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10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

Jennifer Proffitt
July 28 2021
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Whether you grew up watching Murder, She Wrote or reading Agatha Christie’s novels, readers have loved the female sleuth for a long time. Perhaps it’s the empowerment of watching a woman set out to solve a case herself or our own personal desire to dig into secrets and uncover clues. Whatever the reason, the female sleuth has endured as a beloved fixture in fiction. The female crime fighters featured in these books showcase the genre’s variety, from a woman determined to find the truth in a town shrouded in secrets to historical mysteries starring the grand dame of the genre herself, Agatha Christie.

The Invisible Guardian
by Dolores Redondo

They say you can’t go home again and that’s especially true when your homecoming is on the heels of eerie murders. In Dolores Redondo’s THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN, homicide inspector Amaia Salazar returns to her hometown in Spain’s Basque Country to find the serial killer who is on the loose. As Amaia hunts down the perpetrator of these grisly murders, local superstition attempts to interfere with the case. Readers will get pulled into this engaging police drama just as much as Amaia gets pulled back into the dark past of the town she left behind.

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The Invisible Guardian
Dolores Redondo

Already a #1 international bestseller, this taut, gripping psychological thriller follows a police inspector who reluctantly returns to her hometown in Spain’s Basque Country—a place shrouded in mythology and superstition—to solve a series of eerie murders.

When the body of a teenaged girl is found on a riverbank in a remote area, the crime appears all too similar to a murder committed only months prior, igniting the worst fears of the small community of Elizondo. Homicide inspector Amaia Salazar, a strong, borderline-obsessive investigator, is assigned to the case. After all, this beautiful, peculiar backwater steeped in the blood of the Spanish Inquisition, where pagan beliefs still flourish under a thin veneer of modernity, is a space she knows better than anyone. Forced to return to Elizondo, a town she has always sought to escape, Amaia is tasked with finding a serial killer on the loose.

As the murders in the area grow increasingly violent, the locals come to believe only one creature could possibly be responsible: a creature of Basque mythology known as the basajaun, or Invisible Guardian. But Amaia is logical—a professional—and she refuses to let local superstitions distract her from her careful detective work. As the investigation deepens, a troubling secret from Amaia’s past plagues her with nightmares and soon her findings seem to transform myth into reality. Everything she believes to be rational and verifiable is called into question. Now Amaia must fight her demons and determine if these murders are the work of a ritualistic killer or something even darker.

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Still Water
by Amy Stuart

Clare O’Dey is searching for answers in this second thriller by Amy Stuart. When Sally Proulx and her son mysteriously disappear from the stormy town of High River, Clare is hired to track them down. However, High River is a place where women run to disappear, when they need a safe haven and anonymity, so Clare’s search for Sally and her son only seems to uncover more secrets and deception. As Clare uncovers the secrets of High River, the reader is pulled into a gripping thriller where nothing is as it seems.

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Still Water
Amy Stuart

From the Globe and Mail bestselling author of Still Mine comes a new psychological thriller about the hunt for a missing mother and son in a town that is drowning in deception.

How do you find the truth in a town full of secrets?

Sally Proulx and her young boy have mysteriously disappeared in the stormy town of High River. Clare O’Dey is hired to track them down, hoping against all odds to find them alive. But High River isn’t your typical town.

In a town where secrets are crucial to survival, everyone is hiding something. And the police clearly have an ulterior motive beyond solving the case. Malcolm Boon, who hired Clare, knows more about her than he reveals. Their benefactor, Helen Haines, is concealing a tragic family history of her own. As the truth surges through High River, Clare must face the very thing she has so desperately been running from, even if it comes at a devastating cost. Compulsively gripping and twisty, Still Water is a deep dive of a thriller that will leave you breathless.

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Cocaine Blues
by Kerry Greenwood

If you’re a Masterpiece Mystery! fan, you might have already been introduced to the Honorable Phryne Fisher on the screen. For those who are looking for more of the provocative private detective, head to the first book in Kerry Greenwood’s series, COCAINE BLUES, which inspired the show. When Phryne relocates from the ballrooms of London in the roaring 1920s to Melbourne, Australia, she also takes on the mantle of the city’s lady detective. Soon Phryne is embroiled in a case filled with intrigue: murdered wives, cocaine smuggling, and corrupt cops.

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Cocaine Blues
Kerry Greenwood

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.

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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
by Theodora Goss

Mad scientists, monsters, and madcap adventures? You’re in for a whirlwind read with Theodora Goss’s second caper, EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN, following Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of mad scientists from literature. As members of the Athena Club, Mary and the other members get along as well as five very different women can. However, they must work together to help save Lucinda Van Helsing when word reaches them that she has been kidnapped. This book is an entertaining, gender-swapped homage to these beloved classics.

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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Theodora Goss

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The Bounty
by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

If you’re a longtime mystery reader, you may know Janet Evanovich for her Stephanie Plum series but if you want to trade a bounty hunter for an FBI agent, give Janet Evanovich’s Fox and O’Hare series a try! THE BOUNTY by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton is the latest in the romantic suspense series that follows Special Agent Kate O’Hare and international criminal Nick Fox as they race to uncover Nazi gold in a long-buried train before the dangerous criminal organization known as The Brotherhood can.

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The Bounty
Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

FBI agent Kate O’Hare and charming con man Nicholas Fox race against time to uncover a buried train filled with Nazi gold in this thrilling adventure in the “romantic and gripping” (Good Housekeeping) Fox and O’Hare series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

Straight as an arrow special agent Kate O’Hare and international con man Nick Fox have brought down some of the biggest criminals out there. But now they face their most dangerous foe yet—a vast, shadowy international organization known only as the Brotherhood.

Directly descended from the Vatican Bank priests who served Hitler during World War II, the Brotherhood is on a frantic search for a lost train loaded with $30 billion in Nazi gold, untouched for over seventy-five years somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Europe.

Kate and Nick know that there is only one man who can find the fortune and bring down the Brotherhood—the same man who taught Nick everything he knows—his father, Quentin. As the stakes get higher, they must also rely on Kate’s own father, Jake, who shares his daughter’s grit and stubbornness. Too bad they can never agree on anything.

From a remote monastery in the Swiss Alps to the lawless desert of the Western Sahara, Kate, Nick, and the two men who made them who they are today must crisscross the world in a desperate scramble to stop their deadliest foe in the biggest adventure of their lives.

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Dead Dead Girls
by Nekesa Afia

If you’re searching for more historical mysteries with a New York twist, look to Nekesa Afia’s Harlem Renaissance–set mystery, DEAD DEAD GIRLS. Louise Lloyd is doing everything she can to have a normal life after being kidnapped as a teenager. However, it becomes anything but normal when a girl turns up dead—the third young Black girl to be murdered in Harlem in a matter of weeks—on the steps of the café where she works. Despite her hopes, this means Louise is forced to confront her demons—both the human ones hunting Harlem and those of her past.

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Dead Dead Girls
Nekesa Afia

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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Deja Dead
by Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brennan is a staple for any lover of the female crime fighter. DÉJÀ DEAD by Kathy Reichs is the first book in the series that we’ve all come to know and love. In this debut, Reichs weaves together science and mystery in her signature style as Tempe searches for the identity of a young woman found at a burial site in DC.

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Deja Dead
Kathy Reichs

The first Temperance Brennan novel in the “cleverly plotted and expertly maintained series” (The New York Times Book Review) from the #1 internationally bestselling thriller writer Kathy Reichs.

Her life is devoted to justice—even for those she never knew.

In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Québec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern—and she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her—her best friend and her own daughter—in mortal danger…

“A genius at building suspense” (Daily News, New York), Kathy Reichs’s Temperance Brennan books are both “accomplished and chilling” (People) and “ripe with intricate settings and memorable characters” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

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Every Breath You Take
by Mary Higgins Clark

Anyone who follows the Met Gala annually can imagine the luxury and glamour it entails. In Mary Higgins Clark’s EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, the gala takes a gruesome turn when one of the trustee members is flung from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As the case turns cold, Laurie Moran, amateur sleuth and TV producer of the true crime show Under Suspicion, takes on the case. The crew of Under Suspicion tracks the ever-growing list of suspects in this high-profile case and seeks to discover who the real culprit is—even if it means the murderer is among New York City’s elite.

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Every Breath You Take
Mary Higgins Clark

The New York Times bestselling Under Suspicion series by the “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke returns with this gripping mystery following television producer’s Laurie Moran investigation of the unsolved Met Gala murder—in which a wealthy widow was pushed to her death from the famous museum’s rooftop.

Laurie Moran’s professional life is a success—her television show Under Suspicion is a hit, both in the ratings and its record of solving cold cases. But her romantic break from former host Alex Buckley has left her with on-air talent she can’t stand—Ryan Nichols—and a crippling sense of loneliness.

Now Ryan has suggested a new case. Three years ago, Virginia Wakeling, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the museum’s most generous donors, was found dead in the snow, after being thrown from the museum’s roof on the night of the Met Gala. The leading suspect then and now is her much younger boyfriend and personal trainer, Ivan Gray.

Ivan runs a trendy, successful boutique gym called Punch—a business funded in no small part by the late Virginia—which happens to be the gym Ryan frequents. Laurie’s skepticism about the case is upended by a tip from her father’s NYPD connection, and soon Laurie realizes there are a bevy of suspects—including Virginia’s trusted inner circle.

As the Under Suspicion crew pries into the lives of a super wealthy real estate family with secrets to hide, danger mounts for several witnesses—and for Laurie.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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Unfinished Business
by J.A. Jance

In J. A. Jance’s latest Ali Reynolds book, UNFINISHED BUSINESS, Ali is tasked with clearing the name of her husband’s one-time employee, Mateo. Mateo shows up at Ali’s door looking for help—he’s spent the last sixteen years in prison for murdering his girlfriend, a crime he says he didn’t commit. As Ali tries to unravel the mystery and find the real killer, personal tragedy strikes at home in this heart-wrenching thriller.

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Unfinished Business
J.A. Jance

In this heart-pounding and sharply written thriller from J.A. Jance, the “grand master of the genre” (The Providence Journal), Ali Reynolds’s personal life is thrown into turmoil just as two men show up on the scene—a former employee of her husband’s who has just been released from prison and a serial killer who sets his sights a little too close to home.

Mateo Vega, a one-time employee of Ali Reynold’s husband, B. Simpson, has spent the last sixteen years of his life behind bars. According to the courts, he murdered his girlfriend. But Mateo knows that her real killer is still on the loose, and the first thing he’s going to do when he gets a taste of freedom is track him down.

After being granted parole, a wary Mateo approaches Stu Ramey of High Noon Enterprises for a reference letter for a job application, but to his surprise, Stu gives him one better: He asks him to come on board and work for B. once again. Just as Mateo starts his new job, though, chaos breaks out at High Noon—a deadbeat tenant who is in arrears has just fled, and tech expert Cami Lee has gone missing.

As Ali races to both find a connection between the two disappearances and help Mateo clear his name with the help of PI J.P. Beaumont, tragedy strikes in her personal life, and with lives hanging in the balance, she must thread the needle between good and evil before it’s too late.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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I Saw Him Die
by Andrew Wilson

I SAW HIM DIE, by Andrew Wilson, is a delightful twist for any longtime Agatha Christie fans, who will find themselves reading a book starring the mystery novelist herself. In this fourth book in Wilson’s series of Agatha Christie mysteries, Agatha finds herself in a hunting lodge in Scotland where not one, but two murders have taken place. For any Agatha Christie fan, you’re sure to love this novel not only for the similar style of writing, but for all the Agatha Christie Easter eggs Wilson has left for the reader.

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I Saw Him Die
Andrew Wilson

“Fiendishly well-plotted, hugely entertaining.” —Lucy Foley, bestselling author of The Hunting Party

In this classic whodunit filled with red herrings and double-crosses, the Queen of Crime returns in the role of sleuth as she investigates a mysterious death in the Scottish Highlands.

Bestselling novelist and part-time undercover sleuth Agatha Christie is looking forward to a bit of well-deserved rest and relaxation when her longtime friend John Davison pleads with her to help him protect a retired British agent turned hotelier who has been receiving threatening letters.

Together they travel to Dallach Lodge, a beautiful estate on Scotland’s picturesque Isle of Skye. There they insert themselves among the hotel’s illustrious guests, including members of the owner’s family, a leading lady of the theater, a brilliant botanist, a local doctor, and two sisters who coauthor romance novels. After a pleasant first evening, Agatha thinks it unlikely that any of them are capable of evil, much less murder. But early the next morning, the sound of a gunshot rings out and the hotel owner is found dead in the arms of his nephew. At first, it appears to be a simple hunting accident, but as Agatha digs deeper, she discovers that each and every one of the residents has a reason for wanting the late proprietor dead.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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Photo credit: iStock / bee32

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