The best mystery novels featuring lesbian detectives

Who am I?

Halfway through my first novel, I realized that I was writing in a genre that had received little critical study and had almost no visibility. To find my way around the genre—and my place within it—I began reading heavily and before I knew it, I had read well over 200 lesbian mystery novels and devoured almost every serious review and critical study The dozen books I have written over the last decade reflect this study. In them, I hope I have succeeded in expanding the genre in some small way and adding to the menu of a hungry and discerning LGBTQ audience. 

I wrote...

The News in Small Towns

By Iza Moreau,

Book cover of The News in Small Towns

What is my book about?

Sue-Ann McKeown, having spent six months as a Baghdad war correspondent, returns to her hometown of Pine Oak, Florida. She is tired, depressed, and suffers from a mysterious illness that is jeopardizing the quiet job she has taken with a small local newspaper. But odd things begin to happen: a goat is found dead in a dumpster, bizarre symbols appear in the woods near her farm, and her house is burgled and vandalized. Sue-Ann is forced to investigate these incidents. But the oddest thing of all is that she seems to be romantically pursued by a woman who was once her worst high school enemy. 

This is the first of a four-book series of mysteries featuring Sue-Ann and her friends. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

In The Game

By Nikki Baker,

Book cover of In The Game

Why this book?

Nikki Baker is the first African-American writer of lesbian mysteries and her character Virginia Kelly—who works as a financial analyst in Chicago—is the first African-American lesbian sleuth. This makes it important, but what makes the book outstanding is the writing, especially the voice of the protagonist. The plots are slick and entertaining, but it is Virginia’s internal musings and interpersonal relationships that make this—and the other 3 books in the series—a clear 5-star winner. 

The Beverly Malibu

By Katherine V. Forrest,

Book cover of The Beverly Malibu

Why this book?

Forrest’s Kate Delafield, a San Francisco homicide detective, is surely the most famous character in lesbian mystery fiction. She is also the first lesbian police officer. Although most of Forrest’s 10 Delafield novels deserve 5-star ratings, The Beverly Malibu goes far beyond the usual whodunit limits in that it revisits the terrible McCarthy era when minorities—including the LGBTQ community—were kicked down at by the elite. This is also the book where Kate meets her long-time lover Aimee. 

Tell Me What You Like

By Kate Allen,

Book cover of Tell Me What You Like

Why this book?

Like Nikki Baker’s novels, Tell Me What You Like is driven by its narration. Alison Kaine, the protagonist of the novel, works for the Denver Police Department. But unlike most protagonists of lesbian policiers—who tend to be sergeants or detectives—Alison is a lowly officer. Because she is an out lesbian, she is assigned to investigate the murder of a leather dyke outside a lesbian bar, and is slowly drawn into the stories of the bar’s other denizens. And, not quite against her will, she slides into the darker subculture of BDSM, with whips and collars and a dominatrix named Anastasia. 

The Lion's Circle

By Amelia Ellis, Rachel Ward (translator),

Book cover of The Lion's Circle

Why this book?

Like the novels in my first 3 picks, this one is part of a series. Nea Fox, the protagonist, is a private eye working out of London. The story contains a series of intricate puzzles with exotic characters and engaging relationships. Think of the Fu Manchu novels if they had been written by Patricia Highsmith. In this one, Nea investigates an alleged haunting and reveals a great deal of monkey business. And if it’s action you like, this may be the most exciting lesbian mystery of all.   

The Lesbian Detective Novel: an annotated bibliography

By Megan Casey,

Book cover of The Lesbian Detective Novel: an annotated bibliography

Why this book?

When I was writing my first mystery series, I knew very little about the history of the lesbian detective novel. Because I wanted to work within the genre’s boundaries, I spent almost as much time researching it as writing. With the 2022 publication of The Lesbian Detective Novel, Megan Casey has made this task way easier for future lesbian mystery authors. She lists over 1,000 titles along with their creators and adds a few pertinent notes about each book or series. When you finish my first four picks and are looking for other lesbian mysteries to enjoy, this is the book to have by your bedside. I certainly have it beside mine.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in lesbian topics and characters, the United Kingdom, and African Americans?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about lesbian topics and characters, the United Kingdom, and African Americans.

Lesbian Topics And Characters Explore 44 books about lesbian topics and characters
The United Kingdom Explore 274 books about the United Kingdom
African Americans Explore 397 books about African Americans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like How Sweet It Is, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, and The Gilda Stories if you like this list.