Lesbian sleuths #1: Ten classic series

Lesbian Sleuths: Ten Classic Series 
by Sue Hardesty, 8/24/14

The charm of series is that the characters become old friends as we follow them through one book after the other and anxiously wait for the next one. The following mystery series with lesbian protagonists have been chosen for their excellent writing, surprising plot twists, and unusual, interesting characters. There’s a moderate level of romance ”as in most mysteries” but the love interests are not the emphasis. For a definition of “series”, I’ve used at least three books, but I want to mention Blue and The Last Blue Plate Special (Abigail Padgett) featuring Blue Carron, a reclusive lesbian social psychologist who lives in a half-built California desert motel. Although some of the series use professional crime-solvers to pursue the mystery, others feature sleuths in such professions as journalist, author, travel agent, and restaurant owner. Recommendations in alphabetical order.


Hart Hallowed MurderFor the past 25 years, Ellen Hart has been writing good summer reads about Jane Lawless, a restaurant owner in Minnesota, and her wacky sidekick, Cordelia Thorn. Hallowed Murder begins the series; Hart skipped only two years in publishing an annual addition to the series. The latest, The Old Deep and Dark, again features family problems as Jane saves Cordelia from another disaster. Here are the titles of this series in order of publication. https://www.goodreads.com/series/65509-jane-lawless

Another favorite is J.K. Redmann’s Micky Knight series which begins in 1990 and is still going strong. Her skillful voice creates real settings and believable, caring characters who live in the real world of New Orleans both before and after Hurricane Katrina. Redmann deals with hard topics such as child abuse, human trafficking, and hurricane victims. A recurring character in the series is Dr. Cordelia James, sometimes a suspect in a murder, who is Micky’s on-again, off-again lover.

Redmann Death by the RiversideDeath by the Riverside

Redmann Deaths of JocastaDeaths of Jocasta

Redmann Intersection of Law and DesireThe Intersection of Law and Desire

Redmann Lost DaughtersLost Daughters

Redmann Death of a Dying ManDeath of a Dying Man

Redmann Water MarkWater Mark

Redmann Ill WillIll Will

Redmann Shoal of TimeThe Shoal of Time

Katherine Forrest published the first of her series about police detective Kate Delafield in 1984. An LAPD ex-Marine homicide detective, Kate is militarily calm with a dogged determination to find the killer. Dealing more with character studies than mystery solving, the author slowly reveals personalities through the characters’ actions and interactions. Kate’s challenges come from chauvinistic and homophobic people in a world in which homosexuality is still illegal and feminism is still a nasty word.

Forrest Amateur CityAmateur City

Forrest Murder at the Nightwood BarMurder at the Nightwood Bar

Forrest Beverly MalibuThe Beverly Malibu

Forrest Murder by TraditionMurder by Tradition

Forrest Liberty SquareLiberty Square

Forrest Apparition AlleyApparition Alley

Forrest Sleeping BonesSleeping Bones

Forrest Hancock ParkHancock Park

Forrest High DesertHigh Desert

It’s been over a decade since my all-time favorite writer, Laurie King, published her last Kate Martinelli book in 2003, but I always hope for another one. San Francisco police detective Kate solves intricate, dark crimes of murdered children and homeless people while struggling with her complicated intimate relationship. As author of the Mary Russell series (Sherlock Holmes’ wife), King used a missing Arthur Conan Doyle manuscript in her final book of the series.

King Grave TalentA Grave Talent

King To Play the FoolTo Play the Fool

King With ChildWith Child

King Night WorkNight Work

King Art of DetectionThe Art of Detection

The series from Mary Wings features Emma Victor from 1986 to 1999. Reminiscent of the old-time butch world, the clever and witty Emma Victor is a private eye who takes the reader through the compelling lesbian lifestyle in beautiful San Francisco after a rocky start in Boston. Through sub-plotting and meandering, the characters’ interactions, including casual sex and male-like stoic behavior, make the books fun.

Wings She Came Too LateShe Came Too Late

Wings She Came in a FlashShe Came in a Flash

Wings She Came by the BookShe Came by the Book

Wings She Came to the CastroShe Came to the Castro

Wings She Came in DragShe Came in Drag

Over a decade ago, Nicola Griffith introduced lesbian hero Aud Torvigen, a tough, ex-police lieutenant from the elite “Red Dogs” who has seen it all. Making Atlanta her home, Aud solves crimes as she kills without hesitation and without remorse, emotionally removed from the world. Icy-cold and hot at the same time, Aud is a character to follow.

Griffith Blue PlaceThe Blue Place

Griffith StayStay

Griffith AlwaysAlways

British author Nicola Upson uses the Scottish playwright and murder mystery author Josephine Tey (aka Elizabeth MacKintosh) as the protagonist in this fictional series set in the 1930s. The atmospheric books about Great Britain that move between theater life in London and murders in rural England blend fiction with fact, include real characters in Upson’s world of murder. The first book, published in 2008, includes LGBT characters, but Tey’s lesbian relationship doesn’t occur until midway through the series.

Upson Expert in MurderAn Expert in Murder

Upson Angel with Two FacesAngel with Two Faces

Upson Two for SorrowTwo for Sorrow

Upson Fear in the SunlightFear in the Sunlight

Upson Death of Lucy KyteThe Death of Lucy Kyte

Sandra Scoppettone’s Lauren Laurano, a private investigator in New York City, started to solve crimes with humor and heart over two decades ago. The series begins with humor and ends with sadness but keeps the same charming character who seems like a close friend as she investigates deaths of friends and family.

Scoppettone Everything You Have Is MineEverything You Have Is Mine

Scoppettone I'll Be Leaving You AlwaysI’ll Be Leaving You Always

Scoppettone My Sweet Untraceable YouMy Sweet Untraceable You

Scoppettone Let's Face the Music and DieLet’s Face the Music and Die

Scoppettone Gonna Take a Homicidal JourneyGonna Take a Homicidal Journey

Sara Dreher’s slightly off-kilter character Stoner Mc Tavish entertains readers who like the unexpected. Through psychic connection and out-of-body-travel, Stoner is transported into different places and time periods, solving crimes and searching for her lover, Gwen. Helped by her fun-loving friend Mary Lou and her cool aunt, Stoner’s adventures are uplifting and crazy unusual. Sarah Dreher died in 2012, and I am saddened that both she and Stoner are gone.

Dreher Stoner McTavishStoner McTavish

Dreher Something ShadySomething Shady

Dreher Gray MagicGray Magic

Dreher Captive in TimeA Captive in Time

Dreher OtherWorldOtherworld

Dreher Bad CompanyBad Company

Dreher Shaman's MoonShaman’s Moon

Val McDermid was the first writer to hit the UK with a lesbian sleuth. Lindsay Gordon is a very feisty, very funny Scottish journalist who, with friends, family, and lovers, untangles conspiracies and exposes murderers. Her world is sometimes so dark that I’m reluctant to turn the page, but I always do. McDermid leaves the reader with unanswered questions and wanting another Gordon book.

McDermid Report for MurderReport for Murder

McDermid Common MurderCommon Murder

McDermid Deadline for MurderOpen and Shut, Deadline for Murder

McDermid Conferences Are MurderConferences are Murder

McDermid Booked for MurderBooked for Murder

McDermid Hostage to MurderHostage to Murder

That’s my top ten – authors who succeeded in bringing back lesbian sleuths again and again, with style and amazing imagination. All these books should be in print and in libraries serving general populations.


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