British Crime Writers

A Quartet for Crime

Need a good read? British crime writers are so diverse - with their protagonists, plots, characterisations and styles - you can't go far wrong in picking one - especially one of the following.

John Burdett author of “Bangkok Haunts”

What is great about reading Burdett’s books is their exotic setting (Bangkok) and his sense of humour coupled with a good writing style, very interesting characters, and well paced and intriguing plots.

Although his setting is in Asia, Burdett is an epitome of a good British crime writer. His 'Brit' perspective comes through in his humour and style.

Make no mistake his BKK (Bangkok) is seedy, disreputable and just the place to go to!

Having travelled there a few times I can relate to his general picture – although not to any extent the underbelly of that fascinating city. The Thais are a marvelous people and, as a lover of crime fiction, it’s great to read books set in such an exotic locale.

As to ‘authenticity’ – that may be questionable – I don’t know enough of the city to say how accurate is his depiction of institutionalized corruption.

But, take his books with an element of fantasy and don’t worry about it. General hearsay is that corruption is endemic – to varying degrees – but read his books with a view to enjoying the characterisations and his style.

From his own site:

    “Among critics Mr. Burdett has both ardent fans and equally ardent skeptics. Laura Miller of described “Bangkok 8” as a “deliciously fresh breath of air in the often musty halls of detective fiction.”

    Michiko Kakutani, writing in The New York Times, bridled at the book’s “grotesque, voyeuristic scenes” and found the female characters not ‘remotely credible.’”

Burdett provides us with a view of Thai society that has long intrigued Westerners.

The apparent contradiction between strong family values and putting daughters (and sons) into prostitution – and even though prostitution is illegal, the way society and its enforcers look the other way.

In some ways, on first reading, his depiction of Thailand is a bit dark – but he provides enough clues to show there is more to Thai society than is shown in the context of his yarns.

Our image of a gentle and warm people is not based on myth – it is very real – as is their stoicism in face of economic adversity, lack of opportunity, political manipulations and always being adaptable.

His “Bangkok” novels follow the career of Sonchai Jitpleecheep; police officer by day, papasan in the family brothel by night. An honest cop too!

The novels artfully wind through mystery, murder, love, prostitutes, police and army feuds, drug deals gone wrong, revenge killings and other fun activities.

They are never boring, and with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Burdett gets away with any stereotyping because they are not the hinge upon which his plots hang.

Michael Connelly he ain’t – but that doesn’t mean his books are not an enjoyable, good read.

Enjoy Bangkok 8; Bangkok Tattoo; Bangkok Haunts.

Mark Billingham (Detective Tom Thorne series)

In Tom Thorne, Billingham has avoided the trap of a clichéd cop, and joined the ranks of many other good British crime writers, giving us a protagonist who is real, different and interesting.

There is enough psychological complexity to sustain readers for the seven novels (so far) and leave us hankering for more.

Billingham is a crime author who will sustain his series because he doesn't give into contrived plotting or cartoon (read shallow) characters. Sleephead

Scaredy Cat


The Burning Girl Lifeless


Death Message. I haven’t read them all …… yet ….. a pleasure delayed.

He also has excellent taste – some of his top 10 fictional detectives are Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block) and Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke)

Ian Rankin

This author needs no introduction from me. His Rebus novels are at the top of modern British crime fiction.

Rebus is dour, determined and constantly falls foul of his seniors. For all this we root for him. He is eminently loveable, a quixotic hero moving through the darker half of a Jekyll and Hyde Edinburgh.

I love James Ellroy’s description of Rankin as the “king of tartan noir” … as it so apt. His novels, while holding us to the page, ooze Scotland, bagpipes, whiskey and hard men.

Rankin will hold your interest always - his is top fiction writing and crime novels at their (dour?) best!

Michael Dobbs (Francis Urquhart series)

I first came across Dobbs through TV’s “House of Cards” – a depiction of cynical politics rarely equalled and portrayed with a smiling malevolence also rarely equalled. Think of a noir version of “Yes Minister”. I then went on to watch the rest of the Francis Urquhart series and then the Thomas Goodfellowe series.

Although, not strictly in the procedural police or crime genre, the action depicted is so criminal it needs to be here.

I saw a bit (somewhere!) that Dobbs was called ‘Westminster’s baby-faced hit man,’ by The Guardian

This may have been a description of the author – but it is certainly most apt for his protagonists too!

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