Favourite female detectives

Female detective with magnifying glassSo it’s no secret I love a good detective story.  I read them a lot.  And favourite amongst them are probably ones with strong female leads.  I can’t resist a feisty woman with plenty to say who isn’t afraid to say it or stand by her words.

Not that I would want the histories a lot of these women have but I do admire their guts and, occasionally, wouldn’t mind being them.  Then I remember I am a big old scaredy cat who doesn’t like guns, violence, blood or guts unless it’s on the page.

Anyways, in honor of the fictional females that are a lot braver than me, I thought I would share a few of my favourites today…

First up is Tracy Crosswhite, a Seattle detective who became a policewoman to try and solve the mystery of her missing sister and who stayed on because she loves what she does and wants to make sure other people don’t feel the pain she did when her sister disappeared.  The way she behaves seems perfectly natural to me. She wants to be strong, feels she has to be, but then she lets people in and so you get to see her vulnerable side.  I feel like I am on a journey with her and that, if I met her, I would want to be best friends.

I’m not sure I would want to be friends with Helen Grace.  She’s a complicated character and not a particularly nice one.  Knowing her background, it’s not surprising but I do wish she wouldn’t push people away so quickly.  As the series has progressed, she has started to let people in a little but not much.  Saying that, and despite all her baggage, she is loyal to her team and dogged in finding killers so I can’t helping liking her a little but admiring her a lot.

Nikki Galena is another detective who is loyal to her team in the Joy Ellis series set in the Lincolnshire Fens.  And she is another detective with a painful background (her daughter died in an early book) that seems to spur her on when cases get difficult.  This series has become much more about all the characters as the books have progressed, which I have really enjoyed.  One of the things I like about her is that she is very rooted in the area.  She grew up there, knows the people there, and – unlike a lot of other detectives – has friends who she hangs out with and family that she gets on with.  It makes her just that bit more real.

I’m not sure how real Erika Foster is but I like her anyway.  Her determination to get to the truth, her ability to rub up the powers that be the wrong way, and her frankness with those around her all make her someone I shouldn’t like but do because at her core she is a good person who wants to do the right thing.  It helps that Robert Bryndza has given her intriguing cases to solve and puts her in some hairy situations that her inner strength can’t help but shine through.

And then, finally, a list of female detectives wouldn’t be a list without Kinsey Millhone.  I know technically she is a private investigator but that just feels like splitting hairs.  Reading the first Sue Grafton books back in the mid-80’s and right through to today, I always thought Kinsey was so cool and one of the original “characters with a dysfunctional past”.  I wanted to be her, living above a garage, jogging along the beach on a morning and drinking chardonnay on an evening.  Apart from the jogging, it still sounds pretty cool!


What about you – do you have any favourite characters?

Emma x

This post is part of the 2017 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, linking in with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon at It Start’s at Midnight.



  1. I think Kinsey Millhone is my favorite…and I also like Manon Bradshaw in the Susie Steiner books.

    I have M. J. Arlidge’s Eeny Meeny, but haven’t yet read it, so Helen Grace is still an elusive mystery to me.

    I am sure there are others I enjoy…whose names I can’t recall at the moment! Oh, wait! Tess Monaghan, in her series by Laura Lippman. ( I had to cheat and Google Lippman’s series!).

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Two new female detectives I’m really liking this year are the Robyn Carter series by Carol Wyer and the Lottie Parker series by Patricia Gibney.

    I also quite enjoy Vera on tv so I recently picked up some of Ann Cleeves’ books, hoping I’ll enjoy as much in print!


  3. Thanks for this piece, enjoyable as always – and thanks for all the subsequent names. So many reminders of characters much enjoyed.
    I’d like to add some of my old favourites. Forth Texas detective of 15 years, Deb Ralston, appeared like a fresh new dawn at the time every other detective was a hard-bitten male. She’s happily married with several kids and pregnant in one of the books; all groundbreaking back in 1980s. Around the same time I also found New York PD Lieutenant Sigrid Harald by Margaret Maron. A more recent US discovery is Brigit Quinn by Becky Masterman. When Masterman submitted the first Brigit Quinn book to an agent she was told that nobody wants to read about a female OAP FBI agent … how wrong that agent was.
    Back in present day UK, there’s Paula Daly’s endearing DS Joanne Aspinal who finally plucked the courage to have her breasts reduced. And lastly, am I allowed to mention a female partner of a detective duo? At the top of my list of all detective partnerships (way above Delziel and Pascoe) sit DI Judy Hill and CDI Lloyd.


    • I will have to check these out as I only know the Paula Daly books and female detectives are just tome thing I love. Thanks for the recommendations.


  4. I enjoy Ruth Galloway (Elly Griffiths), DD Warren (Lisa Gardner), Jane Rizzoli (Tess Gerritsen), Brigid Quinn (Becky Masterman), Maggie O’Dell (Alex Kava), Taylor Jackson (JT Ellison), Paula McGuire (Claire McGowan), Rev. Clare Fergusson (Julia Spencer-Fleming) for starters… the brain is not cooperating right about now, so I can’t come up with anymore but I do love my female detectives, DI’s etc. 🙂
    Thanks for a fun topic!


  5. I’ve only heard of Helen Grace and Kinsey Millhone!

    I’d have to include Miss Marple on my list. Oh and I think there are others but I can’t think. Eve Dallas from JD Robb’s series. I like an Australian TV series (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) but haven’t read any of the books! \\

    Of course I’m now going to wake during the night thinking of people I should have added to this list!


  6. Other than Kinsey Milhone these are all new to me except for through your reviews. I have the first in the Alridge series and have been really looking forward to starting it but I need to get the others. I love Miss Marple and Miss Silver (Patricia Wentworth) but I’m not sure I have any real favorite detectives male or female. Hmmm… I need to think about this.


    • I feel like I should have added miss marple on here but I do know her mainly through TV so that probably doesn’t count. I hope you enjoy the MJ Arlidge when you get to it – good series!


  7. […] The observant amongst you will have noticed I haven’t been posting on the blog this last week.  Cold Blood was one of the reasons.  I needed to read it, and didn’t want anything getting in the way of my reuniting with Erika Foster, a favourite detective from a favourite series. […]


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