In These 5 Mysteries & Thrillers, Women Face Off With Their Abusers

It's no secret that crime fiction has something of a dependence on young, beautiful, dead women. They exist, abused and victimized, at the very center of hundreds mysteries and thrillers, but they aren't the only kind of stories out there. In fact there are plenty of crime novels in which women aren't just dead bodies, but powerful forces who come face-to-face with their abusers.

If you're a fan of crime fiction, you're probably more than a little familiar with the ever-popular, ever-problematic Dead Girl trope in which female characters (and their corpses) are treated as mere plot device to service other, typically male characters. It's a prevalent part of the genre, but it is far from the only narrative choice. As Alice Bolin puts it in her brilliant essay collection Dead Girls, women in thrillers do not have to be "a neutral arena on which to work out male problems."

The truth is, there is no limit to what female characters in crime fiction are capable of doing or being. In fact, the genre often offers empowering depictions of women — women who solve crimes, women who heal from traumas in their own ways, women who help other women, women who fight for justice, and sometimes women who take on their abusers. Warning: minor spoilers below.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.

'Just Between Us' by Rebecca Drake

Beautiful homes, healthy children, stable jobs. Alison, Julie, Sarah, and Heather are living a suburban dream come true — or so it would appear. In reality, a violent crime and a dark mystery consumes these friends' lives. After it becomes clear Heather is trapped in an abusive marriage, and her husband ends up dead, all four women make a starling decision to protect each other, a decision that tests their relationships and pushes the boundaries of their friendship.

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'Behind Closed Doors' by B.A. Paris

On the outside, it looks like Jack and Grace have the perfect marriage. He is a handsome, wealthy lawyer who has seen nothing but success. She is beautiful, charming homemaker with who dotes on her husband as much as she does her disabled younger sister. But behind their perfect veneer — and behind their home's high-security metal shutters — lies a terrible truth. Will secrets save these newlyweds, or lead to their demise?

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'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty

Chances are you've already seen HBO's hit adaptation of this bestselling Liane Moriarty novel, a twisty story about abuse, survival, and the unbreakable bonds of female friendship. If you haven't gotten around to reading the source material, which centers around the mysterious death of a parent and the mothers who know the truth, what are you waiting for?

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'The Exes' Revenge' by Jo Jakeman

The title of Jo Jakeman's latest thriller says it all. In The Exes' Revenge, a group of very different women become unlikely allies when a man they've all had a relationship with — and endured abuse at the hands of — finally loses his upperhand. But how far are they willing to go to get revenge, and how do they know they can truly trust one another?

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'Save Me From Dangerous Men' by S.A. Lelchuck (Mar. 19)

In this anticipated debut, a private investigator makes it her life work tracking down certain men and teaching them a lesson. Dangerous men, the kind who hurt women they claim to love. While working a regular PI job tailing Karen, a tech company's unhappy employee, she finds herself caught up in a dangerous case that leaves both Karen's life and her own hanging in the balance.

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