5 Reasons Why Women are Killing the Suspense Game

Kimberly Belle, author of Dear Wife, lists five reasons—and five badass authors—that prove why women are dominating the suspense genre these days. Plus, comment for a chance to win Dear Wife!

Women are having a moment in the suspense genre. Look on any bestseller list, and there we are, pressed between the Harlan Cobens and the Lee Childs—these books written by, marketed to, and starring women. They have pretty titles and prettier covers, with images designed to appeal to female readers.

Even so, readers should not be fooled by the jackets. Our stories are gritty and real, featuring heroines who are no shrinking violets. We aren’t just having a moment, we are bending the way crime stories are being told, and judging by the sales numbers, readers are responding. Here are five reasons why I think that is, as well as some authors who are getting it right.


We Are Done Playing Victim

Yes, women are often at the receiving end of violence and crime, which is why it’s so interesting to read about crime from a woman’s perspective. But today’s stories feature heroines who are fighting back, getting even, saving the day, solving the crime, killing the bad guys, kicking ass. Our characters don’t sit back and wait for a man to save them. They have the resources and strength to determine their own fates.

The Read: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

A woman disappears after a blind date with a man she meets online, but who’s in danger here? Walker gives her character a dark backstory and the reader cause to worry what she’s going to do when she finds out the man is lying. (Read More: Wendy Walker on How a Few Bad Online Dates Led to The Night Before.)


A Focus on Relationships

Crime doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. It sends out shockwaves, both to the killer’s and the victim’s families. Our stories may start with an act of violence, but their charm is in taking a good, long look at the aftereffects. What happens when you discover your husband is a murderer? How far would you go to protect or avenge your child or sibling? How our characters respond is where things get really interesting.

The Read: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

The sole survivor of a serial killer is now a single mother who would do anything to protect her teenage daughter. Especially when she discovers the killer might still be out there and is taunting her with a trail of clues.


Emotion, Emotion, Emotion

Female readers don’t just want to know what happens in a story, they want to know how that makes the characters feel. They want their own hearts to beat faster during tense scenes or their eyes to fill with tears when the character is sad, and women authors are delivering. We give them action on the page, but we write it in a way that conjures up real, visceral emotions for the reader.

The Read: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

A beautiful, perfect couple where things are not as it seems. This book is dark and terrifying and gripping. I didn’t breathe the entire time I read it.


Our Stories Are Relatable

As the ones who are all too often victim of a crime, women bring a unique perspective to the table. Our stories are relatable. They’re real. We are coming up with what-if scenarios every woman can imagine themselves in. Women read our stories and think, that could have been me. What would I have done?

The Read: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

A woman is chased by a crime that was no fault of her own, forcing her underground. She has to construct new identities for herself, then discards them when people from her past get too close. I felt her terror and frustration every step of the way.


Flaws Don’t Make A Character Unlikeable

Real people have flaws. They make bad choices, do things that others might consider immoral or unethical, and the same goes with heroines. Gone are the days when they have to be perfect to be likeable. Today’s readers want a heroine who makes mistakes, then finds a way to dig herself out. Our heroines are interesting and complicated, and they don’t always do what’s right.

The Read: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

A woman commits a gruesome crime, then spends fourteen years of her life paying for it. Hillier gives us a character who did something unforgivable, and yet she was utterly likable. Even when I found out what she did, I was still rooting for her.

* * *

There are a million other reasons why women authors are killing it these days, and a million other novels I could have mentioned. There’s a tendency in our culture to push women and minorities to the margins, and literature has historically been a way of fighting back. Today’s readers are hungry for characters who reflect their lives, and women authors are delivering.

Book Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

About Dear Wife:

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning—one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

Dear Wife Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at http://www.criminalelement.com/5-reasons-why-women-are-killing-the-suspense-game/ beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) July 1, 2019. Sweepstakes ends at 2:59 p.m. ET July 15, 2019. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

Learn More Or Order A Copy


  1. Jackie

    I’d love to win this book to read,

  2. Peggy Martinez
  3. April

    Intriguing novel. Unique and suspenseful. Thanks. Very interesting post.

  4. becky

    My friend was just telling me about this book today~ said she couldn’t put it down and read it in a day and a half! So i added it to my Goodreads list!

  5. Traveling Cloak

    I agree about female authors. Before last year, I did not have very many in my collection. I have made it a point to add some, and it has really changed the way I view books now.

  6. Laini

    Excellent article. The story sounds captivating and interests me.

  7. Doug Gordy

    More for the TBR pile!

  8. Courtney Silver

    I would love to win this book! It is very much up my alley, as I particularly love this genre! This book seemingly defies the cookie cutter, formulaic thrillers that have been published as of late. Please choose me (:

  9. Nicole Seabolt

    Love the plot!

  10. Cherie Gravette

    I love her books and would be thrilled to win a copy of it! Thank you for this chance.

  11. Kathryn J Bain

    I’m glad to see women are writing strong female characters. I get tired of the ones who needed a man to save them. Can’t wait to read a couple of these. All sound good.

  12. Tiffany

    This looks good

  13. Lori Frazier

    This book is definitely on my TBR list! Love Kimberly Belle!

  14. mommykat007

    I love meeting new authors! This book sounds awesome! Adding it now!

  15. Kerry

    Would love to sit in the shade and read one of these books

  16. Lynn Pallaske

    This synopsis sounds super intriguing and this review has me wanting to read it even more.

  17. joel timmons

    Bring. On. The. Chiller. Thriller. Love. To. Read. These

  18. Taylor R. Williams

    Sure would love to win – thanks for the chance.

  19. Angie Simmonds

    I agree, female authors are fantastic at this genre! This looks like a fantastic read. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  20. Sonya L Loyer

    I’ve heard such great things about this book, I look forward to reading it!

  21. Melissa Basnight

    Intriguing book, can’t wait to read.

  22. Rena

    I love suspense and I can’t wait to read this book.

  23. Mikalyn Manzanares

    These all sound so good!

  24. Barbara Raeuber


  25. Carolyn

    Dear Wife sounds like a great book! I love the list of books to read too!!!

  26. Marla Jones

    Oh I would love to read this one

  27. Natalie Amos

    Would love to read this book!

  28. Nina

    I would love for the chance to win this book!

  29. Rhonda Stefani

    I could not agree more, my favorite books of the last year have been written by women knocking it out of the park! Sounding fabulous & already on my to-read shelf, I’d Love to win a copy of Dear Wife!

  30. Kaitlyn Seelen

    I am so excited to see women changing the game here! Excited to read some of these!

  31. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  32. Shirley Evans

    This book sounds like an absolutely suspenseful read!

  33. Phyllis McGuire

    I would love to win!

  34. Molly Lugene Satterfield

    This sounds awesome! I love when all angles of a story are explored in various viewpoints.

  35. Christopher Lawson

    I’m a major fan of Kimberly Belle! To win Dear Wife would be such an honor and pleasure! Thank you for the chance!

  36. Sally McWilliams

    I have many female authors that I absolutely love. Karin Slaughter, B.A. Paris, Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, just too many to mention.

  37. Beth Harms

    Read a couple of these recommendations and enjoyed them! Crossing my fingers to get the opportunity to read this one! Thanks!

  38. Margie Shaw

    I can’t wait to read Kimberly Belles new book Dear Wife. I love all of her books and I hear this is her best yet!

  39. Susan Robinette

    I’d love to win this book!

  40. Peter W.

    Cheer for the Dear Wife! Yes!

  41. Michael Carter

    Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  42. Michelle Turner

    The plot sounds intriguing! Thanks for the opportunity 😊

  43. sabrinap2

    Already on my tbr, just need the book 🤞🤓

  44. Theresa Law

    I especially loved Behind Closed Doors. It was so suspenseful! Always looking for my next read!

  45. Christal Mormann

    I want to read this!

  46. Lisbeth Mizula

    Reading a book by a woman, about a woman, and (quite often) for a woman is empowering.

  47. Janet Gould

    Great article. I love this type of book.

  48. L

    Great article and Dear Wife sounds like very interesting reading!

  49. Burma Turner

    This is my favorite genre! I would love to win this book. Thank you for the chance 🙂

  50. Karl Stenger

    Sounds like an exciting read.

  51. Athena Corodimas

    I love female authors within the genre, I hate to list obvious ones but Sandra brown, the Eve books, Kellerman, and IDK if Reichs counts but they are such great authors. Would love a chance to try your featured author!!

  52. Saundra K. Warren

    This sounds awesome!!

  53. Shonda

    I would ❤ a copy of Dear Wife!

  54. downeaster

    I know 2 people called Beth Murphy, so I have to read this.

  55. Jennifer Garber

    I’ve read several of the books highlighted in the article and the rest are on my list!

  56. shelly olson

    I would love to read this book!

  57. Phyllis Bernstein
  58. Phyllis Bernstein

    Loved the article. Added books to my tbr list! Would love to read Dear Wife

  59. Laurie Sandretto

    Thank you for the article.

  60. Jackie Wisherd

    I know I would enjoy reading this book and reporting on it at my Mystery Book Club meeting.

  61. Linda McCutcheon

    Dear Wife sounds extremely intriguing to digest. I would love the chance to read and review this book.

  62. julieako

    I love strong women in books!

  63. Susan T.

    I’m thrilled to see strong, complicated women in thrillers. We don’t always have to be the victim!

  64. Jenny Collins Belk

    I’m a big fan of Kimberly’s books. Have read and enjoyed them all. I want to add this one to my collection. Thanks for the chance.

  65. susan beamon

    I read several of the books in the article. All good. Would like to read Dear Wife, too.

  66. Susan Illis

    Thanks for the recommendations. The only one of these authors I’ve read is BA Paris—several additions to my TBR.

  67. Susan Morris

    This fiction could be a true account of an abused woman trying to start a new life. Would love to win a copy.

  68. Lisa Nicoletti

    Great article on female writers of suspense novels. Dear Wife sounds like a great book and I’m anxious to read and review it!

  69. Autumn Trapani

    This sounds like a great read.Thank you for the chance to win!

  70. Jana

    Lots of good books here. Thanks for the giveaway!

  71. Marisa Young

    Would like to read this book.

  72. RD

    I would love to read this book! Sounds so good!

  73. Jeanne Kennedy
  74. Sunnymay

    In Dear Wife, running away from one life to save herself means picking up another identity. I do love strong women in novels and mysteries. It looks like a mystery filled with angst, fear and guilt. There’s a well-developed lead and eventually it all falls into place only not in the order you think it will.

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