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Top 10 female investigators

From Agatha Christie in the 1930s to Rizzoli & Isles and Sara Linton in the Naughties, these women never take no for an answer, pursue their investigations with scarcely a thought to their personal health or safety, and have day jobs that would make most men shudder.

These female heroines are all the creations of women who have been instrumental in making crime-writing, hitherto a largely male preserve, into a genre where, in the UK at least, the majority of readers are now women. An extraordinary achievement by a group of extraordinary writers.

I have, as you will see, placed them in the order of their books’ first publication in the UK.

Does this display them to their best advantage? Have we chosen the right books? And who have we left out?

Let the debate commence!


1930: Miss Marple in Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced
The first in the Miss Marple series by the Queen of Crime. Introducing the woman who would go on to become perhaps the best loved sleuth of all time, on page and on the small screen.


1984: Kinsey Millhone in Sue Grafton’s A is for Alibi
Introducing Kinsey Millhone, a wise-cracking private detective asked by a woman who’s already served a gaol sentence for killing her husband to track-down his real killer. The first of Sue Grafton’s hugely popular and still ongoing ‘alphabet’ series, with V is for Vengeance published in paperback in October, 2012.


1992: Kate Brannigan in Val McDermid’s Dead Beat
Kate Brannigan is a private detective living in 1990s Manchester. The first novel in a five-book series in which Brannigan single-handedly takes on criminals and drug barons as her search for a missing woman starts to look a lot like murder.


1994: Kay Scarpetta in Patricia Cornwell’s The Body Farm
Chief Medical Examiner Dr Kay Scarpetta applies her forensic skills to the body of a young girl, a process that involves a visit to the Body Farm, a research institute that tests the decomposition of corpses. Book five in the Kay Scarpetta series; shocking in its visceral intensity.


1995: Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money
Meet Stephanie Plum, failed lingerie buyer and newly turned bond-agent. Winner of the CWA John Creasey Award for best first crime novel, this particularly American brand of crime-writing combines suspense, romance and a ditzy heroine who always gets her man.


1997: Temperance Brennan in Kathy Reichs’s Deja Dead
The debut novel in Reich’s bestselling series. Here Tempe is on the trail of a serial killer who is targeting young women. Like her heroine, Reichs is herself a forensic anthropologist and the series is remarkable for her trademark authenticity and her eye for chilling detail.


2001: Sara Linton in Karin Slaughter’s Blindsighted
Slaughter erupted on to the crime-scene with this, her first novel in the Grant County Series. It introduces paediatrician and medical examiner Sara Linton who finds in her local diner a woman who has been viciously raped, then killed with two knife wounds to the stomach in the shape of a cross. No one does small town evil quite so convincingly.


2003: VI Warshawski in Sara Paretsky’s Blacklist
Paretsky’s eleventh novel, and winner of the CWA’s Gold Dagger for best crime novel. Chicago-based sleuth VI Warshawski’s investigation into the identity of a dead man takes her back to the blacklists of the McCarthy era as well as into the murky operations of the modern American government.


2004: Rizzoli & Isles in Tess Gerritsen’s Body Double
Two sleuths for the price of one. Pathologist Dr Maura Isles gets a shock when the corpse on her autopsy table looks just like her. Who can it be? Close friend and detective Jane Rizzoli is called in to investigate. Book four in the Rizzoli & Isles series, and one of Gerritsen’s most addictive.


2008: Flea Marley in Mo Hayder’s Ritual
Best known for her Jack Caffery series, Hayder’s more recent novels also feature police diver, Flea Marley. Here, Flea’s search for the owner of an amputated hand takes her into the dark heart of Bristol’s underworld. Hayder is unique in her ability to chill the blood.


By Selina Walker, with thanks to Ayo Onatade, crime-blogger and reviewerhttp://wwwshotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk/

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