Autumn is the perfect time of year, in my opinion, to read mysteries. Something about the changing of the leaves and the cool, crisp air screams murder and mayhem to me. Honestly, it’s probably because Halloween has always been my absolute favorite holiday.
Growing up, I absolutely loved reading The Boxcar Children and Encyclopedia Brown. As such, mystery has always been an important genre for me, and I can’t get enough of the formulaic approach that so many books in this genre employ. Don’t worry though, this list has a great balance between formulaic mysteries and surprising ones, as well.
But some of my favorite mysteries and thrillers have always featured female sleuths. Don’t get me wrong, I love Poirot just as much as the next reader. However, being female myself, it’s just easier for me to relate to female sleuths, especially when the victims are themselves female.
That said, in my experience, female sleuths stand up with the best male sleuths, meaning that they make excellent main characters of any mystery and thriller.
I’ve split up this list into Cozy Mysteries and Traditional Mysteries so that you can more easily select which books fit better into your reading life.
Cozy Mysteries Featuring Female Sleuths
Mysteries don’t always gave to be sinister to be page turners. If you enjoy the chase of the killer without the grit and gore, check out these cozy mysteries featuring some incredibly clever and diverse female sleuths.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Lila has moved back home after a terrible breakup and now works at her family’s failing restaurant. Despite this, Lila has enjoyed developing new recipes, but when a particularly nasty food critic, who also happen to be her ex, drops dead after arguing with Lila, things start spiraling. It’s now up to Lila to figure out who the murderer is while avoiding being charged herself.
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
Dayna is a B-list actress who just want to help her parents keep their house. But after witnessing a fatal hit and run, she decides to go after the reward money by finding the killer. But as she digs deeper into the life of the victim, it slowly stops being just about the money and more about finding a killer with a high body count.
Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
Stranded in the Irish countryside, Gethsemane, a classical musician down on her luck, takes on a job turning a ragtag group of schoolboys into a star orchestra. It’s not a bad deal, considering that a picturesque cottage is part of the deal. But of course there’s a catch in the form of the ghost of the cottage’s previous owner who happened to be murdered. He implores the reluctant Gethsemane to find his killer, who just decided to restart killing, with Gethsemane as the next victim.
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
Ho-Lee Noodle House has excellent food, which some would say is worth dying for. Lana had no intention returning to her family restaurant but has no choice after enduring an awful breakup and quitting her job. But Lana’s life takes yet another turn after the restaurant’s property manager turns up dead. Now the entire staff of the restaurant is under suspicion, and it’s up to Lana to find the killer.
Traditional Mysteries Featuring Female Sleuths
On the other hand, if you enjoy pulse-pounding mysteries with all the grit and gore and angst, then check out the following traditional mysteries featuring some truly dogged female sleuths.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexico City in the 1970s is where Maite lives as a secretary. She absolutely lives for romance novels to drown out the political unrest threatening to consume the city. Her life is pretty normal until her neighbor, Leonora, mysteriously disappears. Maite finds herself determined to figure out what happened to Leonaro and quickly becomes consumed in her life.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
This is a gritty literary thriller about two sisters. One is a straitlaced cop while the other is afflicted with addiction. Mickey constantly walks on the same blocks on her police beat and although she hasn’t spoken to her sister, Kacey, in a long time, she still worries. But then Kacey disappears, Mickey is consumed with searching for her.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Dark academia makes for an excellent setting for female sleuths. In Ninth House, Alex has been accepted into Yale’s freshman class on a full ride. In return, she must monitor the university’s secret societies. Things are going normally until they aren’t, and Alex soon learns that the secret societies, which are helmed by some of the most powerful people in the country, are up to something truly sinister.
Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang
Tillie lives in New York City, and it’s 1899. Her sister has been brutally murdered, with her entire body drained of blood and two puncture marks that run deep on her neck. It just so happens that Dracula has just been published, and Tillie can’t help but wonder. Determined to find her sister’s killer, Tillie allows her obsession with the truth of vampires to guide her.
Want to read more mysteries? Check out some exciting new murder mysteries.