Top Female Crime and Mystery Authors

Crime and mystery fiction’s diversity attracts a broad readership. For instance, I prefer the soft stuff and am attracted to the puzzle rather than grizzly details, while many of my friends enjoy peeled skin and body parts. Knowing that, it seems immensely impertinent for me to try to compile a “best of” list on my own. So, I engaged my online community in search of a random (objectively subjective!) sampling. And the thing that struck me from the almost two hundred replies I received was that crime readers love—and more often remember—the author and the main character in a series rather than specific titles.

So, what began as a list of the Top Ten Crime and Mystery Novels by Women, evolved into a Top Ten Female Crime and Mystery Authors. Of course, who knows what “Top” means exactly? Most popular? Most well-marketed? Most enduring? Most engaging? Most well-written? All of the preceding? The accurate description, I suppose, would be to say that this is a list of crime and mystery authors that my friends and colleagues most appreciate. And I do acknowledge there may be a slight survey bias towards Australian writers, seeing as a lot of my online community are Australian. But of course, that’s not a bad thing, is it?!

Anyway, I’ve tallied up the numbers, and below are the results. With each author, I’ve also recommended a series or a title to get you started based on survey preferences. Consider this a recommended reading list for 2017! And because you might have read many of the Top Ten, I’ve added an Honorable Mentions list plus some Wildcards.

Top Ten

1. Agatha Christie – pretty much anything but The ABC Murders and Sleeping Murder

Check out Peter Manus's academic look at And Then There Were None!

2. Dorothy SayersFive Red Herrings, Gaudy Night, Murder as Advertised, and the Lord Peter series

3. Val McDermidThe Mermaids Singing and the entire Tony Hill series

4. Tana FrenchFaithful Place (Broken Harbour and In the Woods were mentioned as well, but I invoked authorial rights because Faithful Place is my favorite).

5. Jane HarperThe Dry

Read an excerpt from The Dry while sipping “The Dry Twist” cocktail, inspired by Jane Harper's debut!

6. Kerry Greenwood – Corinna Chapman and Phryne Fisher series

7. Gillian FlynnGone Girl

8. Karin Slaughter – Grant County series

9. Ellis Peters – The Cadfael Chronicles

10. Kathy Reichs – Temperance Brennan series

Honourable Mentions

1. Patricia HighsmithThe Talented Mr Ripley

2. Sulari GentillA Murder Unmentioned  and the Rowland Sinclair series

3. Ngaio MarshArtists in Crime

4. Tess Gerritson – the Rizzoli and Isles series

5. Ruth Rendell/Barbara VineTalking to Strange Men/A Dark-Adapted Eye

6. Louise Penny – the Armand Gamache series

7. Patricia Cornwall – the Scarpetta series (the early books)

8. Lindsey Davis – the Falco mysteries, especially Venus in Copper

9. Josephine TeyBrat Fararr

10. Donna Leon – the Brunetti series

11. Denise Mina – the Alex Morrow series

12. J.D. Robb – the In Death series

Check out our review coverage for the entire In Death series!

13. Elizabeth George –  A Great Deliverance

Wildcard individual titles in the mix that you might like to try:

1. Sam BakerThe Woman Who Ran

2. P. M. NewtonOld School

3. Tansy Rayner RobertsA Trifle Dead

4. Megan AbbottThe Song is You

5. Wendy JamesThe Husband’s Secret

6. Laurie R. KingThe Beekeeper’s Apprentice

7. Clare MackintoshI Let you Go

8. Angela SavageBehind the Night Bazaar

9. Minette WaltersThe Scold’s Bridle


To learn more or order a copy of Marianne Delacourt's novel Sharp Turn, visit:

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Marianne Delacourt is the author of the Tara Sharp comic crime novels and alter ego of internationally published SF writer Marianne de Pierres. In 2010, Marianne Delacourt was the recipient of Sister’s in Crime Australia’s Davitt Award for Best Crime Novel.

Marianne has just unveiled the new look for her action-packed crime series Tara Sharp and a rewrite of the gripping second novel Sharp Turn. Sharp Turn is available now from Twelfth Planet Press. Book One, Sharp Shooter, is available from Twelfth Planet Press and from Amazon.


  1. JB

    Uh, Margery Allingham?

  2. Pam Healy

    how about J.A. Jance, Margaret Coel, Aimee and David Thurlow, and Anne Hillerman?

  3. Rhetta Yount

    Another couple of favorites: Margaret Marion, Sibella Giorello

  4. Lewd Mangabey

    To leave P.D. James out of the top five was a shock. To omit any mention . . .

  5. Pandora Moore

    Patricia CornwEll, not CornwAll. sorry, I had to point out the typo, because I’ve read all her books and she’s the one I like most and am most familiar with out of those you listed. though, i am a bit surprised not to see any of the Nina Borg novels written by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis- the first of the nordic noir series is called a boy in a suitcase, or any of the girl with a dragon tattoo series by Steig Larrsen (not sure if spelled the name right). I was kind of hoping to see Iris Johansen in the wild card list, for any of her Eve Duncan series. Although, i do like to read detective/murder/criminal forensics/profiler mysteries, my faves are adult fantasy/YA fantasy and anything that has fae or druids or supernatural creatures, so i may not be as knowledgeable in the detective fiction genre as those of you reading this page. lol.

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