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Crime Novels with Female Leads?

Crime, Thriller & Mystery

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Jan 13, 2010, 3:13am Top

Ive read a few crime novels in the past couple of months and have been disappointed by those with female leads. Ex:

Cross Bones, Book of the Dead, Altar of Eden

My problem is that there is always the romantic interest in these books. Maybe I'm weird but I'm more interested in the crimes and investigations than their on again off again romances.

Ok so I'm weird.. I'm a woman that doesn't want to read about romance, at least not in my crime novels. It sort of gives me the message that women cant be strong and smart without a man to back them up.

Any recommendations for books like these that aren't sidetracked by cheesy romance?

Jan 13, 2010, 5:28am Top

I've always been fond of Sue Grafton's "Alphabet" series with Kinsey Millhone - A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. (Currently up to U is for Undertow.) Later books did have a bit of romance/sex, but on the whole they're all very good standalone novels, and Ms Millhone is a fabulous character.

Edited: Jan 13, 2010, 5:39am Top

I wasn't that keen myself, but the rest of the world is nuts about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the others in that series. If you're interested in English crime books you might like Elizabeth George's books that feature Inspector Lynley and his (non-romantic) sidekick Barbara Havers. There are others, I know, but they don't immediately spring to mind - I'l probably be back. And I'm also a woman who doesn't want to read about romance - not constantly, at least.

Wookie - why did I read your entry as 'U is for Underwear'? The mind plays funny tricks.

ETA _ Touchstones not working right now.

Jan 13, 2010, 9:42am Top

2 > I wonder what happens when she runs out of letters?

Jan 13, 2010, 10:27am Top

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars go out.

Jan 13, 2010, 10:31am Top

#4 I wonder how she plans to have someone murdered with a xylophone, three books from now.

Jan 13, 2010, 1:51pm Top

Try the Lee Harris series with Dective Jane Bauer of the NYPD, Sharon McCone a P.I. by Marcia Muller.

Jan 13, 2010, 1:56pm Top

>4 Emidawg:

I've always wondered this as well. Janet Evanovich seems to have a better plan :)

Edited: Jan 13, 2010, 2:49pm Top

Carol O'Connell's Kathleen Mallory series.
Peter Lovesey's Hen Mallin series.

Edited: Jan 14, 2010, 8:35am Top

Sarah Paretsky books about V.I Warshawski

Edited: Jan 14, 2010, 5:19pm Top

I agree with Kathy Mallory, one of my favorites.
For a different twist, try the Sharon McCone series by Marcia Muller. Start at the beginning, Edwin of the Iron Shoes and work forward, watching her develop into one of the few successful female PIs.
There's also Deborah Knott, Bootlegger's Daughter is the first, by Margaret Maron, which I don't remember being overly romancy, and her previous, short and sorely missed Sigrid Harald series.
Then there is Lily Bard, of the Shakespeare series by - get this - Charlaine Harris. You would never guess that this is the author of Sookie.

quartzite, have you read the new V I, Hardball? I was disappointed. Nothing seems to have changed for her in all these years.

Jan 14, 2010, 5:41pm Top

Christie's Miss Marple books don't focus on Ms. Marple's love interests. In the same line, Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver books aren't bad.

Gillian Linscott's Nell Bray books.
Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry books (one male, one female).
Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon books.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's Thóra Gudmundsdóttir books.
Elizabeth George's Lynley/Havers books (one male, one female).
Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma books.

Jan 14, 2010, 6:45pm Top


You may be excited to know that Maron's newest work, which she's writing at the moment, will feature both Deborah *and* Sigrid. It's technically a Deborah Knott book, but Sigrid does show up in it. (We'll be talking more about this on our blog at http://www.womenofmystery.net on Monday as three of our blog members had the great pleasure of going to lunch today with Margaret, so pop on by...)

Jan 14, 2010, 7:11pm Top

#8 Might be a bit tricky to find a catchy title (or one that'll fit on the cover) by book 8,376.

I am failing miserably to come up with much in the way of sensible suggestions. Dorothy Gilman's Mrs Pollifax books?

How much romance is too much? Would Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies' Detective Agency books fit the bill?

Jan 15, 2010, 6:18am Top

Thanks for all the suggestions, looks like I have a good list to go through. Should keep me busy for a while.

I have read Number one Ladies' Detective Agency It was pretty humorous. I wasn't a big fan of the other book he wrote 44 Scotland Street that I picked up at the same time. Of course its a totally different genre ... too rambly for my tastes.

Jan 15, 2010, 4:23pm Top

what about the Carlotta Carlye books from Linda Barnes -which sort of seem to have disappeared into obscurity. And similarly with a UK setting, Liza Cody and her Anna Lee series. Also readable are Simon Brett's Feathering mysteries, starring the unromanatic non-attached women Jude and Carole.

Jan 16, 2010, 9:26am Top

Izzy Spellman in Lisa Lutz's funny Spellman series.

Jan 16, 2010, 11:05am Top

> 16 Linda Barnes is still publishing Carlotta Carlye. Checkout her website http://www.lindabarnes.com/books.html

Simon Brett also wrote the Mrs Pargeter series.

Jan 17, 2010, 4:17pm Top

Theresa Schwegel has a couple of books with female leads....her latest Last Known Address for example. I enjoyed that one...

Jan 18, 2010, 12:59pm Top

Try S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series. The books alternate the characters as primary protagonist. They are both independent P.I.s who help each other out on their cases. Bill is probably in love with Lydia, but Lydia has no time for romance so its not in there. Series begins with China Trade.

Jan 18, 2010, 1:10pm Top

I adore T. Jefferson Parker's Mercy Raybourne books. She is tough and smart. There is a love interest in The Blue Hour, but--believe me--it's no romance. Also, in general, he's just a terrific writer.

Jan 19, 2010, 2:37pm Top

Honorable Mention must go to Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall series, of which I assume there will be no more, since Parker died yesterday.

Jan 19, 2010, 4:23pm Top

layton -

He has three books still in the pipeline ready to go, according to what I've read. I know one is a Jesse Stone book, but I don't know about the other two. Maybe there will be a Sunny Randall among them.

Jan 19, 2010, 4:31pm Top

One is a Jesse Stone, one is an entry in the Cole and Hitch western series. I have both of those on pre-order from Amazon. I don't know of a third book coming out. Actually, the Sunny Randall series hasn't grabbed me the way his others have, especially since (SPOILER AHEAD) he quashed the potential love relationship between her and Jesse Stone.

Edited: Jan 19, 2010, 6:00pm Top

laytonwoman3rd, I made the mistake of listening to a few of the Sunny Randall books. In the audio, the constant "he said', "she said", "he said', "she said" was incredibly annoying. I must have glossed over it in the print versions, but went back to check and they're there. Haven't been able to read one since, darn!
I don't recommend audio for this series!

LauraKCurtis, didn't see this until today. Great news! I will check the blog.

To all: What great picks! This was like a big reminder of books I really enjoyed.

Jan 19, 2010, 6:14pm Top

I'll have to check out some of these, but I wanted to suggest the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. Also, the Miss Seeton books by Heron Carvic are entertaining, at least in small doses - they're one I can only read one or two at a time, then I get annoyed and have to read something else for a while.

Neither of them may be quite what you're looking for, but both have strong female leads, although Miss Seeton especially, and sometimes Mrs. Pollifax, seem to be more lucky than skillful in their investigations.

Jan 19, 2010, 6:27pm Top

Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels come to mind. Maisie has the occasional date, but she solves her own crimes and doesn't need to be rescued by a romantic hero.

Jan 24, 2010, 7:29pm Top

I'm surprised no one mentioned J.D. Robb and Eve Dallas. Sure, they have a romance element, but Lt. Dallas seriously kicks ass. Her sidekick Peabody is hilarious too.

Jan 27, 2010, 8:32am Top

Lynda La Plante has a very short series (in fact it might be just 2?) of books with a female detective, Anna Travis.

And there is a US detective called Smoky Barrett but I can't recall the name of the author.

Jan 27, 2010, 11:29am Top

Dope by Sara Gran is an excellent stand-alone novel written in a 50s noir style.

As far as Sue Grafton is concerned, I'm extremely fond of Kinsey Milhone as a character, but I do think the mystery plotting can sometimes be a bit thin.

Jan 27, 2010, 3:21pm Top

>30 CurrerBell:....I'm glad you mentioned that one

okay...Megan Abbott has written some kill-hell Noirs:
Die a Little, The Song is You, Queenpin, & Bury Me Deep..not for the fainthearted...

Zoe Sharp is another for the subject...so is Meg Gardiner


Jan 27, 2010, 3:40pm Top

carrotlady, Smoky is by Cody McFadyen.

Jan 27, 2010, 5:18pm Top

X could easily be xenophobe

Jan 28, 2010, 8:51am Top

Yesssssssssssssssss ctpete, that's it, thank you!

Feb 12, 2010, 4:22pm Top

Denise Mina for quirky, gritty Scottish mysteries.
Carolina Garcia-Aguiler for Cuban female PI in Miami
Both are great series!

Feb 13, 2010, 3:00am Top

Definitely should try Charlaine Harris Lily Bard series.
Shakespeare's Landlord...has nothing to do with vampires or any kind of supernatural creatures. Just a very good series. Remarkably dark, considering Harris's usually lighter tone, but nonetheless my favorite Harris series.

Feb 13, 2010, 12:51pm Top

Cody McFadyen's series with Smokey Barrett is one of my favorites.

1. Shadow Man (2006)
2. The Face of Death (2007)
3. The Darker Side (2008)
4. Abandoned (2009)

Feb 14, 2010, 2:54pm Top

A lot of these do have a romantic interest though. Lily Bard does, Eve Dallas does, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, Mrs. Pollifax does -- I think it depends on how much romance is too much.

Feb 17, 2010, 2:25pm Top

I love the Taylor Jackson series by J. T. Ellison.

Edited: Feb 17, 2010, 2:46pm Top

These aren't series's but both Nikki French and Jane Hill write with female leads but they are not detectives they are usually ordinary women caught up in a crime, mostly as victims forced to act to solve things themselves. They do have relationships but they rarely fall into the "strong woman still needs a man" catagory.

Edit: The Jane Hill I mean wrote The murder Ballard, Grevious Angel and Can't Let Go, her author touchstone brings up lots of other Jane Hill's. Can't Let Go is my favourite of the three.

Feb 17, 2010, 2:39pm Top

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Feb 20, 2010, 7:25pm Top

I like Carol Jordan in Val Mcdermids Tony Hill series

Mar 3, 2010, 2:36pm Top

I've just started Acts of Malice by Perri O'Shaughnessy, which is book 5 (I haven't read the others) in the Nina Reilly series. There seem to be some pretty good LT reviews for these books.

Mar 3, 2010, 11:16pm Top

Although Charlaine Harris does give Lily Bard a romantic lead, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would classify Lily Bard under the "women cant be strong and smart without a man to back them up" section. Lily Bard can do bad all by herself...cheesy but there it is :)

Mar 6, 2010, 7:11am Top

If you want a great female author I'd suggest Lisa Gardner.

Mar 10, 2010, 4:15am Top

Just started The Missing by Chris Mooney which has CSI Darby McCormick as the lead character. Only read a few pages so far, so can't tell if she is going to be interesting

Edited: Mar 11, 2010, 5:06pm Top

Kate Wilhelm's Barbara Holloway is a great one that I don't think has been mentioned yet.

Edited: Mar 12, 2010, 8:01pm Top

You sound like someone who might enjoy the "Baby Shark" series (4 of them) by Robert Fate published by Capital Crime Press. They're hard-hitting;nothing "cozy" here. You can look into them through my library or they're available at Amazon or at Capital Crime Press' web site. Won't say much more about them so as not to spoil. If you enjoy, contact me; may have some others, but this is first to come to mind.

Mar 19, 2010, 10:45am Top

Can't get much better than Dana Stabenow and the Kate Shugak mysteries set in Alaska.

Mar 19, 2010, 5:41pm Top

#49...Strongly agree with your recommendation of Dana Stabenow's 'Kate Shugak', both the character and the series.

Mar 19, 2010, 10:30pm Top

What about M. C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin?

Mar 20, 2010, 1:50am Top

Have you read Gregg Olsens Fictional books. Newest out 2010 is Victim 6, others are The Wicked Snow, A Cold Dark Place, and Heart of Ice? They are scary and full of suspense. Although written by a male author, the main characters are women who may have relationships, but books are mostly about the murders etc.

Mar 20, 2010, 1:56am Top

Great series!!! I have them in audio and hardcovers. The audios are sooooo scary, instead of going to sleep at night, It keeps me up. Great idea for above question!!

Edited: May 16, 2010, 4:32pm Top

I would recommend Helene Tursten's Irene Huss series.

May 16, 2010, 8:32pm Top

How about the all too few books written by Sarah Caudwell? OK, I'll admit that, technically, we're never told whether their sleuth, Hilary Tamar, is male or female, but, at least for me, there's not much question.

May 19, 2010, 12:53am Top

Some British readers on another site I frequent have commented that, from their experience of universities, Hilary could be male or female. I tend to go back and forth on that question, but I always enjoy the books, and they do have a couple of interesting female characters in Selena (looks like a Persian cat who's just completed a successful cross-examination) and Julia (looks like a disheveled heroine of Greek tragedy).
I recommend the police procedurals of Lee Martin, a former police officer--her main character is Deb Ralston, a major crimes detective in Fort Worth.
In the Posadas County mysteries of Steven Havill, one of the detectives is Estelle Reyes-Guzman. These are excellent novels with a strong sense of place.

May 19, 2010, 5:41am Top

I'm currently in the middle of Sharp Objects, which promises to be excellent. Not having got to the end yet I can't promise no romance but the main character, Camille Preaker, is an interesting yet troubled woman indeed. I suspect that if romance should intrude (and there is a character who just might be headed that way with Camille) it won't be in the usual wishy-washy way. I'll try and remember to give an update when I finish the book.

May 19, 2010, 4:27pm Top

Some mystery authors do relationships better than others, and don't cross the cheesy line. Try Beverly Connor's Diane Fallon series, starting with One Grave Too Many.
Although she does have a boyfriend, their relationship is given no more weight than any of ther relationships (friends, co-workers,etc). The focus is on the mystery and the science.
Great series.
And I second the Charlaine Harris Lily Bard series recommendation. Rather dark in tone, but a great character.

May 19, 2010, 9:29pm Top

>58 Sherri1287: I really like Beverly Connor's books also! Love the Diane Fallon ones.

I am reading U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton right now and enjoying it though she does have a lot of extra stuff going on......lots of characters too but no romance.

May 20, 2010, 6:42am Top

#57 Yup, Sharp Objects turned out well (for me, not necessarily for the characters) - nicely dark and creepy and Camille didn't let me down.

May 26, 2010, 1:05am Top

Would echo very strongly previous posting recommendations for Miss Silver and Patricia Wentworth and the books by Helene Tursten.

May 28, 2010, 10:19pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

May 29, 2010, 7:10am Top

#62 Um, yes.

May 29, 2010, 3:31pm Top

#62 >> Go to the Hobnob with Authors Group, Mike. What's also a little disturbing is that you've just joined LT and the only book in your LT library so far is your own. But anyway, Hobnob with Authors is the Group for these kinds of self-promotional postings.

Group: Crime, Thriller & Mystery

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