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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 recurring 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

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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

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  3. 3
    The House of Unexpected Sisters Book Cover Picture
    The House of Unexpected Sisters Book Cover Picture

    The House of Unexpected Sisters

    by Alexander McCall Smith

    Precious Ramotswe is Botswana’s premiere detective and the proprietor of the No. 1 Ladie’ Detective Agency. She also happens to be a particularly cunning and observant detective – and one of our personal favorites, so w’ve allowed for Alexander McCall Smith to be the one honorary male writer on this list. The delightful, bestselling series will see its eighteenth book released in early November – but you can dive in anyplace in the series. And while a bit less hard-boiled than some others on this list, Precious is certainly among the most engaging.
    The House of Unexpected Sisters Book Cover Picture
    The House of Unexpected Sisters Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    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

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  5. 5
    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

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  6. 6
    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

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