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Val McDermid's First in Crime Series

The prolific crime writer selects her favourite series openers


Val McDermid

'Crime writers – like me -- who produce series are conscious that readers’ first encounters with our work are not always the curtain-raisers on the sequence. So we work hard to make sure each book stands on its own two feet. But inevitably, the experience of reading a series where events have consequences is much richer if we read them in order. And of course, some readers will only start a series if they can get their hands on the first… So to keep you on track and introduce you to some classics, here are five series that reward starting at the beginning.'


A Clubbable woman

Reginald Hill, paperback


'Meet Mid-Yorkshire’s finest -- Andy Dalziel, Peter Pascoe and Edgar Wield, three police officers we follow over the course of 23 cleverly composed novels that nod to such diverse sources as Jane Austen, Greek mythology and medieval mystery plays. But Hill wears his learning lightly. The quality of his prose, the comic creation of Dalziel and his social commentary are all Dickensian in scope. '


The Crossing Place

Elly Griffiths, paperback


'Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who lives in a remote seaside cottage. She’s called in to consult with the police when a child’s bones are found near a prehistoric site near her home. The case brings her into the orbit of DCI Harry Nelson and so begins a complicated relationship that runs like a tangled thread through a series of absorbing novels. (I love books that introduce me to things I know very little about!)'

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Slow Horses

Mick Herron, paperback


'What do you do with spies who screw up? They know too much to be fired, so they are sent to Slough House, a backwater for misfits and liabilities, presided over by the marvellously comic grotesque, Jackson Lamb. These are spy thrillers that scintillate with satire and sharp, dark humour but Herron never forgets the need to wrap the writing round a tight plot. The series debut features kidnap, terrorism and unpleasant bodily functions. '


The suspect

Michael Robotham, paperback


'Michael Robotham is an Australian who worked for many years as a journalist in the UK and I think this gives his Joe O’Loughlin novels a distinctive insight into British life and culture. Joe is a psychologist with a happy family life. But a single murder and a single lie converge to threaten everything that matters to him. Robotham’s greatest strength is the empathy he brings to the world of his novels.'

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Indemnity Only

Sara Paretsky, paperback


'Chicago PI VI Warshawski’s first outing is a book that changed my perspective on the genre. For the first time, I encountered a modern female protagonist with a brain and a sense of humour, who didn’t have to shout for help from the guys when the going got tough. Set against the backdrop of labour unions and big business in the shape of an insurance company, it’s twisty and fast-paced with a memorable sense of place.'


The Distant Echo

Val McDermid, paperback


As a bonus, we would highly recommend the first in one of Val's own series. The Distant Echo introduces Fife's own, Detective Karen Pirie. Now is a good time to catch up with Karen's story, as there is a new installment of the series, Still Life, due later this year!