50 Mystery Novels by Women Crime Writers, Read in a Year

  • Post by Molly Odintz

The list below is the tip of the cold, murderous iceberg when it comes to works by women crime novelists, but like any other list, it’s a good place to start.

With my yearly New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I will never revisit, I usually come up some kind of reading project, based around genres, authors, or settings I’ve neglected. 2015’s goal? Best not mentioned, as I miserably failed in my efforts to complete it. 2016’s reading goal? Read fifty books by women, and if possible, fifty works of crime fiction by women; not just new releases, but also classic noir and domestic suspense. With the release of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, we’ve entered a new era of publisher and reader support for crime fiction classics by women.

Many of the books below are part of the zeitgeist – you’ll see a lot of girls in the title. I’ve also tried to focus on reading some of their antecedents, and you’ll see works on the list from Dorothy Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, and other classic women crime writers of mid-century America, plus a couple of golden age works from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. You won’t find many representatives of the tough second-wave protagonists of the 80s and 90s, or many works in translation – both areas, I’m sorry to admit, I neglected in the past year.

You will find quite a few books set in Texas, and some that have yet to be released; both quirks of a bookseller’s reading habits, as we tend to dive deep into the literature of our areas, and often receive early copies of upcoming releases.

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If you like Daphne Du Maurier…

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

daphne-du-maurierDaphne du Maurier was best known for her perennially best-selling gothic romance Rebecca, adapted to the screen by Alfred Hitchcock, who also based his film “The Birds” on a short story of Du Maurier’s. Like Patricia Highsmith, many of us today come to du Maurier’s work through film, astonished to discover how fresh and compelling her stories are today. She might not have assigned her fiction to the mystery category, but her gothic settings and destructive relationships fit right in with our current obsession with domestic suspense. The works below are united by their gothic sensibilities, disturbing romances, and dramatic settings. While each has a sense of the mysterious, the novels below acknowledge that what truly haunts us is within us.

9781616205621Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

For those who like their crime fiction cinematic, try Security by Gina Wohlsdorf. Told from the perspectives of a hotel’s security cameras the night before opening as the staff are hunted down by nihilistic killers, Security is perfect for those who who like their settings creepy and luxurious. Named Manderlay, the luxury resort that becomes a killing field in Security deliberately evokes the haunted mansion of Rebecca, and as in  Rebecca, the estate is as much of a character in the novel as any person. You can find copies of Security on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9781681990286Collected Millar: Legendary Novels of Suspense: The Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar

Margaret Millar’s The Stranger in My Grave, included in Collected Millar: Legendary Novels of Suspense, the second volume of Syndicate Books’ release of Margaret Millar’s collected worksis the perfect California twist on Southern Gothic. Daisy Harker dreams again and again of her own grave, the date marked four years earlier. When she meets a private detective while bailing her father out of jail, she hires him to reconstruct the date on the tombstone – December 2nd, 1955 – in her life and the lives of those around her, leading to shocking revelations of hypocrisy from Daisy’s closest companions. You can find copies of Collected Millar: Legendary Novels of Suspense on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9781101984994The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis, has a gothic setting worthy of any Du Maurier tale. Set in New York City’s famed Barbizon Hotel (in its heyday a residence for glamorous models and secretaries) the novel begins with a journalist’s decision to research the history of her creepy abode, and discover the story behind her neighbor’s unexplained scar and shut-in lifestyle. Flashback sequences to the 1950s describe the professional and sensual awakening of a young secretary just arrived in the big city, caught in a love triangle with a jazz singing maid at the Barbizon and an army vet chef at the local jazz club. Perfect for those who like their romances realistic and their mansions mysterious… You can find copies of The Dollhouse on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

31 Crime Novels by Women: A New Year’s Resolution Progress Report in Honor of Women’s Equality Day

  • Post by Molly Odintz

The list below is the tip of the cold, murderous iceberg when it comes to works by women crime novelists, but like any other list, it’s a good place to start.

Minotaur Books Created This Stunning Image to Celebrate Women's Equality Day
Minotaur Books created this stunning image in celebration of Women’s Equality Day (this year, Friday, August 26th).

With my yearly New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I will never revisit, I usually come up some kind of reading project, based around genres, authors, or settings I’ve neglected. 2015’s goal? Best not mentioned, as I miserably failed in my efforts to complete it. 2016’s reading goal? Read fifty books by women, and if possible, fifty works of crime fiction by women; not just new releases, but also classic noir and domestic suspense. With the release of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, we’ve entered a new era of publisher and reader support for crime fiction classics by women.

This year, to my surprise, I’m a bit further on the path to completing my reading goal, so time to brag and share it with you all, despite my failure to complete it as of yet. Hey, I’ve got four more months left, so why not put the cart before the horse and smugly tell you all about my accomplishments? After all, I’m 31 books in, 31 crime novels by women that I can now confidently recommend in the store and on the internet, because I have read and enjoyed them. Before I (prematurely) rest on my laurels, I’d like to trace the origins of this mighty goal.

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