Friday, September 16, 2016


I enjoy a good mystery every now and then but I really love them when they involve kick ass women. The 70s brought us Cleopatra Jones on the big screen. A secret agent for the government, she was fierce enough to pose as a model while bringing corrupt men and women to their knees. A recent binge reading of Rachel Howzell Hall’s Elouise “Lou” Norton’s books brought to mind some other fierce women detectives, private investigators and just flat out nosy women that have entertained me over the years.

Blanche White, the star of Barbara Neely’s series, is a housekeeper and cook with a penchant for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. Using her own personal invisibility cloak of being a black, female, domestic worker, Blanche often goes unnoticed, allowing her to get the dirt on everything and everyone around her. There are only four books in the Blanche series, but she’s an unforgettable character.

The Mali Anderson mysteries by Grace F. Edwards is one of my favorite series. With the first book, If I Should Die, published in 1997, I was hooked. Through Edwards' writing readers were introduced to former cop, Mali Anderson, her jazz loving father and the nephew, Alvin, she's raising in Harlem. As the characters on The Wire would say, Mali is "real police," even though she's no longer on the job.

Kendra Clayton is no one’s detective, at least not one with any formal training. She’s just a nosy teacher with too much time on her hands. Stuck in her small Ohio town, one would think there wasn’t a lot going on, but Kendra manages to stick her nose into quite a few places they don’t belong. There are five books in the recently re-published series from Angela Henry and they’re all enjoyable.

Valerie Wilson-Wesley is the GOAT when it comes to creating female detectives. A former cop turned private investigator, Tamara Hayle is a single mom trying to raise her son on the mean streets for Newark. She’s on a one woman mission to save her city and the people in it.

By profession, Vernetta Henderson is an attorney, but working on her clients’ behalf means that she spends a great deal of time looking into shady dealings and people. Though she can find herself in some pretty tense situations, comic relief is provided in the form of her outrageous friend, Special, who truly lives up to her name. With just five books in the series, you’re sure to plow through them and find yourself wishing Pamela Samuels Young would hurry up and put out a new one.

Recently Rachel Howzell Hall’s publisher reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in her latest book, Trail of Echoes, the third in her series about seasoned L.A. detective Elouise “Lou” Norton. When I asked if I could read it as a standalone since I hadn’t read the previous books, she graciously offered to send me the first two books in the series as well. I’ve torn through the first two books this week and I’m starting the third book today. Lou is a no-nonsense detective, though she’s a bit of a pushover when it comes to her cheating husband. With a new partner who’s still got milk on his breath and her lieutenant breathing down her neck, a sista can’t catch a break. But Lou always comes out on top, even when it isn’t pretty.

So those are the ladies of mystery that I’m loving. What other series featuring women of colour or characters am I missing out on?

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