The best books with badass female detectives on location, location, location

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved mystery novels since picking up my older sister’s Agatha Christie collection as a pre-teen. Over the years I’ve come to love novels with badass women detectives, especially when the world-building pulls you into a place and time that is almost an additional character, where you can feel the weather, smell the buildings, and taste the fear. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to add a social justice angle. Having read so many, I finally decided to write my own mystery set in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights where I grew up, not anywhere near the Hollywood version.

I wrote...

As You Look

By Veronica Gutierrez,

Book cover of As You Look

What is my book about?

Former LAPD cop-turned-private investigator Yolanda Avila struggles with the intersection of grief, guilt, and latent psychic tendencies following her mother’s death. If only she’d followed her training, her mother would still be alive. The only salve against her guilt is Yolanda’s vow to reject that juju crap and solve cases using only solid detective work. But when her godson is kidnapped, his parents are suspected of murder, and a stalker pursues her wife, Yolanda finds herself caught between what she knows and what she feels. And as the danger escalates, so do her dreams. To overcome the guilt, deal with her grief, and save her loved ones, Yolanda must confront the juju.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Overboard

Veronica Gutierrez Why did I love this book?

I love Sarah Paretsky’s novels because her private investigator V.I. Warshawski is a vulnerable badass. This 21st installment is classic Warshawski who, like me, is now a woman of a certain age. She may be a bit slower to recover from physical challenges, but her passion for justice is as strong as ever as she confronts Chicago corruption and mobsters from the cold waters of Lake Michigan to her childhood Southside neighborhood, one we’ve come to love as much as she does.

By Sara Paretsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Overboard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski's dogs lead her on a mad chase that ends when they find a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity.

As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago power brokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. before VI can save her. And now V.I.'s own life…

Book cover of Murder in the Marais

Veronica Gutierrez Why did I love this book?

Better than any travel book, I’d recommend a Cara Black novel before going to Paris. I love her focus on a single district, or Arrondissement, in each of her Aimée Leduc detective novels. I especially like how she brings to life the history of each neighborhood. This is the first of the 20-book series and my favorite neighborhood in Paris. Aimée navigates politics and historic atrocities to solve the killing of an elderly Jewish woman, all the while trying to stay alive herself. You can almost smell the freshly baked baguettes.

By Cara Black,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Murder in the Marais as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the Jewish quarter of Paris an old nightmare is reborn.

Aimee Leduc, a half-American, half-French investigator in Paris, is approached by a rabbi to decipher a fifty-year-old encrypted photograph and deliver it to an old woman in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter of the city.

When she does so, she finds a corpse on whose forehead a swastika has been carved. With the help of her partner Rene, a dwarf with extraordinary computer skills, she sets out to solve this horrible crime and finds herself caught up in a dangerous game with links to both modern politics and…

Book cover of Delafield

Veronica Gutierrez Why did I love this book?

There’s a freeway sign on the way to Palm Springs that directs you to “Other Desert Cities.” I love that sign because it so captures the desert, and so does Katherine V. Forrest in her 10th installment of a Kate Delafield mystery. Brought out of retirement by threats from an innocent woman she put in jail when she was a cop, Delafield must marshal her defenses and her feelings to return to the arid tranquility she thought she’d found.

By Katherine V. Forrest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Delafield as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most celebrated detective in lesbian literature returns in the most fateful case of her career…

“Kate,” Detective Joe Cameron said, “there was always the possibility—”

“—that like most threats they were just threats,” Kate finished for him. She knew better. Had known from the start this was as real as death.

Death is now on her doorstep. Not even her loyal LAPD colleagues can protect her from an attack that may come from anywhere, anytime.

Four years retired, Kate Delafield has a twenty-year old case roaring back on her, a case from which she had recoiled, withdrawn herself. A…

Book cover of Shutter

Veronica Gutierrez Why did I love this book?

I’ve always admired the beauty of New Mexico, but my pictures don’t do it justice. From the abandoned shacks and hogans to the scenic views of the Navaho reservation, and the dusty streets of Albuquerque, Ramona Emerson has captured in prose the light and weight of a great paranormal mystery. Forensic photographer Rita Todacheene sees ghosts but they’re less dangerous than cartels and bad cops. Learning more about Navaho culture and Rita’s close ties to it is a huge plus.

By Ramona Emerson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Shutter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the National Book Award

This blood-chilling debut set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation is equal parts gripping crime thriller, supernatural horror, and poignant portrayal of coming of age on the reservation.

Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook. 

As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by…

Book cover of The Labyrinth of the Spirits

Veronica Gutierrez Why did I love this book?

This Cemetery of Books series prompted my wife and me to repeatedly interrupt our reading with “Check out this passage” comments. Zafón’s prose and Lucia Graves’ translation are that beautiful. In the final book, they superbly depict repressive, Franco-era Barcelona and characters like Alicia Rico, who carries the pain and scars of the Spanish civil war while uncovering injustices with the help of book lovers who safeguard banned books and deep secrets. We visited Barcelona before reading the series but welcomed this return to Las Ramblas and other locales.

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Labyrinth of the Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermin to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more…

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Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

Book cover of Lightning Strike Blues

Gayleen Froese Author Of Lightning Strike Blues

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Communications officer Singer-songwriter Fan of all animals Role-playing geek Nature photographer

Gayleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

One summer night in a small prairie city, 18-year-old Gabriel Reece accidentally outs himself to his redneck brother Colin, flees on his motorcycle, and gets struck by lightning on his way out of town.

He’s strangely fine, walking away from his melted pile of bike without a scratch. There’s no time to consider his new inhuman durability before his brother disappears and his childhood home burns down. He’s become popular, too—local cops and a weird private eye are after him, wanting to know if his brother is behind a recent murder.

Answers might be in the ashes of the house where Gabe and Colin grew up, if Gabe and his friends can stay alive and out of jail long enough to find them.

Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

What is this book about?

On Friday, Gabriel Reece gets struck by lightning while riding his motorcycle.

It's not the worst thing that happens to him that week.

Gabe walks away from a smoldering pile of metal without a scratch-or any clothes, which seem to have been vaporized. And that's weird, but he's more worried about the sudden disappearance of his brother, Colin, who ditched town the second Gabe accidentally outed himself as gay.

Gabe tries to sift through fragmented memories of his crummy childhood for clues to his sudden invincibility, but he barely has time to think before people around town start turning up…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, family secrets, and the Navajo?

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