It's all about Women Sleuths, Detectives, & P.I.s

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I belong to the Crime Writers group on Linked-In, and in response to a discussion that asked for some recommended books about Women P.I.s, the well-read and well-written group members offered up an amazing list of authors, series and stand-alone novels. I decided it was a worthy list to include here. I'll be adding new ones as I find them. I haven't read all these, but I trust the opinions of those who shared them. Anyone who wants to share a book review, I'll be happy to post it.  ~Sandy Penny, Founder, Sweet Mystery Books.

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Fit to be Dead by Nancy G. West

Fearless, Fabulous, Funny & Fit: Aggie Mundeen is a neurotic thirty-something author of Dear Aggie's column on staying young and fit. She reluctantly joins a fitness studio as research and because she needs the exercise. It starts off badly on the first day when she finds a young woman floating in the pool and has to pull her out. Men seem to be all over her though, so she can't be in that bad shape. When the girl she saved from drowning is run over by a car outside the fitness studio, Aggie is fit to be tied. She vows to track down the killer and make sure the girl is avenged. The two share a secret that made life difficult for both of them. I love how those who write into Aggie's column are asking questions that match what's going on in Aggie's life. Aggie's investigator boyfriend can't keep Aggie safe, and it's making him crazy. When Aggie is pushed down the stairs and ends up in the hospital acting really strangely, her cop boyfriend puts his foot down. Do you think that stops her? Great sense of humor, a maze of clues/suspects and a satisfying ending. What else do you need? I'll definitely be reading more Nancy G. West novels. No cliff hanger, standalone novel.  ~Review by Sandy Penny, sweetmysterybooks. Five Stars *****

Formula for Murder (Funny Maternal Instincts Mystery Book 3) by Diana Orgain 

Motherhood, Murder and Making Lists ... From Amazon: While taking baby Laurie to her very first Photo Shoot, sleuth and first-time mom Kate Connolly and her baby are the victims of a hit-and-run. Fortunately they escape unharmed, but when a witness identifies the car's French diplomatic license plates, Kate and her hubby try to get some answers. Soon they discover there's something going on at the French consulate that's dirtier-and far deadlier-than any diaper. It's up to Kate to keep Family Life on track while solving another puzzling whodunit! 

Review by Sandy Penny, SweetMysteryBooks:  I never quite resolved the title with the story. Maybe Diaper Diplomacy, but I liked the read. I enjoyed the lists Laurie made and never quite crossed off everything. She has more courage than brains sometimes and unwittingly pushes the killer toward violence against her. I have not read the other books in the series. I got this one during a free promotion. I would definitely read more when I don't want anything too heavy. It's a lark. I'd call her the Meddling Mother.****Four Stars

Death on Delivery by Anne K. Edwards 

Never have so many un-redeeming and unlikable characters been guilty of murdering so many unlikable people in such a creative way. What if you could just order a hit by mail order that would be almost totally untraceable. The ultimate answer to getting rid of your problem once and for all. This is what I hope is the first in the Hannah Clare series. Hannah's detective husband is dead now, and she can't imagine just sitting around with her family doing nothing. So she goes to her husband's former detective agency and says she wants to take on an investigation. It just so happens that a friend of a friend has asked that they investigate the death (seemingly of natural causes) of her sister, a wealthy and high profile woman in the community. The deceased's sister believes the husband, Ted Yewbanks, a sinister mean-spirited greedy man, is guilty of the murder. Hannah agrees to go undercover as a maid for Ted Yewbanks in order to snoop around and see if she can find any incriminating evidence. Meanwhile, the sister is run down by a speeding car. Does the spying spinster neighbor who is infatuated with Ted Yewbanks know anything, and would she tell if she did? So many people may have seen something, but evidence is hard to come by. However, Hannah is relentless in pursuing every little clue that comes her way and starts to accumulate a box full of incriminating tidbits. Will she be found out and fall prey to her hostile employer? Will she end up like Jania Yewbanks, dead under mysterious circumstances? And can she trust anyone who has ties to this investigation? And who is running the mail order hit business? It's a deadly slippery slope, and Hannah is not wearing her track shoes. A thoroughly enjoyable story with a plausible plot and plenty of action and danger. A real whodunit with more guilty parties than innocent ones. Worth a read. Four stars for some slow moving scenes. ~Sandy Penny, SweetMysteryBooks.

The Hummingbird Wizard (Book 1) by Meredith Blevins

Crazy Clan Killer: I don't know where to put this novel in my categories, so since the hero is a woman, I'm putting it here. This is one crazy dysfunctional gypsy family murder mystery. Crazy characters believing crazy things, doing crazy things and having crazy things happen to them. It's full of magic, murder and money. Nothing is what it seems, no one is who they appear to be, and everyone may be a little bit guilty and a lot crazy. But who murdered Jerry, the family attorney, and why? Madame Mina, the Szabo clan matriarch and psychic knows all and controls all, so why doesn't she know who did the dastardly deed, or does she? 

Annie was married to Jerry, but they were a little bit estranged when he was killed, so naturally she's a suspect. She already has one dead husband from this family, and Madame Mina is threatening to put a curse on her. Annie decides she better untangle this ball of twine before she ends up with a cell mate worse than her Szabo in-laws. This book will have you laughing out loud, scratching your head and identifying people in your own crazy family. As we say in Texas, it's a hoot and a holler, and it will keep you up reading it. I have no idea where the author might take this series. ~Review by Sandy Penny, Founder of SweetMysteryBooks.

No Game for a Dame by M. Ruth Myers (Free Kindle Download)
a Maggie Sullivan Mystery

Maggie Sullivan is a hard-boiled retro-style private detective, but she still likes to be treated like a lady.  She's tough and honest and has friends at the police station since her father was a cop. She rents a room in a boarding house, like a nice girl should, but she doesn't mind the rough and tumble drinking establishments when she needs to frequent them for an investigation. She's smart and sexy and doesn't know when to quit. When her mild mannered office supply salesman client winds up on the wrong side of some very bad guys, she has to figure out how he got there and what they want with him or die trying. This is a pulp fiction style novel, and Maggie Sullivan is a female Sam Spade. Plenty of action kept me reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely keep an eye on this author. ~Review by Sandy Penny, Founder of SweetMysteryBooks. 

The Grievance Collectors: A Sip of Death by Karla M. Hull

Sweet Revenge: This novel delves into academic dirty politics and the old boys club at the university level. When the metaphorical backstabbing turns into multiple murders, laid at the doorstep of the acting provost, Dr. O'Leary, can she sort it all out before she becomes one of the victims? Does all this have anything to do with her husband's murder? Is it her fault people are dying? Does it have to do with tenure and prejudice against women? Does it have to do with career and political aspirations? It's a tangled mess, and the professors are dropping like flies. Do the answers lie in the books of grievances kept by many of the professors? O'Leary feels a deep responsibility for every death that occurs around her, and she knows she has to figure out what's going on. With the help of police detective Sam Adams, she's sure they'll soon find the culprits and maybe romance. Sadly, the coroner keeps saying the deaths are natural causes. That all changes when one of the women professors is shot during a "live shooter" drill. It's a complicated story with several suspects and maybe several killers. I loved it. So much going on to keep you reading. couldn't put it down. I will definitely read more by this author.  ~Review by Sandy Penny, SweetMysteryBooks.

Workman's Complication (McCall & Company Book 1) 

But I'm An Actress, not a P.I.

When off-Broadway actress, Kate McCall's P.I. father is brutally murdered, she uses her P.I. license he insisted she get so she could help him with his business when the acting trade fell off, to track down his killer. She uses her acting skills to get into the places she needs to gather information, but her investigation is fraught with mistakes. It's a comedy of errors. But she stumbles through and makes headway in the case. She also follows up on one other of his cases, when she finds out that's what he was working on when he was killed. It becomes a really dangerous investigation, and thank goodness she has Fu, her Asian plumber, former hit man, to help protect her. It's a fun read with lots of laughs, a real cast of crazy characters and a little romance thrown in for good measure. If you're looking for a romp, this will fit the bill. I'm sorry now that I waited so long to read it. Loved it. Get your copy and start laughing now. ~Review by Sandy Penny, Founder of SweetMysteryBooks 

Murder Offstage . A Posie Parker Mystery by L. B. Hathaway

Posie Parker is a struggling Private Eye in the 1920s when a retiring investigator asks her to team up with his son who has a good business tracking and spying on people for attorneys. This leaves Posie free to handle the higher profile cases. On Valentine's Day, there's a murder centering around a fantastic stolen diamond with a dark past, and one of Posie's friends is accused of being involved. Much of the action centers around a theatre where the diamond thief worked. Posie has to hob nob with the rich and famous at a secret private club to follow the leads that keep dropping into her lap. It's a great story, with interesting characters set in a great time period, and a plot sufficient to keep you guessing. The owner of the stolen diamond forces Scotland Yard to work with Posie to find the diamond and clear his son of any involvement in the murder. There's a villain who is sure to show up in future novels as Posie's nemesis. There are several great women characters in this first of a series, and I look forward to seeing them in action again. This novel is well-written, well-edited, a first class cozy worthy of Agatha Christie.  ~Sandy Penny, Founder of Sweet Mystery Books. 

Maeve Kerrigan is usually the youngest member of the Met Murder Squad in London, and the only woman, so she has a tendency to overcompensate. Boasting an intimidating success rate for one so young, she is a valued asset and is building quite a reputation in the department.

Born and brought up in Dublin, Jane Casey has been twice shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award. She is the author of The Missing and two previous Maeve Kerrigan novels The Burning and The Reckoning.  Married to a criminal barrister, Jane lives in south-west London.

Louisiana Hotshot and Louisiana Bigshot: Talba Wallis Novels by Julie Smith

 Louisiana Hotshot . Edgar Award-winner Julie Smith returns to the bewitching streets of New Orleans with the smartest, sassiest, hippest detective ever-the Baroness Pontalba. Meet the snazziest P.I. in the land. Not by accident does she roam America's jazziest city, New Orleans. By day she is Talba Wallis: smart, sassy, ebony, and a fledgling detective. By night she is the Baroness Pontalba: poet laureate of the city's smoky rooms, matron saint of her town's exotic and multi-colorful café society. Goaded into a day gig by her pushy mom, she finds herself employed by Eddie Valentino, and Talba is plunged into a world of fame, money, and power run amok, hunting a man who seduces teenage black girls and may be making them disappear. At the same time she is haunted by disturbing near-memories. Her forgotten past only emerges when violence enters her life-but not, she learns, for the first time. 

Bootlegger's Daughter (Deborah Knott Mysteries, No. 1) by Margaret Maron 

Bootlegger's Daughter is the first novel in Maron's Imperfect series, which won the Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1993, It introduces heroine Deborah Knott, an attorney and the daughter of an infamous North Carolina bootlegger. Known for her knowledge of the region's past and popular with the locals, Deb is asked by 18-year-old Gayle Whitehead to investigate the unsolved murder of her mother Janie, who died when Gayle was an infant. While visiting the owner of the property where Janie's body was found, Deb learns of Janie's more-than-promiscuous past. Piecing together lost clues and buried secrets Deb is introduced to Janie's darker side, but it's not until another murder occurs that she uncovers the truth.

Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak Series (20 books in 20 years) . Kate Shugak is an Aleut who lives on a 160-acre homestead in a generic national Park in Alaska. She is also an ex-investigator for the Anchorage D.A., and they still come calling when something happens in her neighborhood. Kate’s roommate is a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Her nearest neighbors are a bull moose and a grizzly sow. Farther off are dog mushers, miners, hunters, trappers, fishermen, bush pilots, pipeline workers, Park rats and Park rangers, other Aleuts, Athabascans, a few Tlingits and the residents of Niniltna, a village perched on the edge of the Kanuyaq River, a 600-mile long, salmon-rich tributary that winds through the Park to Prince William Sound. 

A Cold Day for Murder . Book 1 of the Kate Shugak Series. It's December in the Park, and a ranger is missing. It’s no great loss to the rest of the Park rats, they figure he’s stumbled into a snowbank and will re-emerge come breakup, just in time for the ground to thaw and them to bury him. But when the man sent to look for him also disappears, Kate Shugak is sent in search of them both 

Any Taint of Vice . In this terrific story from New York Times bestselling author Dana Stabenow, PI Kate Shugak is pulled into the mean streets of the Anchorage underworld to find Alyeska University president Victor Boatright's missing son Carl. For fans who can't wait for the next Kate Shugak novel and new readers alike, this story provides the perfect dose of Stabenow's trademark colorful characters and complex plotting.

Constable Molly Smith Series by Vicki Delaney  

In the Shadow of the Glacier . After the murder of developer Reginald Montgomery, rookie constable Molly "Moonlight" Smith is partnered with Sergeant John Winters because of her knowledge of the people and local politics in her hometown of Trafalgar, British Columbia. Although Molly is delighted with her assignment, former Vancouver cop Winters is less enthusiastic. Montgomery opposed the proposed Commemorative Peace Garden, which was to honor Vietnam War draft dodgers, believing it would be bad for business. In addition, he was in the process of financing the Grizzly Resort, which many local residents opposed on environmental grounds. Curiously, Montgomery's wife seems strangely unaffected by his death. Molly and Winters investigate while surrounded by protesters on both sides of the peace-garden issue. Complicating matters, Molly's former-hippie mother is an outspoken advocate of the pro–peace garden position. An unlikely police officer but a likable lead character, Molly shows her mettle in this initial offering in a promising series set in the Canadian wilderness. Sue O'Brien, Booklist

Sal Kilkenny P.I. Series by Cath Staincliffe

Crying Out Loud is the 8th in the series, and it seems the author is getting better and better. An abandoned infant on her doorstep is the last thing Manchester private eye Sal Kilkenny needs. Sal's client Libby Hill is trying to put her life back together after the brutal killing of her lover and the conviction of petty criminal Damien Beswick, who confessed to the murder. But now Beswick has retracted his confession - exactly what game is he playing? As Sal investigates, things get up close and personal, and there are further bombshells to come, which threaten everything Sal holds dear.

Raised in Bradford, Cath Staincliffe graduated with a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts from Birmingham University. She moved to Manchester where she lives today, which provides a background for her stories. Her debut novel, "Looking For Trouble", was short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association’s John Creasey Award for best first crime novel and her work has also been serialized on Woman’s Hour. 

Fiona Griffiths Mysteriy Series by Harry Bingham 

Talking to the Dead . Book 1 .  A crime you'll always remember. When a prostitute and a young girl are found murdered in a run-down South Wales apartment building, police immediately place the blame on drugs. But when a dead millionaire’s credit card is found at the crime scene, Welsh Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths suspects something even more sinister afoot. Faced with cracking her first big case, the Cambridge-educated rookie cop must take care not to ruffle feathers as she pursues leads. Everyone on the squad knows she suffered a psychological breakdown years before joining the force, and her supervisors err on the side of caution when assigning her tasks. DC Griffiths may be battling demons, but she’s not going to let them win, proving herself more than worthy as she closes in on possible culprits, including a corrupt former cop who’s equal parts trouble and charm. She also finds a romantic diversion with a handsome blond colleague. In his American debut, British novelist Bingham renders a sympathetic heroine and a crackerjack mystery. Happily for readers, he’s already working on the next series installment. --Allison Block, Booklist

Laura Lippman . Tess Monaghan Series

Baltimore Blues is the first of the Tess Monaghan series. In a city where someone is murdered almost every day, attorney Michael Abramowitz’s death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer’s notoriety—and his taste for illicit midday trysts—make the case front-page news in every local paper except the Star, which crashed and burned before Abramowitz did. A former Star reporter who knows every inch of this town—from historic Fort McHenry to the crumbling projects of Cherry Hill—now unemployed journalist Tess Monaghan also knows the guy the cops like for the killing: cuckolded fiancé Darryl “Rock” Paxton. The time is ripe for a career move, so when rowing buddy Rock wants to hire her to do some unorthodox snooping to help clear his name, Tess agrees. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the Charm City shadows. And Tess’ own name could end up on that ever-expanding list of Baltimore dead.

Dog Lovers Series by Susan Conant

A New leash on Death . Book 1 . introduces Holly Winter and Rowdy, the Alaskan malamute who has reliably gone Best of Breed in the hearts of dog-loving mystery readers and mystery-reading dog lovers since this book’s original publication in 1990. Mourning the recent death of her angelic golden retriever, Dog’s Life columnist Holly Winter goes to a class at the Cambridge Dog Training Club only to help out—little suspecting that her help will consist of solving a murder! And little does she expect that in offering temporary shelter to the victim’s bereft Alaskan malamute, she’ll end with a dog she’ll do anything to keep forever—the bold and boisterous Rowdy. Why didn’t the elderly Dr. Frank Stanton return to release Rowdy from a long down? Because Dr. Stanton was on the longest down of all, strangled with Rowdy’s leash! Even though Holly isn’t ready for a new dog, Rowdy is too beguiling to resist. But how can Holly make him her own? Only by discovering who killed Dr. Stanton—and risking her life in the process. 

“Conant infuses her writing with a healthy dose of humor about Holly's Fido-loving friends and other Cambridge cliques; the target of her considerable wit clearly emerges as human nature.” Publishers Weekly on Gone to the Dogs

Baby Shark by Robert Fate

Baby Shark, a teenage girl, doesn't have the normal teenage evenings. Baby's are spent in pool halls, where she watches her father shark for a living. But one night, Baby's father bucks the wrong gang. He's murdered, along with the son of the proprietor, and Baby Shark is raped, beaten and left for dead. Most young girls, if they recovered at all, would be traumatized by this for the rest of their lives, probably hover in the shadows, stay close to walls, and avoid the eyes of oncoming people. Not our Baby Shark. She heals and vows revenge. Housed by the proprietor of the bar that was trashed and burned, the man who lost his son, he secures martial arts and guns experts to mentor his protege, while she seeks out the best pool training in the land. Meanwhile, a sleazy private eye friend of the bar owner has been tracking down the gang. When she's ready, Baby Shark swoops out of the deep and delivers fatal bites tailored to each participant in the crime. This is no normal book of revenge. This book seethes; it burns. The reader revels in the cold revenge Baby Shark dispenses. I couldn't put this book down. ~Ben F. Small, Amazon review

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry

 The latest in the Freelance writer Troy Chance series . Troy is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the frozen lake is the shadowy outline of a body—a man she knows. A lurid news story goes viral, throwing suspicion on one of Troy's housemates. Troy is assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who turns out to be the son of a wealthy Connecticut family playing at a blue-collar life in this Adirondack village. As Troy digs deeper into his life and mysterious death—working with his bereaved sister, reclusive girlfriend, and helpful neighbor—a string of incidents makes it clear someone doesn't want the investigation to continue. What Troy discovers threatens to shatter the serenity of these mountain towns, and she must decide which family secrets should be exposed, and how far her own loyalty can reach. the Troy Chance series . 

Gin Caulfield Series by G. B. Pool
Damning  Evidence . Book 3 . When a body turns up at a local dam, P.I. Gin Caulfield has to get to the bottom of it, but the bottom can be very deep.

Hedge bet . Book 2 . Gin Caulfield figured a bullet in the back had ended her career as a private eye, but when she and her husband stumble across a murder at the racetrack, all bets are off.

Sidra Smart Series by Sylvia Dickey Smith 

Sidra Smart, at fifty years old, is not your ordinary P.I. A recently divorced preacher’s wife, Sid knows next to nothing about running the private-detective business she’s inherited from her brother. But her first client bursts in with vague flashbacks of a grizzly thirty-year-old murder. Dance on His Grave: Sid plunges into a surreal world of passion, deception, and murder. The story takes place in and around Orange, Texas, in the borderlands where Texas and Louisiana meet, a region filled with colorful characters, good food, and dark secrets.

Nights In White Satin by Michelle Spring 

At the annual May Ball, a jubilant celebration marking the end of examinations at Cambridge, private investigator Laura Principal is hired to provide security. Then, somewhere between the dancing and the fireworks, a student disappears. Katie Arkwright wore white, a vision of purity. But when Laura starts probing into the missing woman's life, she finds that Katie concealed a dark side. The deeper Laura searches into a tangled past, the more tension mounts in every corner of Cambridge--where someone waits, coiled to strike. And strike again.

Alex Morrow Novels by Denise Mina

The Red Road .  Alex Morrow faces her toughest opponents yet in this brilliant new thriller about criminals, consequences, and convictions. Police detective Alex Morrow has met plenty of unsavory characters in her line of work, but arms dealer Michael Brown ranks among the most brutal and damaged of the criminals she's known. Morrow is serving as a witness in Brown's trial, where the case hinges on his fingerprints found on the guns he sells. When the investigation leads to a privileged Scottish lawyer who's expecting to be assassinated after a money laundering scheme goes bad, and a woman who's spying on the people who put her in jail, Morrow has her hands full. And that's before she even gets to her family issues. 

THE RED ROAD is a thrilling new novel from a masterful writer, proving once again that "If you don't love Denise Mina, you don't love crime fiction." (Val McDermid)

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