Women of Mystery

Investigating the latest "persons of interest" in Texas' literary crime scene

Murder, She Read: What Hooked Us on Women of Mystery

You can always rely on Nancy Drew. Whether you are reading her original 1930s adventures or contemporary comic books, you get certain guarantees: strawberry-blond hair, two odd-couple best friends, a baby blue Mustang convertible, a varsity boyfriend who will always help you get out of scrapes. But the other thing you can always count on is that constant current of compassion, poise, and intellect – this Joan of Arc compulsion to protect and defend the downtrodden, manipulated, and frightened. Hundreds of ghostwriters have wielded the name Carolyn Keene. You'd expect some of Nancy's essence to get lost in translation. But here she is, as always, finding the clue in the clock or climbing the hidden staircase, teaching another little girl to be brave and inquisitive and kind. – Rosalind Faires

My mom knew when she shut my bedroom door every night, I was going to crawl out of bed and read by nightlight. She never stopped me, and she'd always tuck me back in when I fell asleep, cheek to page. I started sneaking her Sue Grafton and Earlene Fowler murder mysteries in upper elementary school, but eventually she just started handing them over when she was done. I've branched out from the Benni Harper and Kinsey Millhone sagas, but I'm still a sucker for a good thriller, especially one with a kickass female protagonist. Thanks, Mom. – Jessi Cape

In a Lonely Place, Dorothy B. Hughes' long-neglected noir masterpiece, has been resurrected by the Library of America in its recent two-volume release Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Sara Weinman (1,512 pp., $75). The novel follows Dix Steele, an ex-serviceman who graduated from flying jet planes to getting his kicks as a serial killer, as he stalks his next victim and plays a game of cat and mouse with an old army buddy who just happens to be working the case of Steele's latest victim. Before Patricia Highsmith had ever written Ripley, Hughes had already taken readers into the mind of a handsome, charming, and psychopathic "homme fatale," even as the "femme fatale" concept had just emerged. – Molly Odintz

  • Women of Mystery

    Investigating the latest "persons of interest" in Texas' literary crime scene
  • Evolving a Detective

    Minerva Koenig wanted her mystery series to show how someone becomes a sleuth

    Pleasantville

    Attica Locke's stylish novel proves she knows how to craft a fiendishly intricate detective story

    The Do-Right

    Lisa Sandlin's gem of a noir set in 1970s Beaumont is atmospheric, by turns amusing and harrowing, and surprisingly compassionate

    Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery

    With this debut, Melissa Lenhardt delivers a punchy page-turner with a real feel for life in small-town Texas

    Sunset City

    Melissa Ginsburg's Houston-set debut is a steamy potboiler and a perfect detective novel for millennials

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