10 Best Authors Like Ian Rankin To Wake Your Inner Detective

Discover riveting mystery and crime fics with our list of authors like Ian Rankin. Explore gripping narratives and intricate plots that will have you hooked.

Authors like Ian Rankin certainly have big shoes to fill. The Scottish bestseller has been in the game for more than 30 years now, capturing readers with his rich tales. His famous John Rebus Series is about Inspector Rebus and his adventures in Edinburgh.

The series, starting in 1987 with the publication of Knots and Crosses, has collected many awards. The list includes the Specsavers National Book Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger. It’s also been adapted into a 2000 T.V. series, Rebus, that ran for four seasons.

Though six publishers rejected his first novel, Rankin didn’t give up. Now, he’s one of the most prolific authors in the crime fiction genre. With at least 25 books under his name and a net worth of $27.2 million, Rankin is still on top of his game.

Rankin advises writers to keep “those antennae twitching” to pick up new ideas. He’s still an active writer, with A Game Called Malice as his latest publication. Rankin believes that “Writers always think their greatest work is just ahead of them.” Are you a fan of undercover operations? Check our compilation of the best spy thriller books.

Authors Like Ian Rankin Ranked

1. Colin Dexter

Colin Dexter
Colin Dexter made many cameos in the T.V. adaptation of Morse

Colin Dexter was best known for his 13-novel Morse Series. The first installment, Last Bus to Woodstock, was published in 1975. Here, readers are introduced to the young constable Inspector Morse, who solves crimes and enjoys the finer things in life.

The franchise became a British TV series (Inspector Morse) that stretched for eight seasons, with John Thaw playing the lead character. It also received many British Academy Television Awards.

Who would have thought Dexter’s writing career bloomed from boredom during a rainy family holiday? Because of this, he bagged several awards, including Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers. Crime fic enthusiasts who enjoy brain-teasing storylines and plots should check out Dexter’s work.

“My life will not be significantly impoverished if I never see another Shakespearian comedy.”

Colin Dexter, The Daughters of Cain
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02/19/2024 05:51 pm GMT

2. James Ellroy

James Ellroy
James Ellroy published two books about his mom’s murder case

James Ellroy’s reputation as a master of noir fiction stemmed from his debut work, Brown’s Requiem. Though it has taken a back seat to his other more famous novels, anyone who reads Brown’s Requiem will automatically realize how Ellroy became the powerhouse he is today.

Yet, his journey to literary stardom was far from straightforward. Ellroy was once a petty criminal whose exposure to the dark underbelly of society has undoubtedly shaped his gritty storytelling. His novels are not for the faint-hearted — they are raw, intense, and pull no punches.

Perhaps his most famous literature is the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy and The L.A. Quartet. Through his writings, he was noted with TIME’s Novel of the Year and Best Book of the Year. The latter award was specifically for his tale, My Dark Places. It’s one of the best autobiography works highlighting human emotion and acceptance. It depicts the true crime of Jean Ellroy (Ellroy’s mother) and her murder.

“Those we understand are those we control.”

James Ellroy, American Tabloid
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02/18/2024 09:35 pm GMT

3. Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson was a Brit-Canadian author of over 50 works

Peter Robinson was a Brit-Canadian author of over 50 works. His novels are commonly set in Yorkshire and centered around Inspector Alan Banks. He published his debut novel, Gallows View, where he introduced the meticulous and dogged Inspector Banks.

Robinson’s book, In a Dry Season, earned the 2001 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière – International Category, while his standalone book, Before the Poison, won the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award. Moreover, the 17th installment of his Inspector Alan Banks Series, Friend of the Devil, 2011 T.V. series titled DCI Banks.

“The only difference was, you could play the music again and again; a life plays only once.”

Peter Robinson, Before the Poison
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02/19/2024 06:46 am GMT

4. Peter May

Peter May
Peter May won a journalist award at age 21

As a television screenwriter and journalist, Peter May intricately weaves his previous experiences when he writes his novels. His Lewis Trilogy is his most notable work, starting with The Blackhouse, published in 2009. This novel not only won the U.S. Barry Award for Crime Novel of the Year. It also paved the way for its equally successful sequels, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen

The Lewis Man won the Le Télégramme’s 10,000-euro Grand Prix des Lecteurs. Though this series is critically acclaimed, May already proved his writing prowess with his 1978 debut book, The Reporter. It was turned into a major British television show, The Standard, boosting May’s storytelling’s mass appeal early in his career.

“Right here and now, as an old friend used to say, we are in the fluid present, where clear-sightedness never guarantees perfect vision.”

Peter May, The Blackhouse
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02/19/2024 06:56 am GMT

5. Giles Blunt

Giles Blunt
Giles Blunt was a scriptwriter for Law & Order

Readers are transported to Canada and the crimes born from Giles Blunt’s imagination whenever they open his books. For instance, his award-winning John Cardinal Series demonstrates his genius character-building and plot weaving. 

It even landed him a mystery T.V. show with 24 episodes, titled Cardinal. The first book in the series, Forty Words for Sorrow, bagged Blunt a British Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger and was elected for the Arthur Ellis Award.

Blunt’s work doesn’t stop with Cardinal. His standalone novel, No Such Creature, tells the story of an old man, his orphaned nephew, and their life of thievery. It shows Blunt’s versatility as he offers high-stakes heist adventure that’s as thrilling as witty.

“Eskimos, it is said, have forty different words for snow. Never mind about snow, Cardinal mused, what people really need is forty words for sorrow. Grief. Heartbreak. Desolation”

Giles Blunt, Forty Words for Sorrow
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02/19/2024 06:52 am GMT

6. Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham
Mark Billingham now lives in London with his family

Mark Billingham collected many experiences before becoming a novelist. He was an actor and stand-up comedian, for instance. He believes all the careers he’s dipped his toes in have one thing in common: they are “a performance, albeit of a very different sort.”

He shared his first novel to the world in 2001, Sleepyhead, and it became an instant bestseller. It’s a tale with an intriguing plot, with a main character who can’t move or communicate. This novel earned Billingham the Sherlock Award for Best Detective and Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year twice. His most praised creation is the Tom Thorne Series. It has even become a staple in modern detective fiction, inspiring the T.V. show Thorne.

“Life isn’t fair. Fair is somewhere you go to ride the dodgems and win a goldfish.”

Mark Billingham, Rush of Blood
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02/19/2024 06:55 am GMT

7. John Banville

John Banville
John Banville once worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency

John Banville describes himself as a philosophical novelist. More than just creating fascinating plots for his stories, he highlights his need to know the link between imagination and reality, perception, and existential isolation. His 2005 Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sea, showcases his inimitable style and storytelling. It’s an evocative narrative about loss, memory, and the human condition.

The Irish novelist also writes under the pen name Benjamin Black to dedicate his works to crime fiction. His Quirke Series’ first book, Christine Falls, allowed him to explore psychological aspects and treachery. Eventually, the book was adapted into a 2014 T.V. drama mini-series named Quirke. Another notable work from Banville’s arsenal is the 1989 The Book of Evidence. A real-life murder of a young nurse in Dublin inspired his storyline.

“To do the worst thing, the very worst thing, that’s the way to be free. I would never again need to pretend to myself to be what I was not.”

John Banville, The Book of Evidence
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02/19/2024 06:50 am GMT

8. Alex Gray

Alex Gray
Alex Gray is a part of the Femmes Fatales Trio

Alex Gray’s 19 novels are set in Glasgow, fittingly so, as she grew up in Craigbank. Her debut novel, Never Somewhere Else, was published in 2002 and artfully combines mystery and human nature. In this first installment of the DCI Lorimer Series, the main protagonist meets criminal profiler Solomon Brightman. Together, they solve crimes happening in Glasgow.

Aside from the Scottish author’s contribution to the literary scene, Gray is also a founding member of the Scottish traditional music group Battlefield Band. Along with Lin Anderson and Alanna Knight, Gray co-founded Bloody Scotland – an International Scottish crime writing festival.

“There was a deliberate sense that I didn’t want a woman’s name on the first book, to say this is a women’s book. I wanted it to be for everyone. But 80% of crime fiction readers are women of my generation.”

Alex Gray
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02/19/2024 07:00 am GMT

9. Val McDermid

Val McDermid
Val McDermid has six Honorary Doctorates

Known as the “Titan of Tartan noir,” Val McDermid is an award-winning author with over 40 novels spanning crime, suspense, and children’s genres. Her debut novel, Report for Murder, introduced her audience to Lindsay Gordon. She’s a socialist, feminist journalist-turned-detective, and a lesbian. She’s a character who’s quite unusual in the year 1987.

McDermid’s works are remarkable for their psychological depth. She delves into the minds of her characters, whether it be a detective, a serial killer, or a victim.

Her novel, The Mermaids Singing, won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year. It jumpstarted her Tony Hill Series and was adapted into a T.V. series, Wire in the Blood.

“Clichés got that way because they reflected reality. Better the devil you know. Don’t take sweets from strangers.”

Val Mcdermid, The Wire In The Blood
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02/19/2024 07:11 am GMT

10. Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves
Ann Cleeves was admitted to the C.W.A. Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2012

Ann Cleeves has enriched the crime fic genre with her thought-provoking tales. Cleeves’ expansive bibliography, including over 35 novels, has entranced readers and garnered critical acclaim. This British author was awarded the 2006 Crime Writers’ Association’s Duncan Lawrie Dagger award early on for her Shetland Series novel, Raven Black.

Furthermore, the popularity of her Shetland and Vera Stanhope Series transcended the page and made its way to the small screen. They’re the 2011 Vera and 2013 Shetland.

“Like everything, sanity came more easily with practice.”

Ann Cleeves, Thin Air
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02/19/2024 07:56 pm GMT

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Author

  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.