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Much has been made of female anger in recent years. From Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her to Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage to Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, it’s like we’ve finally received permission to let go of the years of anger and resentment that have built up within us and enveloped our hearts bitter blackness that makes our chests burn.
Women have been socialized for so long as to be pleasant. To be friendly and approachable. Responding to the needs of others at the expense of our own.
But now, perhaps thanks to campaigns like the #MeToo movement, we’re invited to clench our fists. To scream our throats raw. To open up and show our blackened hearts to the world. We are told that this will make the world a better place.
However, without actual systemic changes (and despite the benefits of speaking and expressing ourselves and our experiences being mirrored in those of others), these invitations to raise our voices and make a difference often feel like a fantasy.
Maybe that’s why I adore female serial killers so much in my novels.
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Because if I live in a fantasy, I can just as easily spend it with the women who take that fantasy a little further. The women who do the things we are not allowed to do.
In the following books, women have used their anger and turned to violence. But no worry. It’s fiction. You are allowed to root for them.
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
I love this book so much. a lot of. You have no idea. It’s about a time traveling woman who is part of a secret group determined to use time travel technology to manifest a better future for women and non-binary people. And while this group has rules about how far they want to go in the pursuit of change, sometimes it happens … shit. Right? Come for the bonus story about Comstock and the Chicago World’s Fair. Stay for the sci-fi adventure where this badass group of women and non-binary people play on par with a group of incels trying to make life hell for marginalized groups – permanently.
Give me your hand from Megan Abbott
I’ll read everything from Megan Abbott. Anything. But this particular book – about two ambitious chemists who do everything to make their professional dreams come true – fascinated me. The rivalry between these two women is fierce. But it’s the spoiled childhood friendship and the secrets they know of one another that ultimately give one of them the edge they need.
You never learn from Layne Fargo
Scarlett Clark is more than just a college English professor. She’s also a vigilante who got away with murder many times. Your goals? Young men who have committed sexual assault but have no consequences. When we meet Clark, she’s planning her biggest murder yet … but a detective brought on campus to investigate the latest murder starts connecting the dots. For anyone who has ever dreamed of taking justice into their own hands, here is a killer to stand up for.
Get out of Natsuo Karino
Which young woman and mother among us has not felt a little murderous at times? In this thriller, a young woman in Tokyo finally snaps up and murders her husband, who cheats on her and gambled away all her money. Unfortunately, just like with the nine-headed hydra where one problem is addressed, more are stepping up to take its place. And in this case, it’s not just the police that our protagonist is dealing with. Desperation can lead us to do dangerous, unimaginable things. How far will this one woman go to be free?
Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari
When a respected art professor goes to his protégé’s remote home to view the collection of her theses, he hopes for more than just an intellectual connection. The protégé in question also has other plans … but they are far from what their professor expects. You won’t be able to put this book down as you learn more and more about the motivations of this art student.
Dirty jobs for women and girls by Alissa Nutting
Not every story in this collection is about the worst murders, but all of them are about women desperately looking for a sense of agency and reaching for it as necessary. About gender and authority and the way we limit the female body, this dark comedy enables women to grant their most depraved desires.
My sister, the serial killer from Oyinkan Braithwaite
The protagonist of this satirical thriller has always protected her sociopathic, serial murderous sister. But when the man she has longed for years quietly asks for her sister’s phone number, she has to reconsider her loyalty. As the story progresses, we learn more about why the protagonist’s sister may have murdered all of her friends. But despite this understanding, who should we be rooting for in the end?
Stephen Graham Jones’ last last girl
The last book on this list is a little crazy. It is a self-confident homage to slasher films with a whole group of “Final Girls”. The “last girl” is of course the usual horror trope with the one girl who escapes in the middle of a series of murders. These last girls usually survive because they didn’t commit any of the sins that normally lead to people being killed in horror films … sins like sex or drugs. Rather, they are pure and virgin. But the last girls in Jones’ novel are far from ordinary, and in fact one of them may be trying to be the last girl.
If you’re going through this list and still hungry for more, let me introduce you to the real female killers featured in Tori Telfer’s Lady Killers. This entertaining book explores the crimes of a different female serial killer in each chapter. It’s a fun read and I can’t wait to read their latest version of Confident Women.
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