I have already done The Top Ten Women Crime Writers, so I figured for my first Top Five of 2017 I should discuss the best women detectives out there. Whilst men wrote some, women created most of these characters, all of whom are daring, intelligent and break at least one stereotype, if not several. Representation is crucial and offering women detectives allows women and girls to see that we can join in the action too! So have a look through my pick of the five fictional best women detectives and see what you think.
- Precious Ramotswe: Big, brash and brainy, this Botswana based detective makes a refreshing change thanks to her independent nature and focus on the people rather than the crimes themselves. Ramotswe’s intuition is not the sole focus, which also makes a great change, as this is usually a sly way for writers to build upon the misconception that women are less action orientated and more emotional than their male counterparts. Often Ramotswe’s cases are solved through sheer hard work as she doggedly tails suspects, stakes out possible hideaways and raids private property in a bid to solve anything from murder to theft.
- Rebecka Martinsson: Unlike the others Åsa Larsson’s protagonist is not a detective by profession: a Stockholm based Attorney, she repeatedly finds herself drawn back to her home town, Kiruna which, much like Ystad in Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels, acts as an additional character. Scandinavian Crime Fiction at its finest, Larsson’s Martinsson series are tense, ruthless and utterly gripping. Exhibiting many of the traditional tropes of a tough, world weary and emotionally scarred detective Martinsson shows that even in a sub-genre defined by the viciousness of its plotting and the dismal nature of its narrative women can still flourish as central characters.
- Miss Marple: Christie’s genteel, elderly detective is witty and sharp, offering readers great dialogue even if some of the plots are a little predictable. Her shrewd, quick thinking detective style has been emulated, with varying degrees of success, throughout the genre making Marple a truly exemplary woman detective. As the go-to character when you think of women detectives she simply had to be on this list, and there is not an author in Crime Fiction writing a woman detective who does not, in some way or another, draw on this twee old dear and her devilish detective skills in some way.
- Nancy Drew: One of the most prolific detectives in any series, Nancy was an inspiration to many young girls who grew up realising that they could do anything they wanted, including solving crimes. As stated previously, representation is vital to ensuring that young people understand that they are not limited because they are not the same as others, and Nancy was a highly relatable character with many great traits that made her both likeable and an ideal role model.
- Miss Phryne Fisher: As my previous POST may have indicated I am a newfound fan of Kerry Greenwood’s feisty flapper detective. The TV series is visually stunning and exciting, and the books offer a truly innovative take on traditional Golden Age crime fiction. With references to Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie (many of the character names are similar and many tropes these writers popularised are copied), Greenwood’s books are great twists on the traditional genre, incorporating sex, swindling and some truly before their time women. Another female detective who is shown not to be merely overemotional, Miss Fisher is never far from her trusty revolver and can always be relied upon to keep her head in a crisis. A great place to start is the first book, Cocaine Blues, although my recently discovered favourite, Urn Burial is also a great read and there is a sex scene in there that will blow all others out of the water.
5 thoughts on “The Top Five Fictional Women Detectives”
Interesting selection you have there and well done for narrowing it down to 5! Not read the Fisher mysteries but seen some of the adaptations. She’s definitely a cool character. I think my own favourite female sleuths are mostly pre 1960s: Miss Marple (snap!), Tuppence Beresford, Harriet Vane, Lady Lupin, Lily Wu and Jane Dagobert. Technically got a favourite female sleuth from a modern author, Akunin’s Sister Pelagia, though her trilogy is set in 19th century Russia. Probably tonnes I have forgotten but those were the ones from off the top of my head.
Hey, Thanks for your comments! I couldn’t get into the Tommy and Tuppence novels myself, and Harriet I considered, but I always felt she was overshadowed by Peter. You should defiantly get into Miss Fisher, they’re on Amazon if you can’t find them in UK, and the tv series is on Netflix- watch it if only for the fabulous costumes and the hot former cyclist they have as a male lead 😛
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I personally don’t know about #4. My favorites besides Phryne Fisher are Amelia Peabody and Mary Russell and Maisie Dobbs.