skilful misdirection as Strike and Ellacott confront a serial killer at large and a baffling case over four decades old.
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Laced with killer one-liners and artfully constructed twists, the debut novel from the telly puzzle favourite centres on a posse of pensionable Poirots investigating the suspicious demise of a property developer.

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Centred on the disappearance of his daughter’s husband and a set of family secrets that the maverick detective isn’t sure that he wants to uncover, A Song for the Dark Times is an intensely personal case for John Rebus.
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Her Majesty turns super-sleuth to investigate the murder of a royal guest in this wonderfully entertaining and deftly written whodunit, which makes the most of a genius literary concept.
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In this dazzlingly clever sequel to his bestselling Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz returns to the world of literary detective Atticus Pund and now retired publisher Susan Ryeland.
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With the murder of a thrill-seeking heiress and a colourful cast of characters trapped on a tropical island, Murder on Mustique is an engrossing crime fiction debut from the author of Lady in Waiting.

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With the wonderfully evocative backdrop of the Caribbean island of Camaho, Ross's complex, character-driven police procedural delves deep into issues of fear, friendship and the price of loyalty.

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Fuelled by Archer’s consummate storytelling, the second outing for DS William Warwick brings him in contact with an old foe and a criminal network of chilling ingenuity.
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From the author of A Time to Kill, the third instalment in Grisham's series featuring defence lawyer Jake Brigance explores a chilling case of patricide and the police code of silence.
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Giordano Bruno investigates a murderous conspiracy to replace the Queen with her Catholic sister Mary in another sharply plotted Elizabethan tale, full of vengeance, intrigue and political mayhem.

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Merging the classic country house whodunit with Cleeves’ trademark police procedural, The Darkest Evening finds Vera Stanhope confronted with an abandoned toddler and a female corpse in the grounds of a stately home.
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A purveyor of startlingly accomplished historical crime fiction, Andrew Taylor sends Marwood and Lovett off on another brilliantly baffling thriller set in seventeenth century London.

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Maverick defence attorney Mickey Haller has a fight on his hands to clear his name of murder in another pulsating legal thriller from a master of hard-boiled crime fiction.
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Set amidst the secrets, passions and power play of the thespian world, Camilleri's twenty-sixth Inspector Montalbano novel is a slice of contemporary crime fiction at its finest.
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Cunningly plotted and viscerally thrilling, the eighteenth outing for the inimitable Charlie Parker explores the deep-buried secrets that begin to surface when a series of racially motivated murders shakes an Arkansas county.
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A pickpocket, a loudmouth and a bag with sinister, life-changing contents coalesce in this utterly absorbing page turner, written by a former criminal psychologist.
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Centring around the death of a woman who plotted murders for crime writers, this sharp and haunting literary whodunnit shows Elly Griffiths at the height of her talents.
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Drenched in suspense and intrigue, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill sees Hannah’s reimagined Poirot return to solve another Golden Age murder mystery.
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Darkly evocative and fuelled by Banville’s wintry wit, Snow explores the religious tensions in mid-twentieth century Ireland through a masterfully nuanced take on a classic whodunit.
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Thrillers

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Heralding a new dawn for Jack Reacher, The Sentinel is co-written by Lee Child and his younger brother Andrew - but never fear, our favourite moral avenger is still in muscular form, stepping in to right the wrongs done to a band of country musicians.
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V2
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The bestselling author of Fatherland and Munich delivers another gripping story of espionage that focuses on the deadly Nazi V2 rocket programme.
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A rollercoaster of a standalone novel from Norway’s King of Crime, The Kingdom probes dark family secrets and festering small-town animosity.
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Featuring fugitive detectives, a twice-dead leper and a stalking demon, The Devil and the Dark Water is a deliciously sinister period chiller set on a blighted sea voyage to Amsterdam from the author of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
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A brilliantly crafted piece of Southern gothic, Blacktop Wasteland is the story of an ex-con whose new, quiet life is interrupted by an offer he cannot refuse.

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Cutting off a group of tech entrepreneurs in their chalet just as an avalanche hits, One By One mines envy, avarice and other dark motives in a race to find the killer in their midst.
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French follows up the superb The Wych Elm with a similarly engrossing story of sinister small-town secrets, peopled by credible and compelling characters.
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A chilling standalone thriller from the bestselling king of crime, I Follow You sees a respectable married doctor descend into an unhealthy obsession for a woman he has never been able to forget.
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The haunting sequel to the bestselling The Ice Cream Girls, Koomson's gripping novel about the enduring effects of deception is full of heart and truth.

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Set amongst the ‘water rats’ of the Thames riverboat community, Candlish’s disquieting thriller probes the enmity that lies beneath the surface of friendships as well as the fatal unreliability of memory.
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Crisscrossing between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the present day, Box 88 is a chilling depiction of every secret agent’s worst nightmare – when your past comes back to threaten those you love.
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