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The Best Books of 2021: Crime & Thriller

Posted on 3rd November 2021 by Mark Skinner

Whether it's unmasking diamond smugglers with Richard Osman, exploring the sinister side of motherhood with Elizabeth Day or solving an interstellar whodunit with Chris Hadfield, it would be simply criminal of us not to bring the amazing range of great crime novels and thrillers published this year to your attention. Below are a host of enthralling titles worthy of your investigation...  

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A drama production and a fundraiser lead to murder in this fiendishly clever whodunit, presented as a series of documents – emails, messages and transcripts – that hold the keys to the mystery.
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The follow up to Richard Osman’s bestselling phenomenon The Thursday Murder Club finds our ageing heroes enmeshed in an underworld escapade involving stolen diamonds and vicious gangsters.
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McIlvanney’s pioneering Laidlaw series of crime novels proved an immense inspiration to Ian Rankin and now the creator of Rebus completes his idol’s last, unfinished novel - and Laidlaw's origin story - in reverent yet typically compelling prose.

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The beloved Inspector Montalbano series concludes in exquisite style, as the irascible detective attempts to solve the murder of the enigmatic Riccardino - despite interference from a local bishop and a fortune teller.
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Faced with a mysterious case which could have repercussions on his own family, Detective Matthew Venn must tread carefully as he investigates the murder of a man killed with a shard of glass in the second instalment of Cleeves’s Two Rivers series.
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The fourth instalment of Archer’s bestselling William Warwick series finds the maverick Detective Sergeant faced with a fiendish cold case and a suspect who has evaded justice for too long.

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The pitch-perfect sequel to the bestselling The Windsor Knot sees Her Majesty once more playing detective when a stolen painting and a body in the Palace swimming pool require her regal crime-solving skills.
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Boasting a central appearance by the author himself and the very first murder on the tiny island of Alderney, A Line to Kill’s tale of sinister goings-on at a boutique book festival is a breathtakingly audacious whodunit.
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Witchcraft, dastardly plots and a devotion to truth lead James Marwood and Cat Lovett to discover a secret at the very heart of the royal court in the new thrilling novel from the master of historical crime.
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Opening a new period crime series featuring reporter Allie Burns, McDermid’s page-turning thriller finds Burns probing the dark secrets that lie behind the veneer of respectable Scotland – with deadly results.
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Unexplained disappearances at a sinister hotel (and former sanatorium) in the Swiss Alps spell trouble for vacationing detective Elin Warner in Pearse’s disturbing closed-community thriller.
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Glenconner follows up the escapist mystery of Murder on Mustique with a wonderfully atmospheric whodunit set in wartime Norfolk and centred on an eleven-year-old girl determined to get to the bottom of sinister goings-on at the titular stately home.
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Ballard and Bosch return in another compelling police procedural, as New Year's revelry turns fatal when an auto shop owner is murdered during a chaotic street party.
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The fifteenth page-turning instalment in Jeffrey Deaver’s bestselling Lincoln Rhyme series, The Midnight Lock sets Rhyme and Sachs on the trail of the Locksmith, a dangerous new criminal wreaking havoc in New York.
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Cavanagh returns with another compelling case for Eddie Flynn, as an innocent man stands accused of a vicious murder and a whole town is convinced of his guilt.
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The acclaimed author of Sirens deftly blends fact and fiction in a standalone chiller centred on the investigation into a student’s sudden disappearance in Manchester.
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In 1960s Brighton, private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins investigate the suspicious death of a former music hall star in this sparkling whodunnit from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries.
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A peace-loving British B&B owner in rural France turns sleuth when one his guests disappears in the first wonderfully witty whodunit in Moore’s entertaining Follett Valley series, perfect for fans of The Thursday Murder Club.
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The author of the bestselling phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with another white-knuckle thriller awash with unbearable suspense and jaw-dropping misdirection, as three women are brought into conflict through a brutal murder.

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The second Jack Reacher thriller co-written by Lee Child and his younger brother Andrew ups the ante on pulsating action, gripping suspense and bad guys you just love to hate.

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The peerless storyteller returns with a tightly-wound thriller based around the titular assassin and an odyssey across America in pursuit of the dark forces that would seek to double cross him.

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Deliciously sinister and engrossing, Day’s atmospheric novel of motherhood, greed and obsession places a happy couple trying for a baby in the orbit of a woman who takes an unhealthy interest in their personal lives.
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From the bestselling author of The Silent Patient comes another sophisticated and hugely original literary thriller revolving around Cambridge classicists and secret sororities.
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Spanning the globe in a hugely ambitious, panoramic epic of impending apocalypse, Follett’s first contemporary thriller for over a decade dissects the power plays and geopolitical crises that could lead to World War III.
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The page-turning debut crime thriller from beloved astronaut Chris Hadfield mines Cold War rivalry and interstellar intrigue as murder stalks the confines of an Apollo space rocket on the far side of the moon.
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The king of Nordic Noir proves just as adept at spinning short stories packed with suspense and intrigue as he is at penning edge-of-the-seat crime novels, and this collection is sure to have readers racing through the pages at a rate of knots.
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The kidnapping of a pilot’s family leaves a plane full of people at the mercy of his conscience in this relentless psychological thriller, soaring with edge-of-your seat suspense.
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Chemical weapons, espionage and the ghosts of the Cold War loom large in the second instalment of Charles Cumming’s enthralling series that revolves around the top-secret intelligence agency of Box 88.
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A deliciously sinister thriller from the masterly pen of Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall puts a seemingly idyllic family under the spotlight as their matriarch disappears.
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A gripping whodunit from the bestselling author of the Chocolat series, A Narrow Door sees St Oswald's Grammar School gain its first-ever female head teacher who’s determined not to let anything stand in her way – not even a body.
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Following the struggles of an adolescent who witnesses a suicide when camping in the South of France, Heatwave is an award-winning psychological thriller fuelled by searing tension.
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The king of the courtroom thriller follows up The Whistler with another perilous case for Jeri Crosby as she attempts to bring her own brand of justice to a murderous judge.
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Combining Hillary Clinton’s inside knowledge of the White House with the matchless thriller writing skills of Louise Penny, State of Terror focuses on a rookie Secretary of State tasked with protecting the world from a deadly terrorist plot.
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Once more blending Clinton’s insider knowledge with James Patterson’s storytelling pyrotechnics, the hugely anticipated sequel to The President is Missing finds ex-president Michael Keating facing a deadly threat to his daughter from a ruthless assassin.
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A nail-biting, elegantly constructed psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Our House, The Heights uses a first-person narrative to throw the reader into the darkest recesses of revenge and dread.
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Following a young British-Asian lawyer who’s broken away from her family’s criminal background after her father’s murder, The Khan is a gripping and multifaceted crime thriller that explores the meaning of community and justice with breathtaking dexterity.
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A darkly atmospheric crime thriller that shades at times into horror, Sixteen Horses finds a forensic veterinarian trapped in a fading seaside town as a series of gruesome mutilations bring buried secrets to light.
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In the heart-pounding debut thriller from the bestselling author of SAS: Who Dares, Wins and The Fear Bubble, an ex- elite soldier must face life outside the military, still filled with the deathly echoes of his past.
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The sixteenth-century murder of David Rizzio, Italian secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, is retold in Mina’s characteristically compelling style which brings the intrigue and machinations of a key moment in Scottish history vibrantly to life.
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A gruesome slaughter in an Amsterdam canal house leads assassin Louis on the trail of Serbian war criminals in this masterfully constructed tale of retribution and wild justice from the author of The Dirty South.
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