10 Female Detectives You Should Be Solving Mysteries With
The fact that I'm not a huge fan of mysteries is close to a sacrilege in my family. My mother has devoured every murder mystery that our local library shelves, and grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories and stories with female detectives. In fact, I actually can't remember her ever reading anything but murder mystery novels, unless she was reading me a book as a kid. And even then she typically picked out kid-friendly detective stories to read. While the fact that I gravitate more towards classics and fantasy isn't enough to get me disinherited, I think it's secretly a disappointment to her.
While it's still not my preferred genre, I've started to come around to the mystery scene. After randomly picking up a collection of Agatha Christie stories I found myself completely smitten with her locked-room mysteries, and I've always had a soft spot for Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote. I realized that what I needed was to focus on more stories that featured a female detective as a protagonist. I love Sherlock Holmes as much as the next girl, but maybe I needed more Miss Marple in my life.
I did a little digging and found 10 female detective characters that I've either read and put my stamp of approval on or have recently added to my mystery reading list. My mother will be so proud.
1. Charlotte Holmes
Charlotte is the great-great-great granddaughter of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, and she has every bit of his genius and difficult personality. She attends boarding school with the great-great-great grandson of John Watson, and they aren't getting along. When they're framed for a murder, however, Charlotte will have to channel her inner Holmes to get them out of trouble. Check her out in Brittany Cavallaro's A Study in Charlotte.
2. Miss Marple
You can keep Hercule Poirot, I'm only interested in Miss Marple, the prim and proper amateur sleuth. An older woman of independent means, Miss Marple grows from a gossiping busybody who can't keep her nose out of other people's business (especially when a crime is involved) to a shrewd detective with a knack for observing things others overlook. Check her out in a number of Agatha Christie novels, including The Murder at the Vicarage.
3. Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles
These two also star in a TV show on TNT, if you're wondering why these names look familiar. Jane Rizzoli is a detective in Boston police's Homicide Unit, while Dr. Maura Isles is a forensics expert working with the police. The two are best friends, polar opposites, and solve crimes together around Boston. Two great female detectives for the price of one. You can check them out in novels like Terry Gerritsen's The Sinner.
4. Nancy Drew
My mother, an avid mystery fan, grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew novels, so we always had them around the house. Not content with being a rich, beautiful teenage girl, Nancy uses her superior intelligence to solve crimes that the police can't figure out. Though her character has changed over the years, the original Nancy Drew was a feisty and outspoken young woman who challenged the male authority figures in her life. Check her out in novels like Carolyn Keene's The Secret of the Old Clock.
5. Lisbeth Salander
Perhaps better known as "the girl with the dragon tattoo", Lisbeth is an antisocial, occasionally violent loner who works as a researcher and hacker for a security company. She becomes involved with a decades-old case involving a missing girl when she's hired by the journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who's investigating the disappearance. Lisbeth definitely isn't a plucky girl detective a la Nancy Drew, but she gets the job done in her own violent way. Check her out in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series.
6. Kinsey Millhone
After spending time as a police officer and an investigator for an insurance company, Kinsey Millhone decides to solve crimes her way by becoming a private investigator. An orphan with very little extended family, Kinsey is a loner with a penchant for junk food and a general disregard for her appearance (who can be bothered to get dolled up when there are crimes to solve? Priorities, people!). Check her out in Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries series.
7. Stephanie Plum
After divorcing her cheating husband and losing her job, Stephanie Plum finds herself desperately in need of cash. Which, logically, leads her to become a bounty hunter at her cousin's Bail Bonds office. Stephanie can usually catch her mark, though chaos and destruction are typical byproducts of her methods. Check her out in novels like Janet Evanovich's One for the Money.
8. Camille Preaker
After years of self-harm, Camille is trying to put her life back together as a journalist in Chicago. Unfortunately, she's soon sent on assignment to her hometown, where girls are disappearing and ending up dead. As Camille begins to investigate the crimes, she also begins to uncover new evidence about the death of her sister years before, and begins to suspect her family may have played a role in the crimes then and now. Check her out in Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects.
9. Precious Ramotswe
Mma Ramotswe is the head of the best (and only) female detective agency in Botswana. After the death of her father, Mma Ramotswe decides to sell his cattle and open up a detective agency, where she investigates everything from unfaithful spouses to fraud cases with the help of her assistant Grace. Check her out in Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
10. Heather Wells
Heather Wells used to be a pop star, but after gaining a bit of weight the fickle industry turned its back on her. She's now a residence house coordinator at a college in New York, which you would think would be less stressful than show business. Unfortunately, girls are ending up dead, and Heather needs to get to the bottom of it before more of her residents are murdered. Check her out in novels like Meg Cabot's Size 12 is Not Fat.
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