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The huge influx of women publishing mysteries and thrillers over the past 15 years has meant that we have received much more interesting and diverse detective novels that challenge the status quo and take a slightly broader look at the detective novels. This is important especially since the genre is more preoccupied with stereotypes about female characters and uses violence against women as a set dressing rather than taking the opportunity to delve deeper into issues of misogyny and feminism. These 15 feminist detective novels explore crime and feminist issues in new and exciting ways.
Uptown Thief by Aya de León
Marisol was once a woman who was abused she couldn’t turn to, and now she runs a high-end escort service to fund a clinic and refuge for women in need – and she also robs her corrupt clients for to finance their work financially. But if an ex-cop gets too close, it can jeopardize everything Marisol worked for.
Barbed wire heart by Tess Sharpe
In this feminist thriller, Harley is the daughter of the greatest criminal in her rural county, and she was trained from a young age to handle his operation. But Harley, who secretly runs a motel for abused women, has no intention of abiding by her father’s rules and she must find a way to dismantle her father’s business and his competitors and get out alive.
Condemnation by Denise Mina
Anna is obsessed with real crime podcasts. When her husband leaves, she taps into a new podcast instead of dealing with her problems. But when it turns out that the topic of the podcast is someone she knows from her past, Anna is determined to correct the record that takes her on a trip across Europe and confronts her with her own secret past. This is one of those great feminist detective novels that deals with the aftermath of attack and how money and power can buy silence.
The silence of the bones of June Hur
Seol is an identified servant from 1800 in Joseon (Korea). She works for the police office in the capital and supports police inspectors in investigations against women, as men are not allowed to touch women who have nothing to do with them. When a noblewoman is found murdered, Seol becomes embroiled in an intricate investigation into women, religion, and a struggle between new ideas and old traditions.
Megan Goldin’s escape room
Four seemingly successful financiers are invited to a Friday night meeting and are soon trapped in an elevator in an empty building with clues on how to escape – but is this really a corporate loyalty event or something more sinister? This book is about #MeToo, assault, what some people are willing to do to advance their careers, and a woman’s revenge.
Simone St. James’s Sun Down Motel
Viv Delaney escaped her life in 1982 when she ended up working in a motel in a small town in New York state. When she suspects that a frequent guest might be hunting young women, she disappears without a trace. In this day and age, Carly travels to the town where her aunt Viv disappeared decades ago and seeks to solve the mystery of her death once and for all.
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Perveen Mistry became the first female lawyer in Bombay in the 1920s to work on contracts with her father’s company. When a strange will hits her desk, she decides to investigate – and goes straight into a crime thriller. This is an excellent feminist book about a woman struggling to break into a male industry, challenging patriarchal traditions, and domestic violence.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
This is the story of a young woman and mother who one day snaps and kills her husband – and then asks her employees at the lunch box factory where she works to help cover up the crime. But that’s not all for these women who have caught the attention of a murderer and a cop.
The perfect nanny from Leila Slimani
When Myriam wants to go back to work after the birth of her children, she hires Louise, who looks like the perfect nanny. While Myriam is grateful that Louise can look after her children, she also feels like everything is a competition with the nanny, even when she is dependent on her – resulting in a shocking and terrible act.
The Roxane Weary series by Kristen Lepionka
Roxane Weary is a bisexual PI who investigates a wide variety of cases, from decade-old murders to fraud to infidelity. Roxane herself is a feminist and these books address homophobia, racism and other intersectional issues in an intelligent and progressive way. Start with the last place you are looking for.
The female of the species of Mindy McGinnis
Less of a mystery than a general crime novel, this book is about Alex, a teenage murderer. She killed the man responsible for her sister’s murder when the police couldn’t bring him to justice, and she got away with it, too. Now she is facing the aftermath of her darker urges as her senior year of high school brings new friendships and new injustices.
A Study of Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
You can’t just gender swap something and call it feminist, but Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series definitely goes beyond a mere gender-swapped version of the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories! In this version, Charlotte Holmes is a shamed society lady who actively challenges conventions about society and the role of women in order to solve the most twisted and delicious crime fiction!
Dangerous alliance by Jennieke Cohen
Lady Victoria is the second daughter of a count and she likes to spend her time helping her father run the estate without the pressure to get married soon. But when her older sister leaves her husband for his abusive nature, Victoria is suddenly put under pressure to marry and secure her family’s estate – while figuring out who is always trying to sabotage her and the estate.
Speaking of summer by Kalisha Buckhanon
One night in December, Herbst’s twin sister, Summer, disappeared without a trace on the roof of her New York apartment. It’s been months and autumn can’t make anyone, especially the police, take Summer’s disappearance seriously. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book on how the disappearance of black women is so often mistreated and overlooked.
Girl waiting with gun from Amy Stewart
Based on the very real Constance Kopp, this book envisions Constance’s life in 1914, when her buggy was driven off the street by a gangster and Constance decided she couldn’t stand it. She teams up with the sheriff to defeat the gangster and becomes one of the first female MPs in the United States.
Do you want more feminist crime novels in your life? Read through recommendations for the best Mystery Book Club books, then discover some of the best Mystery Book subscription services afterwards. If you are not satisfied with that, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books that you love to read.
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