This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge features sapphic mystery novels–a novel in which the plot revolves around a murder or another crime that needs to be solved.
Mystery novels with a queer female crime-solving badass have a strong tradition. Even before I discovered romance novels between women, I was reading mainstream-published books featuring lesbian detectives such as the Kate Martinelli series by Laurie King and the Kate Delafield series by Katherine V. Forrest or private investigators such as the Lauren Laurano series by Sandra Scoppettone.
I’ve included some of these classics along with more recently published mystery novels.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
If you are only discovering the Sapphic Reading Challenge now, the good news is you can still join! It’s a year-long challenge, so it runs until December 31, 2021. Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge and download your PDF so you can keep track of the books you read this year.
15 sapphic mystery novels
I put together a list of 15 mystery novels with a sapphic main character. I hope you enjoy them!
Amateur City (Kate Delafield Series #1) by Katherine V. Forrest
Tough and demanding LAPD Detective Kate Delafield is the leader of the investigation into a highrise office building murder. The case is intriguing but routine – until Kate interviews the only witness, Ellen O’Neil.
When Ellen O’Neil took her new job over the objections of her lover, she wasn’t expecting to become embroiled in murder. The curiosity that Kate Delafield rouses is equally unexpected. But it is never far from Ellen’s mind that she is merely a name on an interview sheet to the tight-lipped detective.
Kate’s thin trail of clues are enough to convince her that she is looking for an amateur, and amateurs are notoriously unpredictable and dangerous. She finds her path increasingly intersecting with that of Ellen O’Neil, who is proving unpredictable and dangerous in a far more personal way.
Keeping Secrets (A Mimi Patterson/Gianna Maglione Mystery #1) by Penny Mickelbury
Someone is murdering wealthy, married–and deeply closeted gay people in their own automobiles while parked in deserted parking lots in Washington, DC. Someone the victims allowed into their cars late at night. Someone who knows their most guarded and protected secret. Five murders so far on the same day of the month.
Police Lieutenant Gianna Maglione, head of the DC Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit, has a month to find and stop the killer or she’ll find Body #6. But she has another problem in ace newspaper reporter Mimi Patterson, who thinks the public, especially the gay public, has a right to know that a serial killer is on the prowl.Until Mimi, Gianna had managed to keep the murders a secret.
A newspaper story would create a sensation and most likely drive the killer underground. They clash, the reporter and the cop, but only in public. Their private attraction to each other is as dangerous to them as, well, as a serial killer. Secrets=Death, and almost everybody has at least one. Including cops and reporters.
Death by the Riverside (Micky Knight Mysteries Book 1) by J.M. Redmann
Among the moss-covered trees and wrought-iron balustrades of southern Louisiana, Detective Michele Knight (Micky to her friends) takes on the seemingly simple job of shooting a few photos for a client, but the going gets rough as Micky finds herself slugging through thugs and slogging through swamps in an attempt to expose a dangerous drug ring.
The trail leads to the Hundred Oaks Plantation, a transvestite named Eddie, a beautiful doctor named Cordelia, and memories Micky thought she had buried twenty years ago.
Hallowed Murder (Jane Lawless Mystery #1) by Ellen Hart
It’s almost winter in Minnesota. As the icy cold begins to grip the Twin Cities, restaurant owner, Jane Lawless, and her eccentric sidekick, Cordelia Thorn, are caught up in a spiraling chain of events centering on the university sorority, Kappa Alpha Sigma.
Allison Lord, a popular sorority member with a secret, is killed and the murderer continues to stalk the house amid charges of theft, lesbianism and religious intolerance.
Addict (The Cassie Tam Files #1) by Matt Doyle
New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
Steel City Confidential (Steel City Series #1) by Anne Hagan
Clients hide things from their lawyers all the time. Pam Wilson makes it an art form.
Pam’s been on the run from the law for years and she was getting away with it. The statute of limitations ran out on most of her crimes. For her spouse Charlotte? Not so much. Though they were aging, they looked forward to enjoying their golden years and, hopefully, forgetting about the past.
Life got complicated when Charlotte became gravely ill, their daughter got pregnant with the child of a married man…a married man someone took shots at from a rare motorcycle Pam happens to own. When the man was shot again and killed in his office at Pitt a couple of weeks later, the police found all signs pointing to Pam.
Rochelle ‘Ro’ Rabinowitz, a second-generation Pittsburgh lawyer, and her little firm take on Pam’s case pro-bono. Ro thinks it’s a slam dunk for the defense and hands the case off to her new associate and – she hopes – her future partner in the firm, Dominique, to get her feet wet in a courtroom. Clients are never completely honest with their lawyers and Ro and Dominque soon learn this one is no exception.
Slam dunk? More like a pipe dream…
Collide-O-Scope (Norfolk Coast Investigation #1) by Andrea Bramhall
An unidentified woman is found murdered on the North Norfolk Coastal Path and newly promoted Detective Sergeant Kate Brannon and Kings Lynn’s CID have the task of figuring out whom, how, and why. A job that’s made more difficult when everyone of the forty residents in the village has something to hide and answers her questions with a string of lies.
Georgina Temple has her own secrets to keep, and her own reasons to keep them. But her growing attraction to Kate makes it increasingly difficult to keep them.
Kate’s investigation into the woman’s death delves into the heart of the tiny fishing village where nothing and no one is quite what they seem.
Left Field (Lillian Byrd Crime Series #5) by Elizabeth Sims
Lillian Byrd has been searching her soul after the gut-wrenching experience of killing someone in self-defense. Scrabbling to make ends meet, she takes a job as a quasi detective, solving life’s little mysteries for a pair of eccentric women in one of Detroit’s last prestigious neighborhoods. When she spots a corpse on the next-door lawn, she jumps back into honest work as an investigative journalist.
Her friend Mercedes reveals that the dead woman, Abby Rawson, played on a women’s softball team she manages and pressures Lillian into taking her spot. Softball turns to hardball when Lillian not only plunges into a love affair with the team’s sought-after pitcher but also goes undercover as an exterminator, a squatter, and a charity worker to investigate Abby’s death and the corrupt medical organization she worked for. No one on the team is above suspicion, and as they get closer to snagging the coveted championship title—and Lillian gets closer to discovering the dark truth behind Abby’s murder—she fights to keep her new love in her life and literally save her own.
A Message in Blood (Chiara Corelli Mystery #3) by Catherine Maiorisi
A middle-of-the night phone call summons NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli and her partner, Detective P.J. Parker, to a politically sensitive murder scene. The victims—a U.S. Senator, the pastor of a mega church, and a self-made music industry billionaire—appear to have been killed during a sex orgy.
Pressure is mounting to cover up the circumstances. But Corelli and Parker are enraged by the words scrawled in blood on a mirror, and their hearts are broken by what they find hidden in a closet. Now the partners vow to find the killer and expose the unsavory lives of these men while seeking justice for the real victims in this case—the children.
Blue (A Blue McCarron Mystery #1) by Abigail Padgett
Blue McCarron has a Ph.D. in social psychology. She teaches and writes while living reclusively in an abandoned motel in the middle of the California desert with her Doberman, Bronte. A minister’s kid, she has an imprisoned felon for a twin and a broken heart from grieving over her lost lover, Misha.
When a body is found trussed up in a public freezer and widow Muffin Crandall claims she killed an intruder in self-defense and then did some dumb things, including freezing the corpse for five years, Muffin’s brother Dan hires Blue to free his much older sister by analyzing her.
It is apparent to Blue and forensic psychiatrist Rox that Muffin’s story is a hoax. But who is Muffin protecting? Who wants her dead? And, maybe more important, will Blue ever resolve her love for Misha and love again?
Dying on the Vine (An Ari Adams Mystery) by Ann Roberts
When Ari Adams journeys to Oregon’s wine country with best pal Jane Frank, she envisions sipping pinot noir on a gorgeous deck and staring at the sunsets across the Willamette Valley.
But then they arrive at Sisters Cellars only to find that the sommelier, Dion Demopolous, has been murdered. Dion had been favored to win the Master Sommelier title at the world’s most prestigious wine competition, and now more than a few people are happy to see him gone.
Mina Sommer, Jane’s childhood friend and the owner of Sisters Cellars, asks Ari to investigate. Ari’s romantic assumptions are quickly shattered as she delves into the cutthroat world of winemaking—where suspicion is routine, reputation is coveted, and passion for the drink of goddesses and queens is just another motive for murder.
Payback by Charlotte Mills
Detective Constable Kate Wolfe is sent to a Cheshire backwater after falling foul of a disciplinary hearing in London. But before she even has a chance to settle in, Kate finds herself in a situation there’s no coming back from. She’s reported as a troublemaker to her new boss, Detective Chief Inspector Helen Taylor, a no-nonsense veteran who once had an esteemed, high-profile career.
The pair investigate a spate of arson attacks, a dead body found in a burnt out building, and a missing architect while fighting their growing attraction for each other. The discovery of a dumped vehicle in a quarry lake sparks a series of events that will change their lives forever.
Gallows Humor by Carolyn Elizabeth
Corey Curtis is coasting. At thirty-three, she’s in the best shape of her life and has a satisfying position at Jackson City Memorial Hospital. With a good paycheck, great friends, and occasional relationships with smart, beautiful women, she couldn’t be happier. She thinks.
Dr. Thayer Reynolds, whiling away some time before the start of her Emergency Department fellowship at JCMH and intrigued by the stories she’s heard, crashes the morgue to get a look at Corey—the woman her young colleagues are whispering about.
Totally spinning from her first interactions with Thayer, Corey throws herself into the post mortem exam of a construction worker who fell to his death, which isn’t at all suspicious—until it is. With no support from her boss or the police, Corey investigates the death on her own. Making bad decisions with good intentions, she recklessly endangers her own life and Thayer’s. Even worse—she potentially dooms any chance of a real relationship with Thayer before it even gets started.
Criminal Gold (Cantor Gold Crime Series #1) by Ann Aptaker
Midnight, New York Harbor, 1949. Cantor Gold, dapper dyke-about-town, smuggler of fine art, waits in her boat under the Brooklyn Bridge for racketeer Gregory Ortine. In the shadow of the bridge, he’ll toss Cantor a satchel of cash, and she’ll toss him a pouch containing a priceless jewel.
But the plan, and the jewel, sink when a woman in a red sequined dress drops from the bridge and slams onto Cantor’s boat. She is Opal Shaw, Society Page darling and fiancée of murder-for-hire kingpin Sig Loreale.
Through a night of danger, desire, and double-cross, Cantor must satisfy Loreale’s vengeance, stay ahead of an angry Ortine, and untangle the knots of murder tightening around Opal’s best friend and keeper of her dirty secrets, Celeste Copley, a seductress who excites Cantor’s passion but snares her in a labyrinth of lies. The lies explode in a collision of love, loyalty, lust…and death.
Rainey Days (A Rainey Bell Thriller #1) by R.E. Bradshaw
Special Agent Rainey Bell is on medical leave and has been for over a year, after a horrific attack left her scarred both inside and out. She drinks too much and hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months.
On a hung-over morning, in June, a request for help from an old friend plunges Rainey back into the world of stalkers, rapist, and serial killers. The next thirteen days will change Rainey’s life forever, if she survives. On top of all that, the woman she is supposed to protect brings out feelings Rainey didn’t know she had.
Thrown together, by a bizarre series of events, they learn to depend on each other for survival.
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