9 Intriguing British Mystery & Crime Novels Set in Contemporary London

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As much as we love historical fiction or modern novels set around the British coast or countryside, there are times when what we really want is a good modern mystery set in London. You'd think that would be easy to find, but the overwhelming majority of highly-rated mysteries and crime dramas set in London (barring spy thrillers) seem to be historical fiction.

9 Intriguing British Mystery & Crime Novels Set in Contemporary London

Since many mystery novels are written in series form, we've generally combined those as a single entry in the list below (offering links to the first in series).

The Cormoran Strike Series

The first 5 Cormoran Strike Novels

Initially, JK Rowling wrote this series in secret. After making a fortune with the Harry Potter novels, it seemed perfectly natural that she might want to see whether she could write another hit without the use of her name. Cuckoo's Calling, the first book in the series, received solid reviews from critics but relatively few sales until the news broke.

While it's easy to say the series is only a hit because of her name value, it's also unfair to judge a brand new mystery novel based on its first book sales. It's incredibly common for a series to see mediocre sales until a few volumes have been published. That's partly because more books and time mean more exposure, but also because many readers don't like to dive into a series until there are several books to read.

The Cormoran Strike series follows a London-based private investigator who previously served in the military police, losing a leg in the process. When a pretty (and whip-smart) psychology drop-out is randomly assigned to be his temp, the relationship soon grows into professional partnership with hints of more to come.

Set several years behind the real world, the series is gritty without being excessively gruesome. As of summer 2022, there are five books in the Cormoran Strike series with a sixth due out in late August 2022.

Start with: The Cuckoo's CallingKindle | Amazon Paperback | Audio Book | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Jack Gatland's DI Declan Walsh Series

Jack Gatland's A Letter to the Dead

In Letter From the Dead, DI Walsh has just been saved from a permanent suspension thanks to a transfer to the “Last Chance Saloon” crime unit. His first case involves a letter sent by a woman who was murdered 20 years prior. That letter brings new suspects into the picture, and DI Walsh and his colleagues will have to try to make sense of the very cold case if they're to bring the real culprit to justice.

There are 12 books in the series, and new volumes have been coming out every few months since late 2020. If you're a fast reader who likes to have new books quickly, definitely give this one a try.

Get it: Kindle | Audiobook | Paperback | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Sarah Hilary's DI Marnie Rome Series

Someone Else's Skin

Five years ago, DI Marnie Rome's family home was the scene of a horrific crime that left her parents dead and her foster brother imprisoned. Not surprisingly, she doesn't talk about her personal life. Even her partner, DS Noah Jake, is largely clueless about her past.

As the two of them embark on a case involving domestic violence and self-defense, Marnie will find herself drawn into familiar and unpleasant territory.

A winner of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award, this is the first in the DI Marnie Rome series.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury (Detective Kamil Rahman Series)

The Waiter

When disgraced detective Kamil Rahman moves from London to Kolkata, he finds himself starting fresh as a waiter in an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, his peaceful new life doesn't last long. When he caters a posh party, the wealthy host is found dead in the swimming pool.

Suspicion falls on the man's beautiful young wife, and the family looks to Kamil to help investigate on behalf of the family. Kamil teams up with his boss's daughter Anjoli, but as their relationship deepens, his past begins to catch up with him.

If you're interested in diverse perspectives (something other than the standard issue middle-aged alcoholic white male detective), this one offers a well-written and unique mystery. It's not one of those stories where it feels like an author just flipped the skin tone on a character to “make the book diverse” – but rather, a story that's deeply embedded in a community and culture not often represented in British crime fiction. A second book, The Cook, was added to the series in early 2022.

Sadly, format availability is pretty limited – but perhaps if more people try it, the publisher will get the idea and make it available in ebook and audio.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


A.K. Turner's Cassie Raven Series

Body Language

The first in AK Turner's Cassie Raven series, Body Language introduces us to Camden-based mortuary technician Cassie Raven. Though some think her job is weird, she knows the dead want to tell her something.

Though she's handled thousands of bodies, she's never worked with one of someone close to her – until now. The pathologist thinks the woman's death was an accident, but Cassie believes the body is telling her something much more sinister is at play.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Steve Parker's Detective Ray Paterson Series

Their Last Words

A young woman has been young dead on the streets of London with a single word carved into her flesh: DON'T.

The quickly rising DS Ray Paterson is assigned to the case, but he'll quickly learn he's in over his head. Soon after, another body is found with another word carved into the chest. It's clear the killer is trying to send a message, but to whom?

With the help of his mentor DS Dave Jordan, Paterson might just get through it.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London Series

Rivers of London: Midnight Riot

This one's a bit unusual for the list in that it's (a) a fantasy-mystery series, and (b) only partially set in contemporary times. While most of the series is set in contemporary chronology, some of the graphic novels are set in the past. You can refer to a blog post from the author HERE for more details if you're curious.

The series follows Peter Grant, a new officer at the Met who gets recruited into a strange unit handling a variety of supernatural matters. Suddenly, he's a DC and trainee wizard dealing with nests of vampires, warring gods and goddesses of the Thames, and graves in Covent Garden.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Evie Hawtrey's And By Fire

And By Fire

This unique crime thriller begins in modern times, where DI Nigella Parker is a talented arson investigator – with a crippling fear of fire. When a charred body is found alongside Sir Christopher Wren's monument to the Great Fire of London, it drags her into a case with surprising links to the 350-year-old case of a bookseller who went missing during the catastrophe.

Pairing up with Colm O'Leary of Scotland Yard, she'll work to track the arsonist across the London area. At the same time, she'll deal with the fallout of the relationship the two had before O'Leary made the mistake of saying three very important words.

Get it: Kindle | Hardcover | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


Nicci French's Frieda Klein Series

Blue Monday

This series of crime thrillers follows Frieda Klein, a solitary London psychotherapist who reluctantly uses her talents to assist the police in challenging cases. In the first book of the series, Blue Monday, a five-year-old has been abducted. With the news everywhere and the population horrified, Frieda can't ignore the fact that one of her patients has been having dreams about a hunger for a child who sounds just like Matthew.

Get it: Kindle | Paperback | Audiobook | Bookshop.org (supports independent bookshops)


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9 of the Best British Mystery and Crime Novels Set in Modern London, England

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