(On A Wednesday..!)
I was sitting reading a variety of Top Ten Tuesdays, which is the new meme hosted by The Broke And The Bookish (this week was a freebie, which means it’s up to you to choose what the subject of your Top Ten is.) I’m hopeless at remembering stuff, and thought I’d never be able to come up with any kind of Top Ten. But as I lay in bed last night, I tentatively started a list, so here it is – in no particular order – my Top Ten Female Investigators:
1. Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan.
Ballsy, kick-ass, completely undomesticated, Maeve is a heroine for the 21t century.
MR Hall, the not unattractive creator of the Jenny Cooper series…
2. MR Hall’s Jenny Cooper.
Star of The Coroner, The Disappeared and a further four books. Jenny has her own demons, but her dedication to finding out the truth for the families left behind is admirable. She has little truck for politics – all she wants are the answers.
3. Lynda LaPlante’s Jane Tennison.
From the Prime Suspect TV series, starring the legendary Helen Mirren. Okay, so this was a TV series originally, but I had to include Tennison, who drank too much and slept with unsuitable men before any other policewomen.
4. Patricia Cornwell’s Dr Kay Scarpetta.
Okay the last few books have been dire, not to mention extremely confusing when it came to their titles (one called Scarpetta; another called The Scarpetta Factor – it’s as though she can’t even be bothered to come up with memorable titles any more!) But Cornwell’s originality shouldn’t be forgotten, nor should the fact she had us fascinated with forensics when CSI was just a twinkle in Jerry Bruckheimer’s eye.
5. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.
No list would be complete without the original, greatly-loved and most enduring herone of detective fiction. Her innocuous, little-old-lady appearance hides a razor-sharp brain. Underestimate her at your peril…
6. Ian Rankin’s DS (now DI) Siobhan Clarke.
She may have been Rebus’s sidekick, but she deserves a mention for getting her boss out of more than a few scrapes, as well as for being the voice of reason when Rebus gets carried away. I just wish the Siobhan in the TV adaptation starring Ken Stott was truer to Rankin’s vision, where she is a bit of a tomboy. It’s hard to imagine that ice-cool blonde creature going to Hibs matches alone, or listening to the obscure – and very noisy – indie music she enjoys in the books. (Bizarrely, I always picture Siobhan as resembling Nicola Sturgeon..!)
7. Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming.
A country policewoman whose never moved far from where she was born and brought up, in Dumfries and Galloway. Married to a farmer, she enjoys playing the “country bumpkin” role, with the result that suspects – and other police officers – tend to underestimate her. Not a wise move.
8. Stuart MacBride’s DI Roberta Steel.
My personal favourite – a caustic, potty-mouthed chain smoker, she is completely oblivious to her appearance. Her sarcastic barbs directed at DS Logan McRae (“Laz”) and the rest of the team provide some of the funniest moments in this darkly humorous series – and there’s plenty of competition there. She’s also more than happy to spill the beans on whatever lucky lady she’s currently sleeping with. A refreshing character, although not always a likeable one -but very very funny.
Faye Kellerman – she and husband Jonathan are both massively successful.
9. Faye Kellerman’s Rina Lazarus.
Rina helps her husband, Lieutenant Peter Decker, who investigates homicides in LAPD. Recent books have also featured daughter Linda Decker, who is a rookie cop with LAPD. Rina is empathetic, sensitive and sensible. The fact that Rina is an Orthodox Jew adds originality and interest to the series.
10. Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan.
Tess is a Baltimore-based former reporter (like the author) who turns to working as a private investigator to make ends meet. As well as the investigations, which take Tess all over the States, Tess’s private life is an ongoing feature of the novels, including her unconventional relationship with boyfriend Crow – and her love of rowing as a way of keeping fit. I have to admit that I’ve mostly read these novels out of order – before eBooks, they were incredibly difficult to track down in the UK. Thankfully, many have now caught on to the brilliance of Lippman’s writing, both in the Tess Monaghan books, and in her excellent standalones (When She Was Good, After I’m Gone, amongst others). And I’ve just realised that Lippman is married to David Simon, creator of The Wire, which is often cited as the best TV show ever.
And an honourable mention… Goes to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, who, after her losing her job as a lingerie saleswoman, decides to become a bounty hunter. Fast-moving, very funny, with a great supporting cast of Plum’s eccentric New Jersey family (her grandmother is an utter joy; she goes to funerals simply to find out the gossip and get a free meal!) There are also a couple of extremely attractive male characters who Plum seems to bump into in the course of her investigations – often when she needs rescuing… The book titles all feature puns (One For The Money, Two For The Dough, Three To Get Deadly…you get the idea!) The series is currently at Top Secret Twenty-One (for me, this makes it easy to remember where in the series you are!)
Who have I missed out? Who are your favourite female investigators? Please leave any thoughts in the comments section below…