The 10 best crime novels to give (or buy for yourself) this Christmas

What’s better over the festive season than to curl up with a bit of Christmas crime?

These thrilling novels will keep you on your toes whether you are a die-hard Christie fan or more into cool nordic noir.

Read on to discover your next crime obsession.

The System by Ryan Gattis (Picador)

Through the voices of a handful of narrators, Gattis takes a muscular tale about injustice, systemic racism and a US city abandoned by Californian and national government, and infuses it with humanity and supersonic excitement.

Outside The Lines by Ameera Patel (Catalyst Press)

It took four years to reach the UK since it was first published in Patel’s native South Africa but this short novel is not just an analysis of the iniquities of South African society. It’s also a well-rounded study of family and a thrilling read.

The Mist by Ragnar Jónasson (Michael Joseph)

Jónasson is old school – he doesn’t bother much with social issues, instead dealing in unputdownable stories that are imbued with melancholy. In The Mist, a stranger emerges from a blizzard to bring trouble to an Icelandic farmhouse.

The Opium Prince by Jasmine Aimaq (Soho Press)

Aimaq’s brilliant debut novel achieves the nifty trick of being both an exciting espionage tale and an evocative portrayal of 1970s Afghanistan, when the Americans, Soviets and Islamists were sizing each other up for the coming conflict.

Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry (Harvill Secker)

Barry’s second novel centres on Cait, who is part of a network that rescues at-risk women. But when she picks up Rebecca from a swanky Texan home, she realises the older woman is not what she seems. Exciting and polished.

V2 by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)

Harris’s characters, as usual, skim across the surface of the thrilling story like stones on a lake but the pace of this World War II thriller about the German V2 rocket is brisk enough to compensate for any lack of depth.

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann (Quercus)

The premise for this German thriller – a woman missing for 14 years shows up and claims to have been held captive, along with a girl and a boy, in a house in the forest – is intriguing, while the execution is deft and tender-hearted.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore (Hutchinson)

A dazzling, propulsive, humane work that not only bears comparison to Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos but occasionally beats them at their own game – sifting through the lives of the poor working class in urban America.

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen (Sphere)

Donald Trump clearly electrified Hiaasen’s funny bone for this, his 15th novel. Hiaasen’s writing is scintillating, driven and very, very funny so even the narrative’s sluggishness doesn’t matter. Sheer comic genius.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Penguin)

The plot is more Midsomer Murders than Dexter – the murder of a builder with a sinister past leads to several other deaths in a Kent town – but it’s really the characters that make this sparkle.

Last-minute Christmas gift books

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)

A follow-up to their mega-selling The Lost Words, this pocket-sized new illustrated collection of wildlife poems by the artist and nature writing duo is an enchanted magic box of verse about otters, goldfinches, silver birches, barn owls and more.

Perfect for a year in which we all rediscovered the outside world.

The Madman’s Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching (Simon & Schuster)

If your beloved has hoovered up the books on our top ten Christmas lists, this is the gift for them. An illustrated compendium of the most extraordinary books ever printed – the Koran in the blood of Saddam Hussein anyone?

The diary of a WWII prisoner written on toilet paper? – it’s a sumptuous alternative history of literature at its oddest.

The Botanical City by Helena Dove and Harry Ades (Kew Gardens/Hoxton Mini Press)

This terrific book by Kew’s kitchen gardener Helena Dove takes a seminal 18th-century guide to the edible, medicinal and poisonous plants found in London and updates it with a veritable cornucopia of eye- opening facts for 21st-century urban foragers, alongside many of the original exquisite illustrations.

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