After spending this past weekend discussing what makes a truly great mystery novel at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, I found myself analyzing my favorites. Why did these particular books have such a hold on my imagination? How did they keep me guessing, and why were they so impossible to put down? Something else I discovered was that, coincidentally, all my favorites happened to be written by female authors. In an industry often rife with gender discrimination, it makes me beyond happy to celebrate these five game-changing female authors below. Check out my Top 5 master list and then let me know your favorites!
I’ll never forget the summer I turned 13—the summer I found Rebecca. From the opening pages of the prologue, I was swept up in du Maurier’s gorgeous writing and the chilling atmosphere of the setting, Manderley. I rooted for the nameless narrator, I feared Mrs. Danvers, and my mind spun trying to unravel the mystery that was Rebecca herself. Published in 1938, Rebecca is a classic that is just as readable and thrilling today as it would have been seventy-six years ago. Daphne du Maurier truly paved the way for female authors of suspense, and I can feel her influence in many other works that came after her. My own upcoming YA novel, Suspicion, pays homage to Rebecca, and I’ll always be grateful to du Maurier for introducing me—and generations of readers—to a love of mystery and suspense.
Published just one year after Rebecca came another masterpiece by a legendary female novelist, Agatha Christie. This is a book generations of us have read with all the lights on, trembling under the covers as one character after the next was killed off. And Then There Were None is not just an incredibly fun, deliciously scary read, but it’s also a great study in brilliant plot twists and surprise endings.
Since her stellar 2009 debut, Kate Morton has established herself as today’s preeminent author of historical fiction mysteries. The House at Riverton is set in World War I-era England and features a complex, fascinating cast of characters—with not just one, but multiple revelations at the end of the twisty tale.
I think of Gone Girl as a worthy successor to Rebecca. From the unreliable narration to the shocking twist and uniquely original, not-exactly-likable characters, Gone Girl is a book that really makes you think—including about how brilliant Gillian Flynn is!
This YA favorite took the reading world by storm this year, and for good reason. Lockhart’s writing is stunning and the Big Twist that everyone is talking about in this novel is both heartbreaking, and a well-crafted sleight of hand. This is a book you will want to read all over again, as soon as you’ve gotten to That Ending!
That’s my top five—what are yours? I’m now hungry for a new killer mystery to read, so share your thoughts in the comments!