Reviewer Michael Wood's Top Ten Crime Novels

1. The Sculptress - Minette Walters
Pan MacMillan £7.99

"A well-plotted psychological novel with two beautifully crafted female lead characters. Iím a huge fan of all of Waltersí novels but this is a standout one for me. The story is dark and the investigation fascinating. The final page will leave you breathless. In my opinion Ms Walters is the queen of the psychological thriller."

2. The Distant Echo - Val McDermid
Harper Collins £7.99

"I am the proud owner of all of Ms McDermidís published novels and have enjoyed every single one. I read ĎThe Distant Echoí over a weekend and couldnít put it down. McDermid is a specialist in creating real people rather than characters and placing them in real situations. This is a superior novel and one of McDermidís best standalone novels."

3. On Beulah Height - Reginald Hill
Harper Collins £7.99

"I believe Dalziel and Pascoe to be the best of British crime fiction detectives. This is the standout novel for me, however. It is expertly plotted with a dark story and a diverse cast of characters. The late Reginald Hill was a brilliant wordsmith and the book reads like he has carefully chosen every single word. His grasp on the English language is what made him great. I have lost count of the number of times I have read this book yet each time I sit down to read it, itís with the knowledge I am reading a work of pure class."

4. Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
Simon and Schuster £7.99

"I cannot think of a better debut novel than ĎChild 44í. It is a dark and shocking thriller that will grip your attention from the first page and throughout. The fear and paranoia felt by Leo ooze from every page; youíre not reading about Leoís investigation, youíre on the journey with him. Itís intense, chilling and the fact there are two more to read when you close the book at the end is shear bliss."

5. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
Harper Collins £7.99

"No Top Ten list would be complete without an entry from Agatha Christie and her famous creation, Hercule Poirot. The difficulty was choosing which novel to include. This one, however, is a personal favourite for two reasons; firstly, the layout of the novel. Itís set out like a case file on the crime and investigation where each chapter is dedicated to the questioning of a suspect. Secondly, is the longevity of the story. Who has not heard of this book? Itís a master class in storytelling and plot."

6. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
Virago £8.99

"DeWinter, Mrs Danvers, Manderley. Is there any more to say about this classic thriller of deception, paranoia and obsession? Mrs Danvers is a deliciously disturbed character, but there are times where you sympathise with her despite her bitterness towards the second Mrs DeWinter. Daphne Du Maurierís prose crackles with tension and you can feel the pressure building as the story develops until the devastating finale. Itís chilling and I love it. "

7. Messiah - Boris Starling
Harper Collins £11.99

"This novel is like a slap in the face; a page turner that hits the ground running and doesnít stop until the end. It is highly original and disturbing. The murders are frighteningly inventive and there are times you feel you should be checking your blood pressure as the horror unfolds. The main character of DCI Red Metcalfe is an instant classic; heís an excellent investigator and deeply tormented. Pick up this novel and youíll be reading it well into the night. Just make sure you keep the light on Ė that is if you can get to sleep after devouring this book. "

8. Killing the Beasts - Chris Simms
Orion £3.59

"The first of the DI Jon Spicer novels set in Manchester stayed with me long after the final page. It is a story of obsession and mental health. Itís a fast paced claustrophobic thriller and Simmsí unique style of writing made the city of Manchester a character in its own right. Itís been years since I first read this novel yet I often think about it, such is the brilliance of the storytelling and the very realistic and scenic feel to it. "

9. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Vintage £8.99

"This book isnít just in my top ten list of crime fiction novels but in my top ten books of all time. The story is a simple one but the character of Raskolnikov is deep and complex. This is more than a book, itís a journey as we follow one man who tries to commit the perfect crime but his own conscience is his ultimate undoing. The tension is palpable and even though heís a killer, you really want Raskolnikov to escape justice. This is a gem in literary fiction; richly written and starkly described. Itís a timeless classic."

10. No Night Is Too Long - Barbara Vine
Penguin £6.99

"As much as I love the work of Ruth Rendell, I prefer the novels of Barbara Vine. From looking at my top ten I think itís safe to say I love my crime fiction dark, psychological and disturbing and this book has all that and more. The setting is intense, the characters ripple with emotion and there is a haunting echo of a Greek tragedy about it. This novel is a delicious and sumptuous read. Devour it."