The Women of Noir: Primer Part 2

She looks like a pulp princess and she writes like one too!
Back in May, I introduced a few dames of noir that are worthy of top spots on your reading list. Well, I’m back with more, so here we go!

I believe I mentioned Cathi Unsworth in my last post, so we’ll start with her, shall we? Ms. Unsworth, a London noir dame, is the author of The Not Knowing, The Singer, Weirdo, and Bad Penny Blues. She also edited the London Noir anthology in 2006. If you love books that deal with the seamy underbelly of London, and the gritty London music scene, particularly in the ’60s and the ’80s, mixed with a healthy dose of mayhem and murder, Ms. Unsworth is your gal. She’s got an eye for detail that will leave you reeling.

Next up is the legendary Margaret Millar (February 5, 1915 – March 26, 1994). The author of more than 25 novels, including the Paul Prye, Inspector Sands, and Tom Aragon series, her novel Beast in View earned her an Edgar Award (Best Novel, 1956). The accolades don’t stop there, though. She also was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America for her lifetime achievements. Believe me,  the talent ran extra thick in the Millar house, since she was married to Kenneth Millar, better known as Ross Macdonald, author of the Lew Archer series. Known for her exceptional writing (it is), her in-depth and spot-on characterizations (they are), and endings that leave your jaw hanging (they do), she’s an author absolutely not to be missed. I suggest starting with Wall of Eyes and working your way forward through each of her spectacular series. Also, if you can snag some of the early paperback versions of her novels, the covers are pretty darn awesome, you know, if you like that sort of thing (I do).

You can see in that little twinkle in her eye that she’s the nicest lady in noir.
Another grand dame of suspense is the incomparable Val McDermid. I’m a huge fan of Scottish crime and police procedurals (and English . . . and Irish . . . you get the idea), and she writes like no other. Part of the unofficial “Tart Noir” group of authors, which includes Ian Rankin and the like, Ms. McDermid is a former journalist who has folded her journalistic knowledge into her writing. In fact, one of her characters, Lindsay Gordon, is herself a journalist in a series starting with Report for Murder. Ms. McDermid’s work is sometimes brutal, often violent, and always very, very good. She received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement in crime writing in 2007, and she’s also known as one of the nicest and most hardworking people in the biz. Start with The Mermaids Singing and prepare for a hell of a ride.


Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

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