The best books with strong female leads and dark secrets

Who am I?

I love to write about crime. I have no idea why. I don’t have any real-life experience of crime. Honest. I enjoy setting books in the places that I love to visit. So Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Nice all feature strongly here. And so far, the two novels I’ve written of which one is available on Amazon, have had strong female protagonists. I guess I find it interesting for a woman to take on a bunch of nasty men. And I studied art and the history of art at college, so everything I have written in terms of novels has been in the world of stolen art. 


I wrote...

To Catch A Storm

By Warren Slingsby,

Book cover of To Catch A Storm

What is my book about?

Janet comes round in a strange hotel room, her memory almost erased by a drug and alcohol-fuelled binge from hell. Unsure which hotel or even which city she's in and no idea how she got there. She's not alone; there's a dead man laying next to her. And there are some eye-opening surprises in the room. Surprises that will lead her to abandon her life as a successful banker and plunge into the unspoken world of stolen art.

She stumbles into a dangerous game of cat and mouse crossing the paths of thieves, thugs, and oligarchs taking her from Glasgow to Edinburgh and onto Barcelona and the Cote d'Azure. During her journey, she'll unlock the secret to the location of the most infamous and valuable stolen painting in the world. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Elizabeth Is Missing

Warren Slingsby Why did I love this book?

This story is heart-stoppingly gripping. Emma clearly has gone through the struggles of looking after someone who is losing their memory. Her characters are brilliantly rooted in the real world. The way she understands her main character can remember what happened decades ago but can’t remember what she did a few minutes ago really hits home with a punch in the stomach. 

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 Big Little Lies

Warren Slingsby Why did I love this book?

I love stories about dark hidden secrets. This is one of the best. Moriarty keeps you guessing. The characters are annoyingly interesting and very Aussie, even though the massive TV show that it spawned was based on the West Coast of the US. If you haven’t seen the TV show, read the book first. If you’ve seen it, still read the book. 

By Liane Moriarty,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Big Little Lies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Published as BIG LITTLE LIES in Australia and the United States*

Liane Moriarty, million copy selling author of The Husband's Secret brings us another addictive story of secrets and scandal.

Jane hasn't lived anywhere longer than six months since her son was born five years ago. She keeps moving in an attempt to escape her past. Now the idyllic seaside town of Pirriwee has pulled her to its shores and Jane finally feels like she belongs. She has friends in the feisty Madeline and the incredibly beautiful Celeste - two women with seemingly perfect lives . . . and their…


Book cover of Apple Tree Yard

Warren Slingsby Why did I love this book?

Apply Tree Yard is along the lines of The Girl On The Train. A deeply flawed main character. Someone who’s done something she shouldn’t have. As her life hangs in the balance in a courtroom, everything depends on her remembering how and why she had sex with a random man. 

By Louise Doughty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Soon To Be a STARZ Mini-Series, Starring Emily Watson

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she is a suspect, squirming under florescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who is sitting across from her, watching: a man who is also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. It is a tale of sexual intrigue and ruthless urges—and…


Book cover of The Cutting Room

Warren Slingsby Why did I love this book?

Another story of dark, hidden family secrets. I read this book a long time ago but it’s stuck with me and I need to re-read it soon. The story centres on a troubled auctioneer who discovers a collection of old family photos which catch his eye. But as he examines the photos deeper, he realises their content is a snuff movie before there was such a thing, leading him to delve into their owner's past. 

By Louise Welsh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Unputdownable' Sunday Times
'I was hooked from page one' Guardian

When Rilke, a dissolute auctioneer, comes upon a hidden collection of violent and highly disturbing photographs, he feels compelled to discover more about the deceased owner who coveted them. Soon he finds himself sucked into an underworld of crime, depravity and secret desire, fighting for his life.


Book cover of Trust Your Eyes

Warren Slingsby Why did I love this book?

Linwood Barclay always grabs you from page one. He is the king of the page-turner for me. But with Trust Your Eyes, he created a character in Thomas Kilbride so engrossing and interesting, it ramped it up even higher for me. Throw in an ex-Olympic Romanian gymnast turned assassin and for me, it’s one of my favourite books ever. 

By Linwood Barclay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Trust Your Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What would you do if you witnessed a murder - but no one believed you . . .?

Another masterful suspense novel from the bestselling author of the Richard & Judy summer read winner, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE and FIND YOU FIRST

Map-obsessed Thomas spends his days and nights on a virtual tour of the world through his computer screen, believing he must store the details of every town and city in his head. Then one day, while surfing a street view program, he sees something that shouldn't be there: a woman being murdered behind a window on a New…


You might also like...

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

Book cover of Too Good

Carol Moreira Author Of Riptides

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the relationship of humanity to nature. When I was young, we moved all the time – my dad was in the military and we moved to a new base every 18 months. All those military bases were located in the British countryside and, in the absence of other forms of continuity, nature became like a best friend. I still walk every day. Reconnecting with trees, grass, the sounds of birds, centres and energizes me. I get my best ideas when walking. But, of course, nature is also threatening – Covid and cancer are natural. I’m fascinated by that juxtaposition and always trying to reflect it in my work.  

Carol's book list on the beauty and threat of the natural world

What is my book about?

This is a steamy tale of vulnerability and betrayal. Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend's attractive husband, David.

Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her admiration for his wife, Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn to Grace's man, unheeding of the dangers.

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

What is this book about?

Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend’s attractive husband David. The sight of his lean gardener’s body working in the hospice grounds fills her with longing and makes her forget the sadness in both the hospice and her marriage.
Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her friendship and admiration for his wife Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn into a passionate romance with Grace’s man unheeding of the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gay men, brothers, and murder?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gay men, brothers, and murder.

Gay Men Explore 106 books about gay men
Brothers Explore 100 books about brothers
Murder Explore 893 books about murder