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10 Female Noir and Mystery Writers You Need to Read

Get ready to expand your reading list.

female noir writers
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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

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.

Megan Abbott

female noir writers


By Megan Abbott

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. 

Related: The Thin Man: How Dashiell Hammett’s Life as a Private Eye Inspired his Crime Fiction Classics 

Natsuo Kirino

female noir writers


By Natsuo Kirino

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.

Sara Gran

female noir writers

Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead

By Sara Gran

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.

Roxane Gay

An Untamed State

An Untamed State

By Roxane Gay

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.

Denise Mina

female noir writers

Field of Blood

By Denise Mina

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.

Related: Scotland’s Finest: Step Inside the Thrilling World of Tartan Noir 

Alison Gaylin

female noir writers

What Remains of Me

By Alison Gaylin

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

female noir writers

Shadow Roll

By Ki Longfellow

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

female noir writers

Hit Girls

By 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.

Attica Locke

female noir writers

Black Water Rising

By Attica Locke

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.

Cathi Unsworth

female noir writers

The Singer

By Cathi Unsworth

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