"In Bed" with Laurie R. King

September, 2011
Laurie R. King The stereotypical detective in historical fiction is most often masculine, with a pipe at hand or a gun in his holster. But in Laurie R. King's series of mysteries set during World War I and 1920s England, heroine Mary Russell fights crime with her impressive deductive reasoning and panache. As a teen, Mary impressed semiretired Sherlock Holmes, who took her on as a protégé and later a partner. King is also the creator of the Kate Martinelli series, about a female San Francisco police inspector. In her latest historical romp, Pirate King, Scotland Yard sends Mary Russell undercover to a silent film set on a Brigantine sailing ship in the Mediterranean, where she investigates a shady movie producer shooting an adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance—with real pirates at sea. King shares her favorite mystery series with women at the helm.

Kate Shugak Series by Dana Stabenow (Goodreads Author)
"Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series rocks. Kate and her lupine sidekick (literally a wolf) stride the frozen North, bringing evildoers to justice in a community of true characters and making even a sun-loving reader seriously consider moving to Alaska, just in case Kate might live down the road and drop in for moose stew, a cup of coffee, or some gas for her snowmobile. The series runs from A Cold Day for Murder to Though Not Dead, but my personal favorite is Breakup."


The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham
"It's hard to know if Met Detective Ali Barba counts as a series detective or not, since she flits in and out of Robotham's superb novels, but The Night Ferry belongs to Detective Barba. It's a complete gem of a book, and one day Robotham will be at the top of the best-seller lists."


Fool's Guild Series by Alan Gordon
"Alan Gordon's Fool's Guild series, set in the early 13th century, is mostly narrated by a man, but Theophilus is the series hero in the same way Dr. Watson is the hero of the Holmes stories. Theophilus is surrounded by women—wife, apprentice, daughter—who do everything he does, only backward and in heels—or pregnant. Claudia, Portia, and Helga out-think and out-fool the poor fellow at every turn, but he is enough of a fool to love it as much as the reader does. From Thirteenth Night to The Parisian Prodigal, my favorite might be A Death in the Venetian Quarter."


Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters
"I fell in love with Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody early on, with Crocodile on the Sandbank and The Curse of the Pharaohs—rather, with both Amelias, Crocodile's tall Amelia and the others where she becomes mystifyingly shorter and more buxom. I particularly enjoy the early ones, which are possessed of a head-over-heels energy, tongue-in-cheek repartee, and over-the-top verve."


Kate Brannigan Series by Val McDermid
"Val McDermid has become known for her hard-edged thrillers, but before Tony Hill there was Kate Brannigan, whose name means brawl. Kate is a PI in Manchester, England, and like all Kates (Shugak, Martinelli) is tough, warm, clever, tenacious, and the kind of person you want on your side when you're in dire straits. Kate is in Dead Beat, Kick Back, Crack Down, Clean Break, Blue Genes, and Star Struck."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Fearless Female Detectives



Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)

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message 1: by Kay (new)

Kay What about Kathryn Wall's series with Bay Tanner? Or the series by Rhys Bowen set in early 1900s NYC?


message 2: by Christine (new)

Christine Any books by Dorothy L Sayers in which Harriet Vane is present are a delight. Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon and PD James' too-short Cordelia Gray series are two that I've thoroughly enjoyed and while Barbara Havers is not the main character, she features enough in Elizabeth George's Inspector Linley series to qualify. I also love both of Margaret Maron's series and found Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard interesting.


message 3: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Weinbeck Thanks for adding several good-sounding series to my to-read list, Ms. King. I doubt any of them will come close to Mary Russell, though :-). -- In message 1, the Rhys Bowen series alluded to is the Molly Murphy series, and is fun. But the series that most deserves to be added to the list, IMHO, is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. She comes second to the Mary Russell series on my 'keeper shelves'.


message 4: by Paula (new)

Paula Love Mary Russell and Maisie Dobbs is terrific. Flavia DeLuce is great too, although she is only 11. That one requires me to suspend my disbelief but she's very entertaining.


message 5: by Kristine (new)

Kristine Rud Can't discuss female detectives without mentioning the no. 1 female detective Mma Ramotswe :-)

I also enjoyed the Corinna Chapman mysteries by Australian author Kerry Greenwood.

And of course good old Miss Marple.


message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan Carole Nelson Douglas imagines a very different life for Irene Adler in her series of novels. I rather enjoy Irene alive and, with her sidekick Nell and faithful husband Godfrey, pursuing criminals like Jack the Ripper. Sherlock drops into the action as a supporting player but Irene and Nell are the heroines.


message 7: by Edith (last edited Sep 12, 2011 02:22PM) (new)

Edith Just read the latest Jacqueline Winspear "The Mapping of Love and Death" and agree that Maisie Dobbs is a great plucky detective. Love the No. 1 Lady Detective books and Mary Russell. Sparkle Hayter writes quirky, funny books featuring TV reporter heroine Robin Hudson.


message 8: by Karyn (new)

Karyn I love Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books, but the Pirate King was my first disappointment.


message 9: by Jacky (new)

Jacky ITA with all the above, but I never understand how Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone gets overlooked.
Beginning with Edwin of the Iron Shoes in 1977 snd still going strong, we see Sharon through the decades, maturing, loving, worrying and detecting.
She's my desert island detective.


message 10: by Angela (new)

Angela I like Miss Marple


message 11: by Jane (new)

Jane I'm a big Amelia Peabody fan so I'm glad you mentioned her! It is funny when characters change physically. Do you keep detailed character files to avoid this problem?


message 12: by Helene (new)

Helene How about Jane Rizzoli from Tess Gerritson? Can't forget her!


message 13: by Mahreen (new)

Mahreen Pasha Wow, this was such an eye-opener! Not that I gave it thought, but I hadn't heard of female detectives other than Ms. Marple and Nancy Drew! So which female detective should I start my exploration with?


message 14: by Dee (new)

Dee DeTarsio There's a new spy in town--have you tried India Black, Madame of Espionage by Carol K. Carr? Very smart, fun read!


message 15: by Merry (new)

Merry What about Sue Grafton? Although I wish she would write them a little faster!


message 16: by Novelwhore (new)

Novelwhore I'm with Merry - Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is my #1 female detective!

I also really like Eve Dallas of JD RObb's IN DEATH books0 I think she and her husband are a great team (she's the detective, he's more the "bank"!).


message 17: by Merry (new)

Merry I'm glad you agree novelwhore--I have never read any jd robb books. I'll have to start reading them!


message 18: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Love these lists, but I really miss Kate Martinelli. I like Mary Russell well enough, but loved, loved those Martinelli books with their SF settings, great characterizations.
I suppose Ms. King is tired of her, since none have been written in years.
Haven't seeen a new McCone in ages; thought she was done.


message 19: by Jodie (new)

Jodie There's a fabulous character out there in literary land named Savannah Reid, a creation of G A McKevett. Savannah has a great personality and some fantastic friends which make each book an enjoyable experience.


message 20: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Dingwall These all sound terrific. I too am an Amelia Peabody fan. And I like the Bay Tanner series. Christy Tillery French's "Body Guard" series is another that offers some great sleuthing and witty dialogue. I look forward to trying out some of these authors.


message 21: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn What about Mrs. Pollifax? I reread the early ones about 20 times a year.


message 22: by Sophia (new)

Sophia I enjoy several of these that have been mentioned including the Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli series. I would like to add some historical female detectives that I read. Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen Mysteries (Regency), Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevise Mysteries (Medieval), Fiona Buckley's Ursula Blanchard (Elizabethan), and the many husband and wife teams with both of Anne Perry's Victorian series ranking pretty high for me.


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim Friedman Susan wrote: "Carole Nelson Douglas imagines a very different life for Irene Adler in her series of novels. I rather enjoy Irene alive and, with her sidekick Nell and faithful husband Godfrey, pursuing criminals..."

Irene Adler is a creative detective and I certainly won't dispute it, since Mr. Holmes called her The Woman, but when I think of strong female detectives who aren't in the classic vein, I have to applaud Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, and of course Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone who put women private investigators on the map. Sure Rex Stout had Theodolinda Bonner, but he didn't have her as a regular character. I'm extremely glad Ms. King gave Holmes an extremely brilliant partner in Mary Russell, but I feel I must pay homage to the women who had to do with Sisters in Crime. Regards, Kim.


message 24: by Irma (new)

Irma Rambaran The Number One Female Detective in Botswana IS a Gem!!!!


message 25: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Cheryl wrote: "Love these lists, but I really miss Kate Martinelli. I like Mary Russell well enough, but loved, loved those Martinelli books with their SF settings, great characterizations.
I suppose Ms. King is ..."


I so agree! Whre did she go..and why?


message 26: by Zenda (new)

Zenda I re-discovered (after many years!) the murder mystery genre several months ago when I came across Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series. Anna is a National Park Ranger so the settings are our National Parks and a National Seashore and National Monument. Love Anna's spunk and the wonders of our Parks that Ms. Barr so artfully shares. Next on my list will be Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series. Thank you all!


message 27: by Tria (new)

Tria Funny, I read a lot of female-detective fiction, but nothing on this list.


message 28: by Rachel (new)

Rachel While Miss Marple will continue to be a favorite, newer series like Stephanie Barron's take off on Jane Austen, Margaret Frazier's Dame Frevise (both mentioned above) are excellent. I would also add Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma set in pre-middle ages Ireland.


message 29: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Biesse Two words. Kathy Mallory.


message 30: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Kinna Kathy Mallory is spooky but fascinating. Love Kate Shugak, Anna Pigeon, Lily Bard, and Det. Sgt. Barbara Havers. And don't forget Spencer-Fleming's Episcopal priest, the Rev. Clare Fergusson; Linda Barnes' 6 ft red-haired cab driver, Carlotta Carlyle; and Florida archaeologist Faye Longchamp by Mary Anna Evans. But my new favorite character is Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned crack-shot bodyguard; she is fearless but vulnerable. Written by Zoe Sharp. There are 9 books in the series, and each are consistently gripping, un-put-down-able.
PS Wish Mary Russell interacted a bit more with Holmes, those scenes always special.


message 31: by Maxine Neely (new)

Maxine Neely Davenport What a great list of female detectives. Now I must compare my own TRACY ANDERSON, P.I to more of these gals.Tracy (named after 'guess who?' Yes, a male detective) will be on eBooks and bookshelves soon. Maxine


message 32: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Charles Todd's Bess Crawford is so good I'm having to go back and read all the Ian Rutledge books. She's a lot like Winspear, but I like her better. I'm glad someone mentioned Spencer-Fleming. She doesn't write them fast enough. I also enjoy it when Holmes shows up in Russell's stories.


message 33: by Gayle (new)

Gayle I'd definitely recommend Jacqueline Winspear's Masie Dobbs. I especially like historical mysteries and enjoyed meeting Martha Beale in Cordelia Frances Biddle's "The Conjurer" -- looking forward to reading more.


message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim I'm with Christine: "Any books by Dorothy L Sayers in which Harriet Vane is present are a delight... PD James' too-short Cordelia Gray series are two that I've thoroughly enjoyed and while Barbara Havers is not the main character, she features enough in Elizabeth George's Inspector Linley series to qualify". Yup, and also Miss Marple and....how about Nancy Drew?


message 35: by Beth (new)

Beth McDonough Novelwhore wrote: "I'm with Merry - Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is my #1 female detective!

I also really like Eve Dallas of JD RObb's IN DEATH books0 I think she and her husband are a great team (she's the detect..."


I agree I love EVE! She's got a sharp tongue and is so interesting and witty.


message 36: by Patrick (last edited Sep 17, 2011 07:10PM) (new)

Patrick Nolan Lisbeth Salandler!!! Larsson said he took his character idea from Carol O'Connell's dectective Kathleen Mallory. I've just started reading her series and like the first one a lot: Mallory's Oracle. Also, Martha Grimes' twelve year old sleuth in the Hotel Paradise trilogy.


message 37: by John (new)

John I love the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow. Another female detective I have come across recently, who hasn't been mentioned yet, is Carol Higgins Clark's Regan Reilly. I think there are about 15 novels in that series now, although I have only read the first 5 so far. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend them.


message 38: by Kathy (new)

Kathy I really like Deborah Crombie's work.


message 39: by Elaine (new)

Elaine And don't forget the forensic queens...Kay Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwall) and Temperance Brennan (Kathy Reichs). Love Kate Shugak (Dana Stabenau) and Harriet Vane (Dorothy Sayers). Readers gave me some new ones to try...


message 40: by Karen (new)

Karen I have not read any of this author's works. I did enter to win this book. It sounds so good. As do her other series. i also love all her recommends and the suggestions on here. got to get busy and READ.


message 41: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Albert Can't forget Laura Lippman, who writes about Baltimore with her detective, Tess Monaghan!


message 42: by Karen (new)

Karen Babyruth, are you talking to the author here or whom of the posters? (love those candy bars also. My waist shows it.)


message 43: by Joe (new)

Joe What about Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce? I know Alan's a bloke and I tend to prefer female writers, like Lindsey Davies with her Falco


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Totally agree with the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. A total classic!


message 45: by Jacky (new)

Jacky Have just seen the post that said "thought McCone was done" - no, still going strong, still developing as a person, still excellent.
However, you prove my point - that Marcia Muller's publicity is poor - she's not veven available on Kindle!


message 46: by Lin (new)

Lin Kathryn wrote: "What about Mrs. Pollifax? I reread the early ones about 20 times a year."

Yes! Mrs. Pollifax is and has been one of my favorites for ages. Have you tried Dorothy Gilman's other books? They all have interesting and unusual lead characters. Clairvoyant Countess, A Nun in the Closet, and The Tightrope Walker are all excellent.


message 47: by Phili (new)

Phili ok the thread is almost closed, but there are some lacking:
Linda Barnes Carlotta Carlyle
Liza Marklunds Annika Bengtzon
Anne Holts 2 main characters Inger Johanne Vik and the incredible Hanne Wilhelmsen - currently my favorite together with Russell
Karen Kijewskis Cat Colorado


message 48: by Vicki (new)

Vicki Mckenna I see most of my favorites here. But maybe I missed seeing Peter Tremayne's Fidelma of Cashel. She is in my top three easily alongside Mary Russell and Amelia Peabody.


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