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Spies, Sleuths, and Undercover Agents: 7 Books About Women Who Crack the Case

Sleuths, spies, and undercover agents are all welcome to file themselves under “legendary badasses.” Stories about empowering women who take on these historical roles provide for an entirely captivating read. If you also enjoy unearthing clues and dodging evil alongside female detectives and espionage agents, then these seven books are guaranteed to suck you right in.  


Code Name: Lise
by Larry Loftis

Set in 1942 in World War II, this book features Odette Sansom, who signs on to become an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Landing in France was a feat in itself, but once she arrives, she is met by her new commanding officer, Captain Peter Churchill. Mission after mission bring Odette and Peter closer together until they ultimately fall in love. But once they are captured by the German secret police, they are tortured in concentration camps where their love and loyalty are put to the test. This nonfiction read is so enthralling, you’ll read it as a page-turning historical novel. 

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Code Name: Lise
Larry Loftis

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist
Featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, New York Newsday, and on Today!

Best Nonfiction Books to Read in 2019—Woman’s Day
The Best Nonfiction Books Coming Out This Year—BookBub
“A nonfiction thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal

From internationally bestselling author of the “gripping” (Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author) Into the Lion’s Mouth comes the extraordinary true story of Odette Sansom, the British spy who operated in occupied France and fell in love with her commanding officer during World War II—perfect for fans of Unbroken, The Nightingale, and Code Girls.

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill.

As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them. They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love—of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. He seamlessly weaves together the touching romance between Odette and Peter and the thrilling cat and mouse game between them and Sergeant Bleicher. With this amazing testament to the human spirit, Loftis proves once again that he is adept at writing “nonfiction that reads like a page-turning novel” (Parade).

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Things in Jars
by Jess Kidd

There is no assignment too bizarre for detective Bridie Devine, but when she is tasked to search for the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, Christabel, her skills are truly essential. To make the kidnapping even more peculiar, Christabel is reported to have supernatural powers that have captured the unwanted attention of curiosity collectors. In Victorian London, Bridie sets off on a miraculous adventure to find the missing child, accompanied by her seven-foot-tall house maid and a tattoo-covered ghosteven if this journey digs up her buried past.  

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Things in Jars
Jess Kidd

A January Book of the Month Pick

“Miraculous and thrilling…A few pages in and I was determined to read every word Jess Kidd has ever written.” —Diane Setterfield, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Once Upon a River

“An impossible wonder: a book for everyone, and yet somehow a book just for you...A sumptuous tour of Victorian London, resurrected here with a vigor and vibrancy to rival The Crimson Petal and the White...Utterly magical.”—A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“A perfect mix of hilarity, the macabre, and a touch of romance, Things in Jars is ridiculously entertaining, all as it sneaks up and makes you feel things…Simply: Jess Kidd is so good it isn’t fair.” —Erika Swyler, bestselling author of The Book of Speculation and Light from Other Stars

In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery—perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.

Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.

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One for the Money
by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter with an attitude from a blue-collar pocket of Trenton, NJ. Out of work and in desperately in need of some money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into getting her a job as an apprehension agent. Her first assignment? Nailing the cop who took her virginity at just sixteen years old. There is still a sense of powerful chemistry between the two, so prepare for this chase to get interestingly dangerous.  

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One for the Money
Janet Evanovich

Discover where it all began—#1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich’s first “snappily written, fast-paced, and witty” (USA TODAY) novel in the beloved Stephanie Plum series featuring a feisty and funny heroine who “comes roaring in like a blast of very fresh air” (The Washington Post).

Meet Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.

She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.

Out of work and out of money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, el-primo bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook. Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli’s the inamorato who charmed Stephanie out of her virginity at age sixteen. There’s still powerful chemistry between them, so the chase should be interesting…and could also be extremely dangerous.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

Harriet Vanger disappeared forty years ago, but her uncle has yet to give up hope. In his search for truth, he hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, aided by the tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a deeply satisfying and atmospheric murder mystery novel. Lisbeth’s photographic memory and unmatched hacking skills make her a force to be reckoned with.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate the 40 year disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families. Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe is known as Botswana's No.1 female detective. With this title, she is tasked with tracking down a missing husband, uncovering a con man, and following a wayward daughter. But despite the demand for her services, the project that catches her attention (and emotions) the most is a case involving an eleven-year-old boy who has likely been captured by witch doctors.  

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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea.

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
by Laurie R. King

Retired Sherlock Holmes never imagined he would meet another detective with a matched intelligence. So, when he encounters a teenage girl with a knack for detection, he is completely thrown for a loop. Miss Mary Russell soon becomes Holmes’s apprentice, and she practices her sleuthing and deductive work under a true master. Her skills are ultimately put to the test when an elusive villain comes into the picture. Can the duo outsmart this sort of evil?  

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Laurie R. King

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The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

In 1915 Eve Gardiner was recruited to work as a spy under the Alice Network in France during World War I. Now, thirty years later, haunted by the event that unfolded during the demise of the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her London house until a young American arrives. Charlie St. Clair, pregnant and unmarried, is exiled to Europe by her parents to deal with her pregnancy in private. But once she arrives, Charlie breaks free and heads to London in search of her cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the World War II. This enthralling historical fiction novel traces these two women’s lives as they inevitably intertwine.  

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The Alice Network
Kate Quinn

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