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.
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.
Gina Wohlsdorf’s debut thriller, Security, is a perfect mixture of romance, action, and surveillance, told from the multiple perspectives of a hotel’s security cameras just before its grand opening. The hotel, named Manderley Luxury Resort, is the modern-day mixture of many of fiction’s creepiest mansions and resorts. Security follows two men, the Killer and the Thinker, as they carve their way through the hotel’s staff. Are they psychotic serial killers? Are they trained mercenaries? Is it personal? All these questions may not even matter to the reader once they become fully immersed in the queasy voyeurism of narration-by-camera and watch the novel’s two heroes, hotel manager Tessa and her foster brother Brian, rekindle their childhood romance as they fight for their lives. The novel concludes with a stunning chase sequence and a host of shocking reveals, and the end is strangely emotionally affecting.
This one is part fairy tale, part abduction narrative. When a young girl in a red coat goes missing from a fairground, her mother suspects the worst, worried her fey-like child might never return. Hammer continues the tale from the dual perspectives of mother and daughter as they face their own challenges in their quest to reunite. Unexpected and haunting, with gorgeous prose and fascinating characters!
I’ve followed Cara Black and her oh-so-stylish detective, Aimée Leduc, throughout Black’s Paris-set series, as the Leduc Detective Agency solves many a case and Aimée’s wardrobe acquires many a Chanel suit. Her new addition, Murder on the Quai, should delight long-term fans and newcomers to the series alike! Cara Black will be at BookPeople this Thursday, June 23rd, at 7 PM, to speak and sign her latest. She’ll be joined by Texas author Lisa Sandlin for a panel discussion on private eyes from Paris to Beaumont.
Murder on the Quai takes the reader back to Aimée’s med-school days in 1989, before her decision to join her father’s detective agency as a partner. A woman claiming to be a distant relative of Aimée’s mother comes to the Leduc Detective Agency seeking information about a string of killings. Aimée’s father refuses to investigate, instead undertaking a mysterious mission to Berlin. In her father’s absence, Aimée accepts the case, hoping to discover more information about her mother, and to distract herself from an increasingly frustrating med-school experience. Aimée’s 1989 case slowly dovetails with a series of flashbacks to rural France during WWII, in which several farmers attempt to combine resistance to fascism with a quest for personal gain, triggering terrible consequences.
Cara Black has done her fans a service with an excellent prequel that answers many of her series’ biggest questions, including, finally, the reason for Aimée’s mother’s disappearance. The 1989 setting is used to great effect – Black portrays a moment in French history stunned by the end of the Cold War and torn between past crimes, and historical legacies and future dreams. As always, Black excels at mixing Parisian fashion with PI gadgets – even in her youth, Aimée Leduc is a tough and stylish heroine ready to sick her bichon frise on anyone who crosses her.