The best crime novels with elderly female protagonists

The Books I Picked & Why

At Bertram's Hotel: A Miss Marple Mystery

By Agatha Christie

Book cover of At Bertram's Hotel: A Miss Marple Mystery

Why 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?

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An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

By Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy

Book cover of An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

Why 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. 

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Elizabeth Is Missing

By Emma Healey

Book cover of Elizabeth Is Missing

Why 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.

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The Thursday Murder Club

By Richard Osman

Book cover of The Thursday Murder Club

Why 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!

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Three Things about Elsie

By Joanna Cannon

Book cover of Three Things about Elsie

Why 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!

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