Women sleuths are all the rage in the literary world. so much that Amazon, one of the largest book retailers in the world has a category called ‘women sleuths’. And what do you want to bet it is one of the most popular, if not highest selling category of mystery books?
Nancy Drew was the first woman sleuth I encountered. For several years, in those golden tweens and early teens, my life revolved around this titian haired girl from River Heights. Everything I did was motivated by the prospect of snagging a new Nancy Drew book.
When I upgraded to Agatha Christie, I confess Poirot fascinated me more than Miss Marple, and it would be several years before I gave this white haired lady from St. Mary Meade a chance. Now, after spouting a few gray hair myself, I cannot get enough of the diminutive old lady. And mystery books that star witty enterprising women, young or old. I want more!!
I want more! I want more! I think the book Gods listened to this cry from several book lovers and ordered the creation of more and more books starring dashing Eves.
I have fallen in love with many of these modern time women sleuths, and like some more than the other. As I progress on my path to reading a million kindle books, I discover more and more of these women sleuths.
And like every book lover, I want to share these with other book buffs, book worms, mystery lovers et al.
This post is my attempt to briefly introduce these fearless ladies, along with links to any of their books I have reviewed on this blog.
So get set with your favorite tall mug of tea or coffee, and read on!
Agatha Raisin grew up poor in Birmingham, made it big in London and retired early to the Cotswolds. She lives along with her cat in a charming cottage, is friends with the vicar’s wife, and frequently gets into trouble. She solves all the murders that unbelievably happen in the charming little English village, mostly by sheer luck. The local police hate her!
Agatha is 50 something trying to look young with plenty of cosmetics and spa treatments. M. C Beaton, the formidable author of the series, is still going strong and fans can look out for the latest Agatha Raisin book that’s coming out soon.
We met Meg, a young blacksmith from Yorkstown, Virginia with a large extended family. Meg’s father is a retired doctor who just loves to collect all kinds of pets. There is a theme going here and every title in the series is a play on some bird or animal that is the star of the plot. Meg meets Michael, a young drama professor, and fans of the series have been able to solve plenty of mysteries with Meg, as she dates Michael, marries him and now has twins with him.
With The Good, The Bad and the Emus about to release, Meg Langslow is going strong, thanks to her prolific creator Donna Andrews.
Nora Blackbird or The Blackbird Sisters
Nora Blackbird comes from Philadelphia’s Main Line. Brought up in luxury, Nora faces dire straits when her parents flee the country to evade tax fraud. She has a super fertile older sister, and a sexy younger sis. Nora works as a society columnist for a newspaper and she also comes across a murder or two. Nora dates Mick Abruzzo, dangerous scion of the local Jersey family. Life for Nora Blackbird is full of action with never a boring moment.
Nancy Martin is about to release A Little Night Murder with The Blackbird Sisters.
Meet Nora Blackbird in How to Murder a Millionaire!
Theo owns a tea shop in the charming Southern town of Charleston. Theodosia Browning stars in The Teashop Mysteries, and every title is a take on a type of tea. Laura Childs blends exotic teas and baked goods with murder mysteries that Theo solves with her ingenious mind. She has two trusted assistants who will do anything for her, and they are called on it many a time.
Theo solves Death by Darjeeling which I reviewed on this blog long ago.
Gertie Johnson is a 60 something widow who lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She has three forties, or 3 pieces of 40 acres of land! Her son is the local sheriff and thinks she is batty. He wants to get her committed. Gertie’s neighbor is found dead in deer hunting season, and she insists he was murdered. There is a lot of action and some humor and you will marvel at the active life this senior sleuth leads.
Deb Baker has created other women sleuths, and the writing is sharp.
Check out my review of Murder Passes the Buck with Gertie Johnson.
Larissa Reinhart brings us Cherry Tucker, an artistic sleuth who lives in a little Georgia town. Cherry Tucker’s mother ran away when she was little, and her grandpa raised her. Cherry had a disastrous and short marriage, and has the hots for a local cop. She has a nemesis in Shawna Branson who is determined to blackball the whole Tucker family.
I loved reading Hijack in Abstract and the newly released Death in Perspective. Apart from the mysteries Cherry solves, there is a parallel plot in these books about Cherry’s personal life. Mystery lovers are sure to enjoy meeting this down to earth Georgia gal.
Lucille Mazzarella lives in a small Jersey town, works at the church and is married to her highschool sweetheart. Her teenage daughter says little but ‘yo’. Her friend Flo is staunchly supportive. Lucille cooks elaborate Italian dinners for her extended family, and remembers every kind of saint. And yes, she is known to find a dead body or two in unlikely places.
Tiffany Black is learning to be a PI. Until then, she is a dealer at a Vegas casino. Vegas born and bred, her geriatric grandma is a top poker player who spends her nights raking in the moolah. She is supposed to learn Krav Maga for self defense, as ordered by security expert Stone, but her lifestyle is too hectic.
Watch Tiffany Black solve murders as swiftly as she deals a hand of blackjack in Green Eyes in Las Vegas.
Maggie Sullivan is revolutionary, considering the times she lives in. Depression era Dayton, Ohio is where she is a licensed PI. Maggie hides guns in the darnest places, and knows how to use them. She is friends with all the cops, and is totally hard boiled.
Maggie Sullivan is one Tough Cookie!
Josiah Reynolds lives in Kentucky’s bluegrass region. She raises bees and sells honey at the local farmer’s market. Her husband ditched her for a younger model. Josiah says the land is saturated with blood, from all the wars that were fought on it. She finds a dead man among her bees and becomes top suspect.
Cleoptara Jones lives a whirlwind of a life. She manages kids, cheating ex husband, hot boy friend, senile mom and pregnant canine without skipping a beat. She is an accountant in a small town, and also a juggler of sorts.
I enjoyed reading On the Nickel featuring Cleopatra Jones.
Flavia De Luce
Flavia De Luce gives ‘precocious’ a new meaning. She lives in a huge rambling house in the English countryside. Her mother was lost on an Everest expedition. Flavia secretly conducts experiments in alchemy in her dead uncle’s lab, one she thinks no one knows about. Flavia solves crimes using forensics, perhaps at a time when the term wasn’t even established.
Did I mention Flavia is 11? Alan Bradley’s The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches introduced me to Flavia De Luce and dazed even a jaded reader like me.
Martha Rose lives in California and is a champion quilter. She has two bosom friends, Lucy and Birdie who are her partners in crime. Martha shrugs off her arthritic aches and pains by popping pills when needed. Solving murders is more important, you see, and so is impressing the handsome stranger who falls into her lap.
Martha Rose debuts in Forget Me Knot, a quilting mystery by Mary Marks.
Author Estelle Ryan brings us Genevieve Lenard, a genius investigator who has no social skills. But she has a photographic memory! The world of art heists and international crime is no challenge for Genevieve Lenard, but talking to a coworker is.
Read The Gauguin Connection to meet one of the most quirky women sleuths.
The worst part of liking a fictional character is finding out you have to wait a year or two for the next book in the series to come out. No such problem with Libby Sarjeant. Lesley Cookman has a big bunch of Libby Sarjeant mysteries for your reading pleasure.
Libby Sarjeant is dowdy and middle aged, and lives in a small English village. She is happy to leave the London life behind. She has two good friends in a local gay couple. Libby is part of a local amateur drama group. The plot of their drama suddenly turns deadly and real when people start getting murdered.
Meet Libby Sarjeant in Murder in Steeple Martin for a modern British mystery.
Gretchen Birch is a jobless Boston girl who rushes to Arizona to find her missing mother. She stumbles on some secretive doll collectors and is swept away into a surreal world that involves every kind of doll.
Meet Gretchen Birch in Dolled Up for Murder and enjoy this hot South Western mystery.
Myrtle Clover has eight decades on any infant. A retired school teacher, she is indefatigable!! She gets into scrapes, annoys her Sheriff son, and feeds the local grapevine. She also solves murders and gets her hair done every week.
Cozy fans can meet Myrtle Clover in A Dyeing Shame, and there are plenty other books in the series.
Liz Talbot lives on the island of Stella Maris, off the coast of Charleston in South Carolina. She lives in a cottage by the sea, and is a private investigator by profession. Liz Talbot’s family lives around her, and she digs pimento cheese sandwiches.
Meet Liz Talbot in Lowcountry Bombshell as she comes face to face with a Marilyn Monroe look alike.
Before you ask how Ashley Wilkes makes the list of women sleuths, let me tell you she is a girl! Ashley lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and restores historical houses. Ellen Elizabeth Hunter’s Magnolia Mysteries are set around life in Wilmington. Ashley has a highly successful sister Melanie (you had to get that right, come on!) who is not too choosy about her beaus.
Cindy is a tragic bride whose husband dies on her honeymoon. She uses her analytical skills to solve the mystery around his death, and becomes a PI. The Caribbean Murder series is fast paced and thrilling, set in the Caribbean.
I talked about Jaden Skye’s first Cindy Blaine mystery in Death by Honeymoon. With ten books in the series, fans are in for a super marathon.
Dotsy Lamb is a history professor from Virginia. Her kids are grown and she likes to travel with friend Lettie. Dotsy has a keen logical mind, and is conscious of her appearance. She manages her diabetes well enough to go traipsing around the world.
Meet Dotsy Lamb in Death of a Lovable Geek as she tries to solve a local murder in the Scottish Highlands.
Jennifer Marsh joins the ranks of gifted women sleuths. Judy Fitzwater introduces this prolific writer who has got one rejection too many. She is accused of murdering a literary agent and this sets off Jennifer Marsh on the path of real life mystery solving.
Jennifer Marsh is Dying to Get Published, and readers and authors alike will enjoy this fast paced, cute series.
Mitzy Neuhaus is a top Portland realtor but is feeling the brunt of the recession. She is highly spiritual and very fashion conscious. Mitzy frequently butts heads with her hot rival Alonzo.
The late Elizabeth Peters brought us Vicky Bliss, art historian, another prolific member of the women sleuths. Vicky is a beauty, her boss is gruff and protective and her boyfriend is actually a thief. Together they star in books that will rival the plot of ‘The Mummy’. With a PHD in Egyptology, the author certainly knows her subject matter.
I read Night Train to Memphis, the fifth Vicky Bliss mystery, and suggest that you read the books in a serial fashion to enjoy nuances of the larger plot and characters. Vicky Bliss seemed very esoteric when I first read the book, but after hundreds of other ‘regular’ books, I think I might actually enjoy a Vicky Bliss mystery now.
Body language is what Julie O’Hara is expert in. She lives and works in Orlando, Florida and has a mild crush on a PI who’s her neighbor. Julie’s friend is dead, and she is shocked by how sudden it is. Julie digs deeper, but her sordid past might catch up.
Lee Hanson’s Castle Cay introduces Julie O’Hara and has an exotic island setting.
Nell Sweeney lives in the 1860s, much earlier than the setting of Miss Marple books. But from a literary perspective, she belongs to women sleuths that came after Miss Marple.
Nell Sweeney is a poor girl who is awed by Boston’s high society, and uncertain of her role.
Read P. B. Ryan’s Still Life With Murder for a historical mystery starring a trail blazing fearless woman detective who also dabbles in medicine. The first book hints at romance with a main character that might recur in future books in the series.
Author Susan Kandel has a bonus for mystery lovers. A series of mysteries that talk about different fictional detectives, a lead sleuth who loves couture, writes biographies, and is engaged to a hot cop, and oodles of fun!
In Christietown, Cece Caruso tries to solve a real life mystery while pondering over a puzzling period in Agatha Christie’s life. Other Cece Caruso books are based on Nancy Drew, Hitchcock and Perry Mason.
Heather Wells is a ‘has been’ teen star. Now she works in the residential hall of a New York university. She rents digs from her ex’s brother, and fights the pounds all the time. The series is action packed and humorous, and the background plot of Heather’s life progresses through subsequent titles in the series.
Beginning with Size 12 is Not Fat, Heather Wells will take you on a nostalgic trip down dorms and residential hall cafeterias.
Cozy mysteries are in, and Presley Thurman stars in yet another mystery series. Presley hails from a small Illinois town and has over protective parents. She is a sucker for brand name fashion. And she solves a mystery or two.
Presley Thurman is jobless and back home in Stillettos and Scoundrels where she takes down a Senator, no less.
Steel city Pittsburgh boasts of Leah Koslow, yet another young woman affected by the bad economy. Leah’s living with her pregnant cousin, and a local cop is their friend. An old handsome friend from college turns up, and so does an ancient dead body. An extended family forms a supporting cast.
Edie Claire’s Leah Koslow series starts off with Never Buried, with many more books in the series.
Chloe Ellefson is a historian who works in the Midwest, in an outdoor museum. There is a lot of background on Scandinavians who settled in the Midwestern United States. Chloe’s profession is a whiff of fresh air. She is methodical and relentless in solving crime, although that’s not her day job.
Old World Murder introduced me to Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson series, one of my favorite women sleuths.
Recipes are becoming a mainstay of cozy mysteries, and Hannah Swenson is not far behind. She bakes for a living, apart from solving mysteries. Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries probably have more recipes than corpses, and they will have you raiding your fridge or the nearest café for some sweet treats.
There are plenty of Hannah Swenson mysteries, and the latest one, Blackberry Pie Murder, can hold its own.
Forget Lara Croft. There is a new tomb raider in town and her name is Wendy Darlin! A top Miami realtor, Wendy dumped that profession to follow love interest Roger, an archaeologist, literally to the bowels of the earth. Wendy raids tombs in various corners of the world, and protects Roger from a stalker ex.
Humorous, witty, ridiculous, quirky – I can’t use enough adjectives to describe this madcap series. Cairo Caper was a hoot, and Barbara Silkstone’s woman sleuth will put Indiana Jones to shame for sure.
Women Sleuths Out There
I am sure there are many more women sleuths lurking in the vast void that is the Internet, and I am yet to meet a lot of them. But this is not a bad list, right? Some of these women sleuths are my absolute favorites, friends I have come to know over the years, or gone back to on a gloomy day.
So mystery lovers, and book lovers, are you enamored of these modern women sleuths yet? Which of these are you familiar with, and which ones do you love or hate. Is there anyone you swear by that I have missed?
Please do drop a line and get the discussion going.