Noir is not a boys' club. From the groundbreaking work of Dorothy B. Hughes to the lasting influence of Daphne du Maurier, women have been writing thrilling fiction for decades. Today, many of the most celebrated noir and mystery authors are women—and these 10 writers are some of our favorites. Get ready to expand your reading list.
Abbott is perhaps the most well known noir writer working today. If you haven’t already read her work, it’s time to start. Abbott is no stranger to grit and grime (she’s currently writing for HBO’s The Deuce), and her novels will leave you feeling a bit dirty too. Queenpin, one of Abbott’s earlier novels, harkens back to the days of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, as a young woman joins the underworld of New York City–and quickly finds herself in over her head.
When it comes to pitch-black crime fiction, Japan's Natsuo Kirino is in a class of her own. Her novels are intense and unrelenting, maintaining a delicate balance of noir and social intrigue. Only six of her 16 novels have been translated into English, but they are well worth seeking out. The first novel translated into English, Out, remains Kirino’s most popular, but we recommend Grotesque for those who prefer their noir as dark as possible.
Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead
Sara Gran’s Claire Dewitt is one of the shining stars of modern noir. When Claire returns to New Orleans to discover just what happened to a missing District Attorney, the self-annotated “world’s greatest private eye” must use all her resources (including a fair amount of drugs) to wrap up her case.
An Untamed State
An Untamed State is a thriller of such feeling that we’ve been waiting patiently for another crime novel from Roxane Gay ever since. If you’re desperate for more, check out Gay’s short story collection, Difficult Women. Many of the stories included in this collection will scratch the same itch.
Field of Blood
Mina’s Tartan Noir tales are for those who like their fiction extra dark. The Paddy Meehan series is a great place for newcomers to start. Paddy is a young journalist in Glasgow who gets the break of her life when the suspect in a vicious child murder is related to her fiancé. But the terror goes deeper than simply the nearness of evil.
What Remains of Me
Thirty five years after Kelly Lund was convicted of murdering director John McFadden, she finds herself back in the spotlight. Her father-in-law has been found dead, shot in the exact same manner as McFadden. Luckily, Lund has friends who believe she’s innocent of both murders. Unluckily, it’s not clear if Lund is actually innocent.
Ki Longfellow’s Sam Russo series will satisfy anyone looking to harken back to the days of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. In the late 1940s, Sam Russo has gotten the case that will put him on par with his detective heroes. Ki expertly adopts the voice of the hardboiled detective and will leave you feeling as though you’ve just read a previously undiscovered Raymond Chandler novel.
Related: What Is Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction?
Dreda Say Mitchell
Dreda Say Mitchell’s urban noir is grittier than anything you’ve read before. The slang used can be off-putting to American audiences, but it’s worth working through. Hit Girls, which features characters from earlier Mitchell novels, is a standalone that combines private investigators with troubled pasts, gangsters, and secrets you won’t believe.
Black Water Rising
Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird was one of the best novels of 2017. Yet her debut novel, Black Water Rising, is just as thrilling. Jay Porter runs his minuscule law practice out of a strip mall, where he can forget about his failure to achieve the American Dream. When he rescues a woman from drowning, Jay is the one who ends up under the water. This intense, twisty tale will enthrall any reader.
We couldn’t leave out the so-called Queen of Noir. Cathi Unsworth, most popular in her homeland of the United Kingdom, has been writing detective and noir fiction since leaving behind the music journalism world. Her second novel, The Singer, expertly melds the two. When the lead singer of Blood Truth disappeared and his girlfriend was found dead, the acclaimed band loses their way. 20 years after, a journalist with a book contract is determined to find out what really happened.
Featured photo of Natsuo Kirino, Megan Abbott, Attica Locke, and Cathi Unsworth via Alchetron