The best crime novels with elderly female protagonists

Who am I?

I was eleven years old when my father introduced me to my first Agatha Christie mystery, and I’ve never looked back. When the time came to write a crime novel of my own, I knew that I wanted it to be set in Beverley, but I didn’t expect my plot to lead me to write about a pensioner. Perhaps it’s not surprising – older people have a vast knowledge of the world which can only make them more interesting as central characters in fiction. It has inspired me to seek out more books with a pensioner/crime theme – I hope you enjoy the ones on this list!


I wrote...

The Botanist

By Anne Wedgwood,

Book cover of The Botanist

What is my book about?

Retired doctor Lilian Templeton has a dead body in her garden and there is nothing she can do to stop the gas men digging it up. DI Ronnie Twist and her sergeant, Luke Carter, are not fooled by Lilian’s apparent innocence, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as Lilian seeks to hide her murderous past and avoid detection.

What led Lilian to kill? How many murders has she committed? And will she get away with it? Set in the East Yorkshire market town of Beverley, this is the first in the Twist in the Tale series.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of At Bertram's Hotel

Anne Wedgwood Why did I love this book?

It’s hard to choose a Miss Marple book – they are all so good – but I have settled on this one as it reminds me of London, where I used to live. Miss Marple is my favourite elderly female protagonist of all time, because of the means by which she takes such good advantage of people’s underestimation of her abilities. She is wise, insightful, and clever, and I find her enjoyment of her ‘treat’ visit to the hotel very endearing – who wouldn’t love a holiday in a posh hotel at someone else’s expense?

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At Bertram's Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she's looking for at Bertram's Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day...


Book cover of An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

Anne Wedgwood Why did I love this book?

Maud is a riot – she’s not had the easiest of lives and she is determined to enjoy her later years. If anyone gets in her way or does something to upset her, she has no hesitation in bumping them off – whether on the spur of the moment or with detailed planning. Like me, she loves to travel, and she is a dab hand with the internet. Unlike most crime books, her story is told in short stories rather than as a novel, each perfectly formed, unexpected, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. 

By Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and... no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father's untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family's spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties,…


Book cover of Elizabeth Is Missing

Anne Wedgwood Why did I love this book?

Another Maud, but this one is trying to solve a crime rather than committing them. This book lets us into the mind of an old woman with memory loss in a completely believable fashion, whilst keeping the reader hooked from the start by the mystery of a missing woman. Elizabeth is missing, but so, in her own way, is Maud, as she struggles to remember the clues that will lead her back to her friend. An absorbing and very satisfying read.

By Emma Healey,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Elizabeth Is Missing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR BBC DRAMA
A SUNDAY TIMES TOP FIVE BESTSELLER

How do you solve a mystery when you can't remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable - or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to…


Book cover of The Thursday Murder Club

Anne Wedgwood Why did I love this book?

I love connections, and anyone who has read this book will understand how it is connected to the previous one. The Thursday Murder Club has done so much to promote the ‘older’ generation in the world of crime, and although there are several narrating voices, it is Elizabeth who stands out. I think what I like best about her is her kindness towards others – she never loses patience with anyone, even though she is usually a mile ahead of them in working out what is going on. I would love to see her come up against Lilian – it’s hard to know who would come off best!

By Richard Osman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Thursday Murder Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller | Soon to be a major motion picture from Steven Spielberg at Amblin Entertainment

"Witty, endearing and greatly entertaining." -Wall Street Journal

"Don't trust anyone, including the four septuagenarian sleuths in Osman's own laugh-out-loud whodunit." -Parade

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to...
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead…


Book cover of Three Things about Elsie

Anne Wedgwood Why did I love this book?

Another story set in a care home, and my favourite of the books I've recommended – I’ve saved the best till last! Narrator Florence is beginning to suffer from dementia, but she is still sharp enough to spot a shady figure from her past when he puts in an appearance. Cannon’s turn of phrase is absolutely beautiful – she expresses the challenges and frustrations of old age with humour and poignance, without risking the temptation to sugar coat anything whilst leading us through the mystery at the heart of the book. If you only read one book from this list, pick this one!

By Joanna Cannon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Three Things about Elsie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep delivers a suspenseful and emotionally satisfying novel “infused with warmth and humor” (People) about a lifelong friendship, a devastating secret, and the small acts of kindness that bring people together.

There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing…might take a bit more explaining.

Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to…


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By Jennifer Silva Redmond,

Book cover of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

Jennifer Silva Redmond Author Of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Writer of Memoir Editor of everything Sailor of Seas Daily Dog Walker Intrepid Traveler

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Jennifer Shea married Russel Redmond, they made a decision to spend their honeymoon at sea, sailing in Mexico. The voyage tested their new relationship, not just through rocky waters and unexpected weather, but in all the ways that living on a twenty-six-foot sailboat make one reconsider what's truly important.

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What is this book about?

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In this charming, meditative memoir, Jennifer recounts that fateful first year, moving back and forth with the currents of her life. On their voyage, the couple sailed Watchfire to Baja California's Sea of Cortez, where they spent twelve months before sailing south along Mexico and Central America and through the…


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