Women come in all shapes and sizes.
You find them in all walks of life and in a vast array of professions.
It should come as no surprise that “Women of Mystery” are
no different. Although Anna Katharine Green wrote The Leavenworth Case,
the first American mystery novel penned by a woman, in 1878, it was
decades before mysteries by female authors became if not common, at
least more readily accepted. It has been nearly 100 years since Agatha
Christie’s first book was published, and my how times have changed!
Just as women have varied careers, so do the lead characters in today’s
mystery novels. If you enjoy legal thrillers like those of John Grisham,
you might give former New York prosecutor Linda Fairstein a try…her
Alex Cooper series features an Assistant District Attorney. Lisa Scottoline,
too, has a background in law, and this is reflected in her Rosato &
On the other hand, if you’re the outdoorsy type and enjoy CJ Box’s
Joe Pickett books, you could try Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series.
Ms. Barr was herself a Park Ranger before turning to writing full time,
and her books are set in National Parks. Dana Stabenow, too, entwines
both her background and the great outdoors with her writing. Stabenow
was born and raised in Alaska, and her Kate Shugak books have that state
as a setting.
There are, of course, many mysteries about women in law enforcement…Alex
Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series and Lisa Gardner’s D.D.
Warren series are just two that come to mind. There is no shortage of
books with female investigators, either – Sue Grafton’s
Kinsey Millhone series debuted in 1982 with A is for Alibi,
and Y is for Yesterday will be released in August.
Of course, not all investigators are professionals…at least not
in the world of fiction. You might be surprised by the number of murders
a caterer (Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear) or a dog trainer
(Susan Conant’s Holly Winter) stumble upon, and they aren’t
the only ones. Genealogists (Charlotte Hinger’s Lottie Albright),
librarians (Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden), and scrapbook
enthusiasts (Lauren Child’s Carmela Bertrand) have this problem,
My favorites, I think, are those with characters that might be considered
a little unusual. Carol O’Connell’s Mallory is one such
lead character, and I’ve been following her exploits for more
than 20 years. Grace McBride, a central figure in the Monkeewrench series
by mother/daughter writing team P.J. Tracy, is another, more recent
find, but equally enthralling.
Whether you prefer light reading – a mystery that can make you
laugh as well as think – or more serious stuff, the perfect book
is just waiting for you. If you need help finding it, ask a librarian!
Jackie Zataweski is the director of the Nottoway County Library
in Crewe, Virginia.