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If you're a fan of Vera (either the TV series or the Ann Cleeves novels), you've surely come to know a bit about Newcastle, the surrounding Tyneside area, and Northumberland. The area is home to much of the series, and though it may not be as quaint as the Cotswolds or as pleasant as coastal Cornwall, it has still left many wanting more.
The northeastern portion of England is a bit wilder and rougher in many ways, and mysteries set in the area are imbued with a local flavour you won't find anywhere else in the UK. If you like that, you'll almost definitely love at least some of the books on this list of crime novels set in and around the Newcastle/Tyneside area.
11 Gritty British Crime Novels & Series Set in the Newcastle/Tyneside Area
Some of the books below are the first in a series, while others are single books or trilogies. In most cases, the entire series is set in and around Newcastle/Tyneside, but some cast their net a bit wider over the course of the series.
Ann Cleeves's Vera Stanhope Mysteries
Ann Cleeve's Vera Stanhope series is probably the best-known modern series set in the area. Book one, The Crow Trap, begins when three women come together to carry out an environmental survey of the Northumberland countryside…but almost immediately, there's a body. Since it appears to be suicide, it's not until the second body appears that DI Vera Stanhope enters the picture to figure out what's going on.
Trevor Wood's Jimmy Mullen Series
Set in Newcastle, this crime trilogy follows Jimmy Mullen, a homeless veteran still struggling to cope with the horrific things he saw during his service. One night, he overhears an argument, followed by a splash – and though he desperately wants to pretend he didn't hear anything, a public plea from the possible victim's daughter Carrie is enough to stir him to action.
That decision brings him all manner of trouble – but you can't help but root for Jimmy as he tries to do the right thing.
Eileen Thornton's Agnes Lockwood Mysteries
Set in Newcastle, the Agnes Lockwood series is best described as a “gritty cozy”. On the one hand, you have an amateur sleuth with a name like Agnes – very cozy – but on the other, you have a much grittier, more urban location than the typical cozy. Honestly, we'd love to see more books like this.
The first book sees Agnes recently widowed and spending a few days on Tyneside. It's where she spent her early childhood, and a good deal of time has passed since she last visited. When expensive jewellery is stolen from her hotel, she recognises the inspector for her schooldays. They decide to catch up over dinner, but the pleasant evening is ruined by the discovery of a body on the roadside.
Though Inspector Johnson warns Agnes away from the case, her natural curiosity may not allow her to steer clear…
LJ Ross's DCI Ryan Mystery Series
Most of LJ Ross's DCI Ryan books are set in the broader Northumberland/North East England area, but some, like Seven Bridges (Book #8), are set in Newcastle. If you enjoy the settings and atmosphere of the Vera Stanhope novels, you'll almost definitely find something to love about Ross's series.
The books follow DCI Ryan, a man determined to get away from a turbulent and traumatic past. Unfortunately, that doesn't work – and in the course of a variety of challenging homicide cases, he'll be forced to go directly through his demons rather than sidestepping them as he might have preferred.
Colin Youngman's Ryan Jarrod Series
On a wet winter's morning, Special Constable Ryan Jarrod stumbles upon the body of a badly beaten taxi driver. The very same night, a terrorist blast rocks a nearby university, drawing attention away from the taxi driver's death. Jarrod vows to investigate the case on his own, ultimately discovering links between the two crimes.
Nobody believes him until he finds DCI Stephen Danskin. Breaking protocol, he recruits Jarrod to help solve the biggest case the region's seen in years.
Mari Hannah's DCI Kate Daniels Series
Mari Hannah's DCI Kate Daniels series offers not only a gritty take on life and crime in the Newcastle area, but a slightly different take on the usual sort of detective. Instead of your typical middle-aged alcoholic man, Kate Daniels is a lesbian who hasn't entirely come to terms with her sexuality and how it fits into her professional life. She's also a bit younger than the average fictional detective.
In the first Kate Daniels book, we meet a woman haunted by her failure to solve a recent double homicide in a nearby village. When she gets the opportunity to head up a new murder case, she's eager to take on the responsibility and prove herself. Unfortunately, Daniels quickly realises she knows the victim – but because she's so keen to prove her abilities, she decides not to disclose the personal connection. As more victims pile up and Daniels struggles to find the connection, the killer is watching her.
Roy Lewis's Eric Ward Mysteries
This 1970s-based series follows Eric Ward, a policeman turned lawyer who works out of Newcastle and the surrounding area. Forced to retire from the police after discovering he has glaucoma, it's an interesting twist on the usual grizzled detective types. There are 17 books in the series, so there's plenty to enjoy if you find yourself drawn into the character and his world.
Book 1, The Sedleigh Hall Murder, sees Ward tracking down a dead man's offspring for inheritance purposes, only to discover there's something not quite right about his death – or his life, for that matter.
AM Peacock's DCI Jack Lambert Series
DCI Jack Lambert is a man with a complicated personal life. He has a criminal past, and he's struggled over the years with his sexuality. He'll set all that aside, though, when two bodies are found together in an open grave.
The case gets even more complicated when a local thug is found dead, and a celebrity claims she's being stalked. He thinks it could all be linked, but can he find the link before the pile of bodies gets even higher?
Maryn Waites's The White Room
Returning from the war in 1946, 19-year-old Jack Smeaton finds the city of Newcastle to be a different place from what he remembers. Now, he sees a city so blighted by poverty that he can hardly believe it's part of the country that won the war.
Embracing socialism under the influence of an ambitious future councilman who wants to rebuild the city, Smeaton spends the next part of his life working to improve things for the average man. Unfortunately, something sinister lurks beneath the surface. In the shadows, a psychopath lurks, waiting to christen the new city with the blood of the old.
This isn't a traditional mystery like some on the list, but it's an interesting and brutal read.
Andrew James Graham's The Gathering of the Seven Stars
First off, fair warning – this one's not as polished as some of the others, so it may not appeal to those who are bothered by wonky capitalisation and the occasional grammatical issue. That said, we would rather err on the side of including too many, rather than too few, books set in the Newcastle area – and we feel it's important to support indie authors as they work to hone their craft.
The Gathering of the Seven Stars follows DS Oscar Smiles as he returns from compassionate leave to find himself dealing with a turf war over the Dragon Gate area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Roz Southey's Charles Patterson Mysteries
In the Newcastle-upon-Tyne of the 1730s, life is hard for an impoverished musician – and violinist and harpsichord player Charles Patterson is about to find it a lot harder. First, a valuable book goes missing. Then, it's a violin owned by his rival…and finally, his rival disappears.
The body count is mounting, and Patterson is stuck in the middle of it all. Will he be able to get to the bottom of it before he's dead or locked up?
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