12 Super Sleuthy Books for Grown-Up Fans of Nancy Drew
When I was young, there was nothing more thrilling than pulling a brand-new, yellow-spined Nancy Drew mystery off my shelf. What new adventures would the girl detective encounter with her blue roadster gassed up and her faithful friends Bess and George at her side? I couldn’t wait to dive into her world again, and with every chapter-ending cliffhanger, I’d breathlessly ask to have just one more chapter read to me. If as an adult you are awash with nostalgia for the Nancy Drew series, here are some grown-up female sleuths with continuing series to devour.
1The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
If Nancy had a bright, fearless young protégée, she would be 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. In her first mystery, aspiring chemist Flavia is both appalled and delighted when she discovers a dead man in a cucumber patch. Much to the police’s chagrin, she sets out to crack the case herself.
Maisie Dobbs is a former maid whose prodigious intellect led her aristocratic suffragette employer to help her earn admission to the prestigious Girton College in Cambridge. In the wake of World War I, Maisie sets up shop as a private sleuth. Her first mystery, seemingly a simple case of infidelity, will force her to confront the ghost that has haunted her for more than a decade.
A former Baltimore Star reporter, Tess Monaghan knows every inch of her city. Smart, funny, and now unemployed, Tess accepts a job doing some unorthodox snooping into the murder of a notorious local attorney on behalf of a friend, who is the prime suspect. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the Charm City shadows.
4The Murder at the Vicarage
When the wildly unpopular Colonel Protheroe is shot to death, the residents of his English village are not exactly devastated—even the vicar declares that his killing did the world a favor. In a town overflowing with suspects, the gentle but sharp Miss Jane Marple steps up to crack the case. In Nancy’s retirement years, I imagine she is something like this beloved sleuth.
Hanne Wilhelmsen is a brilliant but conflicted Norwegian police officer who is called in to investigate when a small time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of Oslo. When a shady lawyer is shot a few days later, Hanne and her partner, Håkon, suspect that the cases may be connected.
If Nancy grew up in the Jazz Age, she would be Phryne Fisher. The socialite flapper is bored of English high society and decides to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia. The clever and spunky sleuth’s first case involves poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops, and communism.
7The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
The delightfully cunning Precious Ramotswe is the proprietor of Botswana’s premier women’s detective agency. In this charming series, Precious—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.
8The Eye of Jade
Mei Wang is a modern, independent woman whose intuition and curiosity make her Beijing's first successful female private investigator. When Mei is hired to find a Han dynasty jade of great value, the search leads her through banquet halls and back alleys, seedy gambling dens, and cheap noodle bars near the Forbidden City.
9The Spellman Files
Described as part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, Izzy Spellman is a talented sleuth with a checkered past working for her dysfunctional family of private investigators. Finally, Izzy decides that she needs to get out of the family business, but not before taking one last investigation—a fifteen-year-old, ice-cold missing person case.
Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who works in Montreal's Laboratoire de Medecine Legale examining bodies to assist the police in solving murders. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern that plunges her into a harrowing search for a killer.
11Dying in the Wool
In a quiet Yorkshire village, the disappearance of a prominent man is big news. Did he run off with his mistress, or could he have been murdered for his money? Kate Shackleton, a lover of puzzles, tries her hand at amateur sleuthing. But as she investigates, Kate uncovers secrets that some would kill to keep hidden.
12A Great Deliverance
The formidable Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers and Inspector Thomas Lynley have been sent to solve a savage murder that stunned the otherwise peaceful Yorkshire countryside—but their investigation leads them through a dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes that date back more than 300 years.