ALL LADIES LOVE A MYSTERY. Regardless of our age or inclination, we all have the capacity to turn into elderly women who are transfixed by their USA network stories (except “Royal Pains.” That one Pain always looks too smutty!) Even more, we love a good lady crime-solver. Not that we don’t like it when a gentleman solves a crime . . . we just know that there was probably a woman on the case who solved it first and let him have his moment. In any case, if you have a working knowledge of the universe of famous lady detectives, you’re likely to impress that lady at the end of the bar who can’t find her purse, even if you don’t find her purse.
While we’re waiting for confirmation that “True Detective” Season 2 will in fact have a female lead (Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch? Mmmpft. Not the female leads we were promised.) why not settle in and celebrate some of the finest female detectives ever to grace a lady’s eyes? I’ve got some ideas of where you can start.
“Solvin’ Crimes Before the Prom” Division
America’s oldest girl detective, Nancy Drew began solving mysteries in 1930, beginning with “The Secret of the Old Clock.” Though she takes on a handful of clients through her attorney father, she never takes any money from them. She can figure out who is haunting an old mansion or who is ruining your produce, and she’ll do it all with her two best friends, Bess and George, her occasional boyfriend Ned Nickerson, and naturally blonde hair that won’t turn darker as she ages.
Veronica Mars, “Veronica Mars”
The CW (nee UPN)’s answer to the “girl detective,” Veronica Mars, like Nancy Drew, also works part-time for her father solving crimes, specifically the murder of her best friend. Oh, and finding her mother. Oh, and figuring out who roofied and raped her. Nancy never had a case load like that, even after her 2007 reboot.
Literary Detectives Division
Lindsay Boxer, Jill Bernhardt, Yuki Castellano, Cindy Thomas, Claire Washburn, “Women’s Murder Club”
You’ve read the book by James Patterson (and follow-up books by people who can’t afford commercials for their novels). Individually, these women are merely a lawyer, a medical examiner, a homicide detective, a reporter, and eventually, further down in the series, a defense attorney.
Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
She’s a hacker who turns into a research assistant who turns into a detective in Mikael Blomkvist’s redemptive investigation into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Her character was sadly ruined by Rooney Mara and the ghost writer who finished the series after the death of Stieg Larsson.
Stephanie Plum ,“One for the Money”
Oh my God, your mom loves these books.
Thursday Next, “The Eyre Affair”
Thursday is a literal literary detective who can travel between the real world and books to solve crimes that happen in the pages. She helps out Mr. Rochester, Hamlet, and eventually different iterations of herself as her work is celebrated in print.
Fun additional fact: Almost every historical figure, whether fictional or real, has a mystery to solve at some point in her life. Whether it’s Eleanor Roosevelt or Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, every lady of note has dipped her toe into crime solving. You can find a novel centered around your favorite, and if you can’t, request it in the comments and I will personally write it on my Tumblr, find Internet fame, and make a million zillion dollars from the movie adaptation starring Kristen Stewart as Lucy Webb Hayes.
“We’ll Find the Killer … In Syndication” Division
Olivia Benson, “Law and Order: SVU”
The woman’s solve rate is like 99.9999999 percent. Seriously. I’ve watched my fair share of “SVU” and I think there was only one case I can remember where they didn’t get the guy. The NYPD’s clearance rate has been around 70 percent for the past several years. But Benson is overcompensating for her own history, and she ALWAYS gets the bad guy. ALWAYS. It took every fiber of my being not to list her in “The Greatest” category, y’all.
Kate Beckett , “Castle”
She’s a no-nonsense detective with the NYPD who blanches at having a crime writer shadowing her. Naturally though, the more time you spend with Nathan Fillion solving odd crimes, the faster you fall in luuuuurve.
Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey , “Cagney and Lacey”
Producer Barney Rosenzweig originally wrote the movie script this series is based on to fill the void of female buddy cop movies. While now that cup runneth over with “The Heat” and umm . . . uh . . . well, we still have brassy street-wise Lacey and professional, career-minded Lacey to smile back upon.
Diane Russell, “NYPD Blue”
You had a crush on Kim Delaney and you know it.
Brenda Leigh Johnson – “The Closer”
They bring her in because she can close. The cases. She closes the cases because she gets the confessions. Is it the American “Prime Suspect?” Maaaaaaaybe (but don’t go saying Kyra Sedgwick is the American Helen Mirren or we will have WORDS.)
Women of Society Division
Nora Charles, “The Thin Man”
A wealthy heiress who marries into detecting. Solves crimes with her husband and a lot of adult beverages. Between wardrobe changes, she tosses out witty jabs as frequently as she tosses back the drinks.
Maddie Hayes ,“Moonlighting”
When a fading model falls victim to embezzlement, she has to resort to actively running the detective agency she had kept as a tax write-off (YOU CAN DO THAT?!?!) Dramedy ensues with a young Bruce Willis. You should probably go back and watch this show, because the writing was killer (get it?)–right up until the leads rarely were able to appear on screen together. Thanks a lot, “Die Hard.”
The Greatest #NoDisrespecttoBenAffleck
Miss Jane Marple
Oh man, we all love a meddling spinster, especially those of independent means.
Clarice Starling, “Silence of the Lambs”
Technically not an agent when we first meet her, she’s still fearless and smart – even if she doesn’t actually solve a crime.
Jessica Fletcher, “Murder She Wrote”
Successful mystery novelist by day. Amateur detective by day. In bed by 9. Who knew that little seaside Cabot Cove, Maine would be so full of murder? I bet Jessica Fletcher did, and that’s why she specifically chose it. New York City was probably a vacation for her when she relocated to teach criminology after eight seasons. Side note: The real crime here is NO EMMYS FOR ANGELA LANSBURY.
So catch up on these criminal-catchers and impress the ladies. Double points if you can figure out the murderer before Jessica Fletcher. (Hint: DON’T EVEN TRY.)