From Hercule Poirot to Sherlock Holmes, detective work has often been attributed to intelligent and witty men. Women bring a different sensibility to their work, and solve crimes in ways that men never could. A solid kickass female detective has an inquiring mind, a take-no-shit attitude, clever intuitiveness, and fearless determination — traits that help her solve crimes and redefine both the masculine image of the investigator and the false notions of the feminine mystique.
If you enjoyed growing up reading and solving the mystery alongside Nancy Drew like I did, satisfy your inner sleuth with this list of mystery novels with these kickass female detective protagonists, some of whom you may know, and others you’ll be glad to meet — just not in a dark alley!
Back in 1979, four teenage boys sexually assaulted a fourteen-year-old classmate, and filmed the attack. The tape goes missing, and it is soon discovered that the thief has been murdered. In 1989, one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, receives a copy of the missing tape with a ransom demand, and he hires PI Kinsey Millhone. Watch kick-ass Kinsey work her magic in this final installment of the Alphabet Series. Sadly, Grafton passed away before she could complete an entry for Z.
Seventeen-year-old Isabelle has gone missing from a small town in Pennsylvania. Badass detective Josie Quinn is currently suspended from her job, and is warned to stay away from the investigation by the chief, but can’t help but start digging into the case. And the deeper she digs, the more complicated the case becomes. It turns out Isabelle isn’t the only missing girl, and as the victims come to light, so too does the terrifying nature of the perpetrator. Follow the determined Detective Quinn as she pushes past obstacles to learn the truth in this action-packed beginning to a new crime thriller series.
As detective Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition with a bullet wound in her head, she knows she’ll soon have to stand trial for three murders and somehow prove her innocence. She’ll work with her friend and journalist Mikael Blomkvist to make those in authority accountable for their crimes. She’ll also have to go rogue to get to the core of the corrupt government institutions and authorities, and to finally plot revenge against the man who tried to kill her. Will justice be served?
When her late detective father leaves Kelly Pruett a letter including a clue for an unsolved case of a young woman’s death by train, she is determined to see the case to its end. While Kelly juggles taking care of her deaf daughter and dealing with a complicated family and a controlling ex, she discovers layers to this mystery that reveal a murder and a double life. Suspects keep popping up, and Kelly must pinpoint the murderer before her own life slips off the rails. Read BookTrib’s review of this book here!
Rachel Marin — ordinary single mother, and fierce vigilante — is forced to adopt an alias and move to a small town in Illinois to protect her children. Local detectives believe that the death of the local mayor was a suicide, but Rachel is convinced otherwise. Her persistence annoys the cops, and makes her a target for the killer.Will Rachel be able to protect her family and her secrets while bringing the killer to justice?
Three years ago, dozens of parents lost their children to a devastating school bus accident. One set of parents believes that they have received a text from their son, who was supposed to have been a victim of the accident. They hire the kick-ass San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to investigate. If it’s true that the boy is still alive, everything law enforcement believes about the accident has been a lie, and Amara must do everything in her power to uncover the truth and reunite the family. Read BookTrib’s review of this book here!
Evie Carter, pregnant wife of Conrad Carter, has shot her husband three times in his home office — and shot his computer twelve times. D.D. Warren, a police officer who isn’t afraid to allow civilians to help her solve her cases, is called to the scene. Meanwhile, Flora Dane, an abduction victim, recognizes Conrad as one of her captor’s contacts. As D.D. and Flora work together to get to the bottom of this strange web of violence, the truth seems to get more and more elusive… Read BookTrib’s review of this book here!
Jenny Aaron, star member of an elite team charged with tracking Germany’s most dangerous criminals, was shot in the head five years ago, leaving her irreversibly blind. But that didn’t stop Jenny from learning new skills to navigate her way through the darkness, and exact vengeance on the psychopath who fired the shot, Ludger Holm. Now, Holm is dead (or is he?) and has left her a legacy of $2 billion (but why?). Although she knows that it’s a trap, Jenny knows that she must play Holm’s deadly game to the bitter end to find closure. Read BookTrib’s review of this book here!
Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself on the trail of the same missing cargo of a freight train that her father had been investigating in the 90s, when skeletal remains are found near an excavation site in the Texas desert. She soon learns that she must also deal with the aftermath of a massacre that claimed the lives of all the workers at a private intelligence company. The cases are connected by a long-buried secret, one that men have died to protect. Caitlin knows she must be as strong as steel to solve this bloody and complicated mystery. Read BookTrib’s review of this book here and look for Land’s next installment in the series, Strong from the Heart, on July 28.
Daniela is a rising senior at Williams College, where she majors in Comparative Literature and enjoys writing and editing for The Williams Record newspaper. Her work has won the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards “Gold Key,” and has been published in the book Convergence: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2015. In her free time, Daniela loves reading pop psychology and other non-fiction, sketching things that inspire her and playing tennis.