Starter’s Dozen of Woman P.I.s
A Starter’s Dozen
Start your journey through the world of woman private eye novels with one of the 12 authors listed here. They offer a range of styles and settings — foreign and domestic; contemporary and historical. Some of these authors are long-established masters of the field while others are relative newcomers, or not as well known.
Reading tastes vary. Some of these authors I enjoy more than others, but all provide good P.I. yarns worth sampling. In the highly unlikely event you don’t find any surprises on this list, stop back to check future ones.
Herewith the authors and their P.I.s
Sara Paretsky – V.I. Warshawski grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood and over the course of the series, as she moves from youth to late middle age, she remains one of the toughest, smartest P.I.s around.
Marcia Muller – Sharon McCone at first works as an investigator for All Souls Legal Cooperative in San Francisco, and continues to keep her office there after branching out on her own.
Sue Grafton – Kinsey Millhone holds her own against bad guys in a picturesque fictional town on the California coast. She’s streetwise and snarky.
Linda Barnes – Carlotta Carlyle knows the streets of Boston from her work as a P.I. and from occasional moonlighting as a cab driver. A girl she shepherds via the Big Sister program provides texture throughout the series.
Alexander McCall Smith – Mme. Precious Ramotswe runs her small detective agency out of a small office in Gaborone, Boatswana. She’s a gentler sort of P.I., but smart and resilient, with a faithful secretary and an ancient van in constant need of repairs. Read these when you want to be reminded there is goodness in the world.
Cara Black – Aimee Leduc solves her cases in the dark and gritty streets of Paris and shows us a city far different from that seen by tourists. She’s not afraid to use a gun or take a beating. If your taste runs toward noir, you’ll especially like these.
Robert B. Parker – Sunny Randall makes her way through the same Boston landscape featured in the author’s better known Spencer series, and with the same rat-a-tat style. Her emotional life is complicated by ties she can’t quite sever with her ex.
Rhys Bowen – Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant, isn’t a private eye when she first makes her way to the harsh streets of early 1900s New York, but she hangs out her shingle as the series gets going. Nice historical feel and view of immigrant life.
Dana Stabenow – Kate Shugak, an Aleut, solves cases on her native turf. Sometimes it’s a 20- million-acre wilderness area known as The Park. Other times it’s Anchorage where she previously did investigations for the Prosecutor’s office.
P.D. James – Cordelia Gray is a serious and determined young P.I. based in London who, alas, stars in only two books. As you might guess by the author, these are the most literary of the lot, and richly satisfying.
Dani Amore – Mary Cooper is an L.A. who was reared by an aunt and an uncle who was a stand-up comic, giving her a tendency to see dark humor and fire off one-liners. Some readers like it. Others don’t. I preferred the first novel to the second.
M. Ruth Myers – Maggie Sullivan hoofs it through the alleys of Depression-era Dayton, OH, using brains and moxie to hold her own in what’s still a man’s world. She keeps a Smith & Wesson under her chair, the only recipe she knows is gin and tonic, and she digs information out of sources men overlook.