Murder Room Guide: Women’s Writing

Fiction by women seems to have been a hot topic this year, so we thought we’d put together a guide to our favourite female Murder Room crime writers. Naturally the ladies are every bit as good as the chaps!

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Starting with fans of the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, we recommend The Other Devil’s Name by Elizabeth Ferrars. In pure Christie fashion, Ferrars’ books are great ‘cosy crime’ reads, set in the beautiful English countryside. Here, retired botany professor Andrew Basnett heads to Berkshire when an old friend receives a blackmail letter that hints at terrible murder. Only the letter was put in the wrong envelope! But the quiet little village of Lindleham harbours some big secrets, and not only are several people already missing, but the neighbours seem strangely reluctant to talk . . .

If you’re a fan of Diane Setterfield and Susan Hill, preferring your thrills to have a bit more chill to them, then you’ll love both Mr Splitfoot by Helen McCloy and Honour Thy Father by Lesley Glaister. In Mr Splitfoot a couple find themselves in a car accident in the middle of winter and seek refuge from the cold in a distant house. There’s little space for them to stay, except, that is, in the unused room that’s been kept locked for decades. The last three people who went to sleep in that room were found dead by morning. But how can this be? The puzzle rests deep in the past until a young couple playing a supernatural prank uncover something a lot more down to earth and much more sinister.

Honour Thy Father, acclaimed by Hilary Mantel as ‘frightening yet eerily beautiful’, introduces us to four sisters, including identical twins so closely linked they could be mistaken for one person. They have lived all their lives trapped by the fear of their dead father, who governs their lives from beyond the grave. As the story unfolds, macabre events come to light revealing how an idyllic country childhood was turned into a world of eccentric isolation.

There’s also Anthony Gilbert (don’t let the name fool you, her actual name is Lucy Beatrice Malleson), and if you like your thrillers full of twists and turns with a great concept at the heart (think Linwood Barclay) then The Woman in Red is one for you! When Julia Ross heads out to meet a new employer, a woman in red with murderous intent, the last thing she expects is to wake up two days later in a different house, in different clothes and with a new identity. Enter lawyer-sleuth Arthur Crook, the only man who can solve this mysterious disappearance and rescue Julia.

Another female author assuming an alias is Dell Shannon (or Elizabeth Linington), who wrote a grand total of 82 novels under various noms de plume. Her most successful creation, debonair LAPD Lieutenant Luis Mendoza, first features in Case Pending and broke new ground in being one of the first Latino police officers in the procedural genre. Linington herself was a pioneer in a male-dominated industry, and earned the moniker ‘Queen of the Procedurals’.