Great books where female detectives crack the case
When it comes to reading mysteries, I’m a sucker for the female detective character. This may take the form of the seasoned crime-solver on the police force who’s got a ton of solved cases under her belt, or it might be the amateur sleuth who stumbles into a dangerous situation and has to figure out a solution. We’re all familiar with famous detectives like Nancy Drew and Miss Marple, but what about their more modern successors? I’ve compiled a list of some of my very favorite female-driven crime novels, all of which I’ve read and loved for their portrayals of smart, tough, complex women who always figure out whodunnit.
The In Death series by JD Robb
This New York Times-bestselling series (by Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb, in fact!) is about Detective Eve Dallas, New York’s leading homicide detective, and the cases she solves in her pursuit to keep the city safe as well as her relationship with the wealthy and charming Irishman, Roarke. (That’s it. He doesn’t even have a last name, he’s that fantastic. Like Prince, or Madonna.) It takes place in the year 2058 and beyond, and there’s a subtly futuristic element which never takes away from the procedural tone of the series – although I’m pretty sure I’d love to own one of the Autochef machines that you can program to make any food or beverage item you want in an instant.
It’s a great series – and at 40 books and counting, the good news is that it doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak was a DA investigator in Anchorage, Alaska until an unfortunate accident on the job led her to pick up and move. Now she lives in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness with a half-husky, half-wolf female dog appropriately named Mutt. Kate is one tough cookie, which would be putting it mildly except you realize that she’s been through a lot in her life and still manages to make it through the day with her head held high. She’s direct, to-the-point, and yet charming because of her gruffness – but don’t think you’ll be able to get her into a dress willingly. This series will make you want to huddle up under several blankets and wish you had a Mutt of your own to keep you warm.
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
Atlanta, 1974. The city is on the breaking point in a time of civil unrest, hovering on the edge of utter chaos. This standalone follows Kate and Maggie, two women working in the city’s police force who are fighting to earn their keep. When one of their own is gunned down in the street, they’re pulled into the swarm of cops pounding the pavement to find the ones whodunit. This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s (smartly) uncomfortable in its historical accuracy and its portrayal of the discrimination against women in a male-dominated work environment. Plus, it’s a well-crafted story with a palpable tension.
The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum has just managed to find herself out of a job when she decides to start working at her cousin Vinnie’s company. Turns out the family business means she’ll be apprehending criminals who have skipped bail. As a bounty hunter, Stephanie’s not exactly a cop, but she’s a sassy, relatable character whose wisecracks and one-liners will have you chuckling as you read. She’d rather be eating cheese puffs than chasing down bad guys, and she’s got a family who’s always meddling in her personal life, especially her Grandma Mazur. She’s also got two particularly hot guys competing for her attention – so, if you ask me, she’s doing alright. The first book, One for the Money, also got a film adaptation starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie in 2012.
The Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
This series is perfect for those who like their mysteries set in the past. Lady Julia Grey is thrust into a murderous conspiracy when her husband unexpectedly dies at a dinner party. In investigating the circumstances surrounding his death, she comes to realize that there might be a more sinister plot in the works. She teams up with the enigmatic, grating (and did we mention tall, dark and handsome?) Nicholas Brisbane, who also has a few secrets of his own. The last of the novellas in this series was published in 2014, and sadly, there are no plans to continue it – but it’s worth reading for the dynamic between Julia and Brisbane alone, not to mention the ridiculous antics of Julia’s family (all of whom are named after various characters in Shakespeare’s plays).
There are many more series that showcase female detectives, but these are just a few of the ones that have kept me guessing until the very end. If anything, they’re definitely making me rethink my profession. Does anyone have a mystery that needs solving?
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