Crime fiction has become the most popular fiction genre for the first time in the UK, according to data revealed at The London Book Fair.
Sales of crime and thriller books have increased by 19% since 2015, marking the first time the genre has overtaken sales of general and literary fiction.
Last year some 18.7 million units of crime fiction were sold, compared to 18.1 million general and literary fiction, according to data from Nielsen BookScan.
The value of crime books sold also increased by 10.6% year-on-year in 2017, up from £106.3million to £117.6million. In value terms, general and literary fiction remained the largest genre at £125.7million in 2017.
Thriller writer David Baldacci, who was awarded a Specsavers Nielsen Bestseller Award at the book fair, said: “When times are stressful and it looks like the bad is winning out over the good, along comes the genre of crime novels to put the balance back in life.
“People inherently don’t like folks who do bad to get away with it. In real life they do, all the time, because of a variety of factors.
“But in novels, evil is punished, and the good guys mostly win, after solving the puzzle. And all is right with the world. At least fictionally.”
Selina Walker, publisher for Century and Arrow, added: “Crime has always been a wonderfully flexible and resurgent area of fiction and most recently we have seen a surge in popularity of psychological suspense rebooted by a number of brilliant newcomers and brought about, I would argue, by a sort of ‘melding’ of the women’s relationship and detective genres.
“Publishers have gotten better at publishing these books with stand-out campaigns but readers know what they like and increasingly look to social media for their recommendations.
“Lisa Jewell’s brilliantly complex and moving bestseller Then She Was Gone currently has over 700 5-star online reviews – you can’t manufacture this sort enthusiasm.”
“Crime for me has always been my go-to genre with the writers I love to read and it has never been in a better place. Whether it’s domestic suspense from the brilliant Harlan Coben or a big international thriller like The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, there truly is something for everyone in this most readable of genres.”
Nielsen BookScan’s The Total Consumer Market (TCM) data covers more than 90% of all retail book purchases in the UK and represents sales through 6,500 retailers in the UK each week.