My Favorite Female Detectives in Literature

Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew
Courtesy of Detective Kamenakis
There was once a time when the heroes and crime solvers of novels were all men. For the most part, females played a passive or at best a helpful role in literature and film. Those standards have long since changed and now female crime solvers are a frequent occurrence in novels and films. Listed here are three exceptional characters, one is a modern and headstrong woman, one is arguably the first widely popular fictional female crime solver and one is not as well known, but is unique even for the genre.

Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries

Kinsey Millhone was orphaned at the age of five and sent to live with her single, odd, yet loving aunt. She grew up to be an independent, small-framed and athletic woman who works for herself as a private investigator. She has been married twice and divorced twice by the start of the series and is living in a garage apartment that is attached to her landlord’s house. She has few friends but her landlord, Henry Pitts is easily her closest one. He is a youthful eighty years old and acts as a surrogate family for Kinsey.

Throughout the novels, Kinsey is resourceful, intelligent and skilled. She is often faced with criminals that are men, some were once her lovers, but she always seems to triumph over the bad guys. She leads a single lifestyle and seems to have a new relationship in every novel. She is truly a modern female detective that modern women can relate to and enjoy.

Nancy Drew, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, written by various ghostwriters under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew is a teenaged amateur detective that is featured in many, many books over a long period of time. She lives with her father, who is a lawyer; her mother died when she was a young girl. She is a rich, smart, go-getter that spends all of her time solving mysteries. She sometimes enlists the aid of her two best friends and her boyfriend, but is capable of doing things on her own. Basically, she is everything a young woman wants in a fictional female detective.

Constance Greene, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast series

Constance Greene is not a female crime solver in the same sense as Kinsey Millhone and Nancy Drew. In fact, she is quite different than what you would expect from any female crime solver. She is a soft-spoken, shut-in of an intellectual and she is nearly one hundred years old, due to the experiments of a crazed serial killer. She has become the ward of an eccentric F.B.I. agent by the name of Aloysius Pendergast.

Because of her age, Constance Greene is very intelligent. She assists Pendergast by doing research and uncovering obscure references in old documents. What makes her a favorite is the air of mystery that surrounds her in many of the books. She plays passive roles in the novels that she is featured, but she is nonetheless intriguing and an integral part of crime solving in the series.

These three fictional female crime solvers are some of the best in the genre. Each is unique and caters to the interests of a broad scope of readers. And these are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more great female crime solving characters out there and many more to come.

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