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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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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7% Solution Book Club to Discuss: MURDER MUST ADVERTISE by Dorothy Sayers

9780062341655

  • Review by Molly O.

On Monday, March 7th, the 7% Solution Book Club meets to discuss one of Dorothy Sayer’s many mysteries to feature Lord Peter Wimsey, Murder Must Advertise. April’s book is Murder on the Ballerat Trainby Kerry Greenwood. As always, book club selections are 10% off at the registers in the month of their selection. 

Advertising has taken on a glamorous sheen since Mad Men brilliantly depicted the industry at its hedonistic zenith, but advertising agencies themselves have been around for quite a bit longer. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayer’s masterful send-off of an industry she herself worked in for some time, takes place in an advertising agency in the early 30s, infiltrated by an undercover Lord Peter Wimsey on a quest to find out if a deceased copywriter’s fatal plunge down the agency’s curved iron staircase was caused by foul play.

Sayers’ copywriters are not glamorous, but gossipy; they write copy as pedantic hacks, not as avant-garde figures of capitalist design; they advertise sardines, corsets, and other mundane products. They feel the hypocrisy of their requests to the public to spend dwindling cash as the Great Depression settles around them. Many of the characters working at the agency come from aristocratic backgrounds, forced into finding gentlemanly work by the sudden loss of their assets.

Dorothy Sayers, like many authors of her time, mars her well-designed plot and clever repartee with the occasional bigoted remark. At best, these moments are distracting, and at worst, hurtful and offensive. Sayers takes a critical eye to each of her characters, however, no matter their background, and for the most part, any judgments come from characters’ mouths, rather than from an omniscient narrator, freeing the reader from any nauseating assumptions that they agree with characters’ judgement. As a reader, there is little need, or even encouragement, to emphasize with the characters in Murder Must Advertise – quite the opposite. The reader may instead feel an urge to laugh uproariously as the petty characters filling the novel’s ad agency sabotage themselves with pettiness and gossip.

The Seven Percent Solution Book Club meets Monday, March 7th, at 7 PM up on BookPeople’s 3rd floor to discuss this golden era classic. You can find copies of Murder Must Advertise on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.