SLEUTHS of all ages will be in their element this month as libraries highlight the dark delights of crime fiction.

Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, who manage the Library Service on behalf of Wigan Council, has come up with a reading list for the month which sees two masters of the genre, James (Along Came a Spider) Patterson and David (Absolute Power) Baldacci go head-to-head to see who comes out top as the borough’s favourite crime author.

There's also input from a lot closer to home with Manchester based crime writers Bill Rogers and Chris Simms giving guest readings at library venues across the borough.

Bill Rogers has written six crime thrillers involving the investigative exploits of the fictional DCI Tom Caton of Greater Manchester Police. He will be appearing at Wigan Library on Wednesday January 23 between 2pm and 3.30pm; Leigh Library on the same day from 7pm until 8.30pm and Shevington Library on Monday January 28 between 2pm and 3.30pm.

Chris Simms blood-curdling brand of crime novel include Pecking Order and Killing The Beasts and he will visit Tyldesley Library on Wednesday January 16 between 7.30pm and 9pm and Standish Library on Thursday January 24 between 7.30pm and 9pm. All these events are free but must be booked in advance through your local library.

The programme has been put together by the team to help encourage more people to get the most out of their local library as WLCT's Programming and Audience Development Officer Carole Ogden explained: “Our aim is to have a different theme running through the libraries for each month of the year. “We thought we’d start the year by trying something a little different. Crime fiction is a hugely popular genre and this is an exciting programme we hope will appeal to all ages.” Other events, specifically aimed at a younger audience, include the chance to create your own 'Wanted' poster with a template available from Wigan Library. Entries need to be in before Saturday, January 26. The best one will win its creator a special tour of Wigan Police Station and their very own police torch.

Older children and adults will get the chance to confront Dr Gord The Merciless at a special interactive fingerprinting event at Shevington Library on the morning of Saturday, January 19. This free event is bound to be popular so please book in advance at the library.

It's not all fiction though because there's a look at the real-life crime and how it affects communities in Wigan Borough through a series of special events. WLCT's Archive Service has been working with students from Manchester University on a display which looks at Crime and Punishment in Victorian Wigan. The exhibition is available for inspection at the Wigan Library now.

Finally, Wigan and Leigh Libraries will be hosting crime information days later this month, which will give visitors the chance to meet the borough's real-life front line in the fight against crime.

Local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) will be sharing their stories and telling everyone about their work at Leigh Library on Friday January 25 between noon and 3pm and at Wigan Library on Saturday January 26 from noon until 1pm.

These events will also included stalls and information stands offering help and advice on all aspects of crime prevention.

WLCT Chief Executive Stuart Murray said: "The service is about so much more than books, it's about bringing the whole experience to life for the reader.

“There's plenty on offer every month and you can find out all about it through our website or by popping in to your local library.”