A HUGE crime wave is hitting a normally sedate North Yorkshire town - and local people couldn't be happier.

Harrogate is about to play host to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival - and it is expected to provide a major boost for the local economy.

More than 1,200 hotel bed nights have already been taken for the event, which starts on Thursday and runs until Sunday and many more are expected to follow.

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Literature festivals manager Victoria Ibbertson said: "It is a major event for Harrogate, now in its 15th year.

"We are very proud of the fact it takes the Harrogate brand as a boutique book lover’s destination across the world.

"Most of the attendees are from London, across the UK and as far afield as the USA, Scandinavia and Australia.

"Last year there were over 12m views of online press alone featuring our Festival - and we’re expecting similar impact for 2017.”

The chief executive of Visit Harrogate, Richard Spencer, added: “The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has built an astounding reputation.

"It’s an important event for the tourism economy - for hoteliers, restaurants and retailers – creating significant impact and revenue. What’s more, it cements Harrogate’s enviable position as a boutique festival destination, securing its rightful place on the literary map.”

The event is the biggest celebration of the crime genre in the world and this year features many major names.

Special guests include Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Peter May, Stuart MacBride, Joseph Finder, Arne Dahl, Kathy Reichs, Brenda Blethyn, Robson Green and James Runcie.

There’ll also be a special one-off event with comedian Sarah Millican with authors Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Val McDermid.

The festival is centred on the Old Swan Hotel, where crime-writing queen Agatha Christie famously turned up after her mysterious disappearance in 1926.

And audiences are being invited to attend an exclusive exhibition on Agatha Christie which opens on Thursday from 9am, and will be on view in the gardens of the hotel throughout the weekend.

The exhibition will explore connections between Christie’s writing, life and publishing career using rare photographs and documents from both the Agatha Christie and Collins archives in a visually-led outdoor display.

It is part of HarperCollins’ 200th anniversary, and will preview in Harrogate before being housed in a permanent exhibition in Christie’s former home, now owned by the National Trust in Devon.

Simon Theakston, executive director of sponsors T and R Theakstons, said: “2017 promises a remarkable festival as we mark 30 years of Rebus with Ian Rankin, 20 years since Lee Child introduced us to Jack Reacher, and 15 years since Dennis Lehane released Shutter Island."