8 Books About Small-Town Woman Detectives
Check out these mysteries if you miss "Mare of Easttown"
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Now that the finale has aired and the dust has settled around the body of Erin McMenamin, maybe you’ve found yourself missing Mare Sheehan. She’s the perfect antihero: a mixture of the classic hard-boiled detective, whose past wounds drive the fervor of a present investigation, and the girl detective, a beloved figure whose wit and perceptive powers help her uncover a close-knit community’s secrets. Combine that with the suffocating atmosphere of a small town, and you’ve got a gripping story.
Fortunately, plenty of novels use the same formula to create compelling characters and captivating plots. If you’re dying to see more like Mare, check out these books, featuring locales as small as Easttown and female detectives as savvy and as sarcastic as your favorite Pennsylvania D.I.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
Set at Oxford in the fictional women’s college of Shrewsbury, Dorothy Sayers’s 1935 classic revolves around Harriet Vane, a detective novelist investigating a series of threatening letters, vandalisms, and violent attacks at her alma mater. Harriet also happens to be on the receiving end of the culprit’s acrimony. Along with her admirer, detective Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet must discover the criminal before it’s too late for her.
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
In the titular novella from this stunning story collection, Cassie, a young Black woman, works in a government agency responsible for fixing historical inaccuracies. Cassie and her rival are assigned to investigate a small Wisconsin town grappling with a racist crime in its past. But the victim of the purported murder might still be alive. Cassie teams up with her nemesis to find the truth and to confront the ways we manipulate our own stories for personal gain.
The Likeness by Tana French
Detective Cassie Maddox of the Dublin Murder Squad has had a rough go of it. Her last investigation brought her into conflict with a psychopath, leaving her with stab wounds and forcing her to quit the murder beat. But when a woman who looks eerily identical to Cassie turns up dead, her old boss talks her into a dangerous plan: Cassie will go undercover in the victim’s place to tempt the killer out of hiding. As Cassie gets drawn into the life her double left behind, she loses track of the boundaries between her real and undercover identities.
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Anne Beddingfeld, an orphan, moves to London in search of adventure. She stumbles upon one when she witnesses a suspicious death at a tube station and finds a cryptic note near the body. In search of the truth, Anne books passage on a cruise ship mentioned in the dead man’s note, where she befriends suspects and is attacked in turn. Peril follows Anne on her journey—will she catch the killer in time, or become yet another victim? At once a satire and a stellar example of its genre, The Man in the Brown Suit is funny, frightening, and self-aware.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
In a remote Polish village, aging spinster Janina Duszejko spends most of her time translating the poetry of William Blake and studying the stars. The townspeople largely dismiss her as a crackpot. But Janina inserts herself into the investigation when the villagers discover that her neighbor, a hunter nicknamed Big Foot, has died. As more bodies are found in increasingly odd circumstances, Janina insists she knows who the culprit is. Too bad no one will listen to her.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
In the tiny town of Keldale, Yorkshire, a resident claims to have murdered her father. Indeed, she was found seated beside his headless corpse, dressed in her finest gown and holding an axe. But Keldale is home to a host of secrets, and nothing there is what it seems. When Scotland Yard inspectors Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers visit the tranquil Yorkshire valley to find the true killer, they uncover a shattering series of crimes that threaten to upend Keldale completely.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
Claire DeWitt is the world’s greatest detective—or at least, so she says. She returns to New Orleans, where she apprenticed, to investigate the disappearance of a prominent DA after Hurricane Katrina. Though her tactics are a bit esoteric, Claire is unwavering in her pursuit of the case. Her search brings her into contact with gangs of feral children, drug-abusing goons, and other missing figures from her past. Claire drags readers into the dark underbelly of New Orleans as she attempts to make order out of all the chaos.
Whispers in the Dark by Eleanor Taylor Bland
Detective Marti MacAlister has been tasked with a seemingly unsolvable case: all that’s left of the murder victim is an unidentifiable arm. Marti and her partner delve into the exclusive artistic community of Lincoln Prairie, Illinois to tackle the mystery. Meanwhile, Marti’s best friend is embroiled in a dangerous journey of her own as a suitor spirits her away to the Bahamas. As the case in Lincoln Prairie starts to crack, Marti must also rescue her friend in this dramatic whirlwind of a novel.