It’s no wonder the county of Devon has captured so many writers’ imagination. You only have to look around to see inspiration everywhere. The brooding and dramatic landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the beautiful sunny beaches of the English Riviera and the busy villages of mid-Devon are full of mysterious possibilities.
Devon is synonymous with legendary crime writer Agatha Christie and is the setting for one of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous cases. But Devon is the inspiration for many more mysterious crime novels than you might realise. Join us on our deadly journey through the county with our list of 15 murder mystery and crime books set in Devon.
The Death Ship of Dartmouth by Michael Jecks
In the first of 3 visits to Dartmouth on our list, we travel back to 14th-Century Devon for Michael Jecks’ The Death Ship of Dartmouth. Jecks is a prolific author. There are over 30 books in his Knights Templar Mysteries series (of which this is number 21) and he has a number of other series to his name. In the Death Ship of Dartmouth, a dead man, pirates and the threat of civil war create a perfect storm. This atmospheric medieval murder mystery was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The undisputed queen of the crime novel, Agatha Christie loved Devon. She described her holiday home Greenway as ‘the loveliest place in the world’ and the house and surroundings feature in a number of her murder mystery novels. Visitors to Greenway can even stand in the boathouse that is the setting for the first murder in Dead Man’s Folly. However, for our countdown, we’ve chosen And Then There Were None as our pick of Christie’s crime books set in Devon.
Ten strangers are invited to an island mansion. By the end of the first night, one of them is dead…and more bodies are to follow! Stranded by a heavy storm, the strangers have little choice but to try and figure out what they have in common and who the killer is. Burgh Island, in the South Hams, is the setting for the who-dunnit novel (called Soldier Island in the book) and the dramatic and isolated location is the perfect backdrop for murder.
The Long Call by Ann Cleaves
We turn our attention to North Devon now, for Ann Cleaves’ The Long Call. The crime novel is set in the Two Rivers area, where the Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea. It’s the first in a series following Detective Matthew Venn. The Long Call sees Venn returning to the community he grew up in to be faced with a new murder case and the death of his father. Cleaves is the creator of TV detective shows Vera and Shetland.
Fire in the Thatch by E.C. Lorac
E. C. Lorac is the author of two Devon murder mysteries; Murder in the Mill-Race and Fire in the Thatch. Expect picture-perfect villages with close-knit communities, hiding dark secrets beneath the surface! First published in the 40s and 50s, both novels have been included in the British Library’s Crime Classics series – a testimony to their enduring appeal.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes, possibly the most famous detective of them all, is called to the wilds of Dartmoor to investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. The Hound of the Baskervilles is full of mystery and peril. Legends of a family curse, a demonic hound stalking the moors, strange howls in the night and an escaped prisoner from Dartmoor Jail all add to the dark intrigue of one of Holmes’ most famous crime cases.
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
Blacklands is a dark crime thriller from Belinda Bauer, set on Exmoor. Steven Lamb is twelve-years-old when he first writes to serial killer Arnold Avery. Steven is trying to uncover the mystery behind his uncle’s disappearance and believes only Avery may know the truth.
Murder at the Dolphin Hotel by Helena Dixon
It’s back to Dartmouth for this cosy historical crime novel set in 1933. Kitty Underhay finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation at her family’s hotel. A valuable stolen ruby and family mysteries are all to be uncovered in this golden era who-dunnit.
Western Approaches by Graham Hurley
Western Approaches is the first of four novels in the Jimmy Suttle crime series, all set around Devon locations. In this first book, Jake Kinsey is found dead having fallen from the balcony of his penthouse Exmouth flat. The rich newcomer to the town wasn’t much liked, leaving Suttle to investigate alone.
Betrayal by Clare Francis
A body in the River Dart is the catalyst for Clare Francis’ Betrayal. The discovery of Sylvie Mathieson stabbed and bound in the river sparks the beginning of a nightmare for businessman Hugh Wellesley.
Murder on the Riviera Express by TP Fieldon
The first of the Miss Dimont mysteries set in the fictional Devon coastal town of Temple Regis. Judy Dimont is a reporter for the local paper; the Riviera Express and an amateur sleuth. When Gerald Hennessey, actor and heartthrob is murdered on the train to Temple Regis Judy is compelled to investigate. The four-book Miss Dimont series are cosy crime novels with a hearty helping of humour.
Death in Devon
With a tag line of ‘Cream teas! School Dinners! Satanic Surfers!’ readers can expect a humorous take on the murder mystery. When Swanton Morely sets off to Devon to continue his history of England guides he unexpectedly becomes involved in a murder investigation at a school.
The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis
Anagram fans may spot some remarkable similarities between Kate Ellis’ Tradmouth and the beautiful South Hams town of Dartmouth. In fact, throughout Ellis’ DS Wesley Peterson series you might spot some familiar-sounding places. On her website, Ellis describes her Morbay as a ‘seedier’ version of Torbay and names Totnes as the inspiration for her fictional Neston and Bloxham as being based on Brixham.
In The Merchant’s House, DS Peterson investigates cases separated by centuries. But the disappearance of a child and the body of a woman discovered on the cliff path seem inextricably entwined with the discovery of ancient skeletons in a nearby merchant’s house.
From Devon with Death by Stephanie Austin
The newest book on our list, From Devon with Death was published in 2020. It’s the third book in Austin’s Devon Mysteries series which began with Dead in Devon and continued in Dead on Dartmoor. Juno Browne finds a life-sized effigy floating in the River Ashburn with a note linking the discovery to Cutty Dyer – Ashburton’s mythical blood-drinking demon. Shortly after a body is found and Juno is drawn into unravelling the murder mystery as the river and tensions rise in the small Devon community.
A Devon Deception by Mark Julian Mitchell
Also published in 2020, A Devon Deception shines a light on County Lines. Drugs are flooding into Devon and being trafficked to Bristol. But when a body is discovered at Hope Cove beach it’s clear that the drug cartels will stop at nothing to protect their trade.
Touch by Mark Sennen
Touch is the first book in Sennen’s DI Charlotte Savage series. Set in Plymouth, the novel is part crime thriller, part police procedural. A serial killer is on the loose, attacking young women in the city and DI Savage must stop him as soon as she can.
Crime books set in Devon – who-dunnit best?
Do you have a favourite murder mystery novel or crime book set in Devon? Let us know, especially if yours isn’t on the list! There’s a rich history of literature in the south-west and we’ll be compiling more lists of books with westcountry settings and authors. Reading books set in the south-west is a great way to discover more of the region, so do check back regularly for more content like this!
Throughout this post, we’ve included links to Bookshop.org. Established in 2020, Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops. For every book purchased, they make a contribution to independent bookshops across the UK. They give away over 75% of their profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the UK literary community.
It’s a great ethical option for buying books online whilst still supporting small, independent bookstores. The links we use are affiliate links which means we also earn a small commission on sales if you decide to buy from them. There’s no additional cost to you from using these links. Affiliate links help us to keep the blog running and continue featuring content that we hope you love.
You’ll find all the books featured here and more in our Bookshop.org list: Deadly Devon: Crime & murder mystery books set in Devon.
This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a small commission if you buy from them, at no extra cost to you.