10 of the Best Detectives from Recent Crime Novels

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

This list of detectives from recent crime novels is sponsored by Sourcebooks.

Journalist Billy Jensen spent fifteen years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common—they didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there. But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer and author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara, Billy got fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops had given up. A plan to solve the murders himself. Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true-crime narrative unlike any you’ve read before.

If I had to choose, I would say mystery novels were my favorite genre growing up. I read every book with the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown when I was very young. Then when I was 8 I discovered Agatha Christie’s novels, and read every one of those, too. She had the best detectives, in my opinion, way more interesting than Nancy, Frank, or Joe.

While my reading over the last dozen years has grown to encompass every genre, when I am stuck trying to decide what to read next, I will always pick a mystery. How fortunate we are to have an abundance of them! I have read so many that I loved, so I thought I would share ten of my favorites so you, too, may have a chance to enjoy the best detectives. Each book listed is the first in the series, so you know where to start. (I don’t know about you, but reading books in a series out of order makes my eyes bleed.)

two girls downTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Crime solver: Alice Vega

Vega is an enigmatic bounty hunter who doesn’t always play well with others, but she gets the job done, no matter the obstacles in her way or the laws she might have to circumvent. I like her attitude.

Next book: The Janes (January 21, 2020)

IQ by joe ideIQ by Joe Ide

Crime solver: Isaiah Quintabe

Of all the crime solvers on the list, Quintabe, or ‘IQ’ as most people call him, is the most like Sherlock Holmes. A loner and a high school dropout with a genius IQ, he helps solve crimes in his L.A. neighborhood that the police can’t or won’t.

Next book: Hi Five (January 28, 2020)

The DimeThe Dime by Kathleen Kent

Crime solver: Betty Rhyzyk

Rhyzyk is a tough-as-nails Brooklyn cop from a family of cops, but even she is not prepared for her new job in Texas, where she moved with her girlfriend. In The Dime, Rhyzyk expects to fight drug cartels, but the book takes a seriously sharp turn two-thirds of the way through into high-octane bananapants country.

Next book: The Burn (February 11, 2020)

claire dewittClaire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

Crime solver: Claire DeWitt

I am obsessed with everything Sara Gran writes, but her Claire DeWitt books are my favorite. They are mysteries, for sure, but they’re also brilliant books about a complicated woman with lots of problems that she needs to work out. Claire has a lot of issues, and we love her for it.

Most recent book: Infinite Blacktop

The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper

Crime solver: Aaron Falk

Who better to investigate murder than someone who was once a suspect in a murder case? Falk’s troubles with the law and suspicions of his guilt drove him away from his hometown as a teen, but now he’s a much more levelheaded man with a badge, and he aims to fix everything he can. (Eric Bana will play him in the upcoming series.)

Most recent book: Forces of Nature

Broken Places cover imageBroken Places by Tracy Clark

Crime solver: Cass Raines

Raines was once a Chicago police officer, but she finds the life of a private investigator way less stressful. Especially since she was shot in the line of duty. Now, as a PI, she has the same insight into cases as a police officer, but she has the time and dedication to dig deeper into neighborhood troubles than the police do.

Most recent book: Borrowed Time

The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry #1) by Sujata MasseyThe Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Crime solver: Perveen Mistry

Set in 1920s India, these star Bombay’s first female lawyer. She works for the family business, and has had an amazing education, and possesses a burning curiosity in all matters, and a tenaciousness that helps her get to the bottom of a mystery.

Most recent book: The Satapur Moonstone

Salt Lane by William Shaw cover imageSalt Lane by William Shaw

Crime solver: Alexandra Cupidi

I am so in love with Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi. She is dealing with a surly teenager, a strained relationship with her mother, and a recent move to a small town from London after an ill-advised affair went sour. But she’s whip-smart, compassionate, and possesses a strong moral compass when it comes to crime. I am so excited for her next adventure.

Next book: Deadland (February 6, 2020)

the vanishing season cover imageVanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

Crime solver: Ellery Hathaway

Like many people who experience a horrific crime personally when they were young, Hathaway became a police officer. But what people don’t know is that she was the only one to escape a prolific serial killer, something which still haunts her. She knows how it feels to be a victim and she’ll do anything—ANYTHING—to stop the bad guys, consequences be damned.

Next book: All the Best Lies (February 11, 2020)

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Crime solver: Roxane Weary

The daughter of a decorated veteran police officer killed in the line of duty, Weary is a private investigator still sorting out her difficult relationship with her father after his death. She medicates herself with alcohol and love affairs with both men and women, but she acknowledges that she needs help, and is still a damn fine investigator.

Most recent book: The Stories You Tell