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The Best Female Detectives in Fiction Written by Women

There’s nothing like a good mystery novel when the need for a bit of page-turning escapism arises. Detective work is often (mistakenly) attributed to the old boy’s club; indeed, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, and of course Mr. Sherlock Holmes take up a fair chunk of pop-culture fiction real estate. These good and wily gentlemen, however, do have quite a bit of competition from their female counterparts. The mystery genre has long benefited from the solid woman’s footprint in the genre, both on the character side and the author side – and many of these female detectives are repeat investigators. The sleuths below are just a few of our favorites.

  1. 1
    Y is for Yesterday Book Cover Picture
    Y is for Yesterday Book Cover Picture

    Y is for Yesterday

    by Sue Grafton

    Sue Grafton’s long-running Kinsey Millhone novels, also known as the “alphabet mysteries,” introduced mystery fans to Ms. Millhone, a hard-boiled private detective from fictional Santa Teresa, California, in 1982. With Grafton’s latest, Y Is for Yesterday, now available, there’s no better time to dive into Santa Teresa’s decidedly sordid criminal underworld.
    Y is for Yesterday Book Cover Picture
    Y is for Yesterday Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.00

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  2. 2
    Speaking in Bones Book Cover Picture
    Speaking in Bones Book Cover Picture

    Speaking in Bones

    by Kathy Reichs

    Temperance Brennan is arguably best known from the hit Fox series, “Bones,” an adaptation of Kathy Reichs’s mystery series. At eighteen novels and counting, there’s certainly plenty of the literary life of Temperance Brennan to delve into. All the elements are there — edge-of-your-seat suspense, gruesome crime scenes, and plenty of bones.
    Speaking in Bones Book Cover Picture
    Speaking in Bones Book Cover Picture

    Mass Market Paperback
    $9.99

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  3. 3
    Missing, Presumed Book Cover Picture
    Missing, Presumed Book Cover Picture

    Missing, Presumed

    by Susie Steiner

    At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene. Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.
    Missing, Presumed Book Cover Picture
    Missing, Presumed Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  4. 4
    I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel Book Cover Picture
    I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel Book Cover Picture

    I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel

    by Tess Gerritsen

    The inspiration behind TNT’s hit show Rizzoli & Isles, Tess Gerritsen’s New York Times bestselling thrillers featuring Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles just keep getting better. In I Know a Secret, they continue their bestselling crime-solving streak, as they pursue a shadowy psychopath keeping secrets and taking lives.
    I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel Book Cover Picture
    I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel Book Cover Picture

    Mass Market Paperback
    $9.99

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  5. 5
    A Study In Scarlet Women Book Cover Picture
    A Study In Scarlet Women Book Cover Picture

    A Study In Scarlet Women

    by Sherry Thomas

    With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London. When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
    A Study In Scarlet Women Book Cover Picture
    A Study In Scarlet Women Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  6. 6
    The Trespasser Book Cover Picture
    The Trespasser Book Cover Picture

    The Trespasser

    by Tana French

    Being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. After complications with a new case, she wonders if it’s just another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?
    The Trespasser Book Cover Picture
    The Trespasser Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.00

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  7. 7
    American Spy Book Cover Picture
    American Spy Book Cover Picture

    American Spy

    by Lauren Wilkinson

    It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.
    American Spy Book Cover Picture
    American Spy Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  8. 8
    Tricky Twenty-Two Book Cover Picture
    Tricky Twenty-Two Book Cover Picture

    Tricky Twenty-Two

    by Janet Evanovich

    Stephanie Plum, a detective somewhere on a spectrum that runs from Nancy Drew to Dirty Harry, is the occasionally hapless, always resourceful bounty hunter at the center of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Looking for a way to make ends meet, Plum, a former lingerie buyer, once blackmailed her way into a bounty hunting job as part of her cousin’s bail bond business. Myriad hijinks have since ensued.
    Tricky Twenty-Two Book Cover Picture
    Tricky Twenty-Two Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $28.00

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  9. 9
    O Jerusalem Book Cover Picture
    O Jerusalem Book Cover Picture

    O Jerusalem

    by Laurie R. King

    With her sleuth Mary Russell, Laurie R. King has created one of the most intriguing detectives on this list. After a chance encounter with a semi-retired Sherlock Holmes, Russell found herself as the master detective’s protégé and eventually his wife. In their first adventure, with Russell still serving as Holme’s apprentice, the duo find themselves navigating a labyrinthine mystery and a rash of murders against the rising tensions of British-occupied Palestine.
    O Jerusalem Book Cover Picture
    O Jerusalem Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  10. 10
    Murder on Pleasant Avenue Book Cover Picture
    Murder on Pleasant Avenue Book Cover Picture

    Murder on Pleasant Avenue

    by Victoria Thompson

    In Victorian-era New York, the Malloys may be new to marriage and high society life, but they’re no stranger to solving mysteries in this national bestselling series. When Gino Donatelli is accused of a brutal murder, beloved sleuths Sarah and Frank Malloy have to catch a killer who is out to destroy their innocent friend’s life in the latest installment.
    Murder on Pleasant Avenue Book Cover Picture
    Murder on Pleasant Avenue Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $26.00

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  11. 11
    Revenge in Rubies Book Cover Picture
    Revenge in Rubies Book Cover Picture

    Revenge in Rubies

    by A. M. Stuart

     Widow and former suffragist Harriet Gordon looks for a fresh start in 1920’s Singapore and stumbles into murder in her new home. In Revenge in Rubies, when Harriet Gordon receives word from a friend about a tragic death, she and Inspector Curran are thrust into a web of family secrets that threatens to destroy them both in this all-new mystery from the author of Singapore Sapphire.
    Revenge in Rubies Book Cover Picture
    Revenge in Rubies Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.00

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  12. 12
    Sun Storm Book Cover Picture
    Sun Storm Book Cover Picture

    Sun Storm

    by Asa Larsson

    This is an entry in another regional noir subgenres — Nordic Noir. It’s a genre well-known for its dense plotting, brutal crimes, tortured protagonists, and bleak themes. Asa Larsson’s Sun Storm is no different and attorney Rebecka Martinsson is as tortured as they come. In this latest installment in the series, Martinsson returns to the hometown she left in disgrace to confront her own dark past amid a series of vicious murders.
    Sun Storm Book Cover Picture
    Sun Storm Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  13. 13
    The Widows of Malabar Hill Book Cover Picture
    The Widows of Malabar Hill Book Cover Picture

    The Widows of Malabar Hill

    by Sujata Massey

    1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous. The author of the Agatha and Macavity Award–winning Rei Shimura novels brings us an atmospheric historical mystery with a captivating heroine.
    The Widows of Malabar Hill Book Cover Picture
    The Widows of Malabar Hill Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $15.95

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  14. 14
    The King's Justice Book Cover Picture
    The King's Justice Book Cover Picture

    The King’s Justice

    by Susan Elia MacNeal

    Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent. When she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does Maggie know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies.
    The King's Justice Book Cover Picture
    The King's Justice Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  15. 15
    Maisie Dobbs Book Cover Picture
    Maisie Dobbs Book Cover Picture

    Maisie Dobbs

    by Jacqueline Winspear

    Ten years after the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie sets out on her own as a private investigator, one who has learned that coincidences are meaningful, and truth elusive. Her very first case involves suspected infidelity but reveals something very different.
    Maisie Dobbs Book Cover Picture
    Maisie Dobbs Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.95

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  16. 16
    The Last Mrs. Summers Book Cover Picture
    The Last Mrs. Summers Book Cover Picture

    The Last Mrs. Summers

    by Rhys Bowen

    Lady Georgiana Rannoch is an amateur sleuth and professional member of the British Royal family, solving crimes in 1930s England. In The Last Mrs. Summers she’s just back from her honeymoon with dashing Darcy O’Mara when a friend in need pulls her into a twisted Gothic tale of betrayal, deception and, most definitely, murder. . . .

    The Last Mrs. Summers Book Cover Picture
    The Last Mrs. Summers Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.00

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