See if you can solve these crime thrillers in the West End and beyond

Budding detectives can take their pick of murder mysteries, courtroom dramas, and fights for justice in these gripping London shows.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Whether it’s books, TV, film, or theatre, we can’t resist a good whodunit. Crime thrillers give us that frisson of danger (without actually being in harm’s way), extreme emotions, and, of course, that tantalising puzzle-solving element: a chance to test our wits against great fictional detectives or criminals.

Happily, this is a great time for armchair sleuths in London theatre, with numerous shows supplying us with a murder mystery, inviting us into the courtroom, or asking us to deliver justice – from a fresh twist on a classic Shakespeare play through to a brand-new adaptation of Minority Report.

So, fetch your gavel and magnifying glass, and follow our guide to the best crime thrillers in London that you can book for now.

Photo credit: Witness for the Prosecution (Photo by Ellie Kurttz)

Witness for the Prosecution, London County Hall

This incredibly atmospheric, site-specific Agatha Christie drama has recently celebrated its 2,000th performance – and announced an extension to summer 2025. No wonder: there’s nothing else quite like being immersed in its gripping courtroom battle in the historic environs of London County Hall.

Leonard Vole is on trial for the murder of a wealthy older woman. His only hope is the testimony of his wife – but will she save him or doom him to the hangman’s noose? The audience gets to play jury as we weigh the evidence, and try to outsmart the Queen of Crime.

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The Merchant of Venice 1936, Criterion Theatre

Tracy-Ann Oberman’s inspired reworking of Shakespeare’s play moves the action to London in the 1930s, and specifically the Battle of Cable Street, when Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts attacked the Jewish community.

Oberman is a revelation as a female Shylock, based on her own great-grandmother, and the clever new framing includes Portia styled as a Diana Mitford figure – putting a whole new slant on the shocking climactic trial and what feels like an all-too-timely antisemitic miscarriage of justice.

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A Mirror, Trafalgar Theatre

You can’t believe anything about Sam Holcroft’s play – and that’s the whole point of this brilliantly multi-layered show, which keeps surprising you with new revelations. It first looks like we’re attending a wedding, but that’s a ruse by a theatre group putting on a forbidden drama in a totalitarian state.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Olivier Award nominee Tanya Reynolds, and Geoffrey Streatfeild, this pitch-dark comic thriller – which is now in the West End following its hit Almeida run – asks big questions about truth, free speech, and justice, but all in a totally innovative theatrical way.

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Minority Report, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

What would happen if we could arrest wrongdoers before they even acted? That’s the tantalising premise of Philip K Dick’s sci-fi tale, which was turned into a major Hollywood movie starring Tom Cruise in 2002.

Now the story comes to stage, with the central character – who works in the Pre-Crime unit, and then falls under suspicion – now a woman, Dame Julia Anderton. Max Webster (Life of Pi) directs David Haig’s thrilling new adaptation, which harnesses the latest technology for this cutting-edge drama.

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The Mousetrap, St Martin’s Theatre

Christie fans should also make a beeline for this legendary production: the world’s longest-running play. For more than 70 years, audiences have been gripped by its spine-tingling murder mystery, and by the author’s genius denouement.

The Mousetrap is set in a remote rural guesthouse. A snow storm traps a group of strangers there – and a killer is among them. Can you solve the case before they strike again? This West End icon is a criminally entertaining drama.

Book The Mousetrap tickets on London Theatre.

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Les Misérables, Sondheim Theatre

At the heart of Victor Hugo’s eternal fable is a great injustice: young Jean Valjean is sentenced to 19 years in prison simply for stealing one loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Policeman Javert then dogs him for years afterwards, convinced that an ex-con can ever be trusted.

But how do we really judge good and evil, and should society punish these so-called criminals or support their reform? The long-running West End musical takes Hugo’s revolutionary ideas and gives them epic emotional treatment via unforgettable songs and stirring performances.

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Machinal, The Old Vic

Sophie Treadwell’s riveting play is based on a notorious true crime. In 1928, Ruth Snyder was executed in the electric chair for the murder of her husband Albert, and a haunting, illicit photograph of her execution was printed in the papers.

Rosie Sheehy plays Helen Jones, reprising her acclaimed lead role in Machinal from Richard Jones’s Theatre Royal Bath staging, in this powerful study of a woman pushed to breaking point – and the unforgettable horror of capital punishment.

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The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre

If you prefer your crime thriller blended with side-splitting humour, then Mischief’s eternally popular West End comic hit is the one for you. It takes a Christie-like murder mystery as its basis, then adds a layer of pure chaotic silliness.

That detective drama is a play being staged by a hapless am-dram troupe, which means that everything is gloriously shambolic: the corpse keeps moving, actors forget their lines or sabotage each other, and the set comes crashing down. Our verdict: wonderful mayhem.

Book The Play That Goes Wrong tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Witness for the Prosecution. (Photo courtesy of production)

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