Five Book Series with a Kick-Ass Female Lead


By Joanna Grey Talbot

MI-5 agent. Psychologist and investigator. Private detective. Author and amateur sleuth. Sherlock Holmes’s apprentice-in-crime. All intelligent. All fearless. All women.

You know a series is excellent when it hooks you with the first book and you cannot stop until you have read them all. The five series listed below, all written by women, are that and so much more. Each lead character is so well developed that they become your friends and you miss them when you reach the end of the series. Do not start book one unless you are ready to take a journey that will leave you wanting more.

Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is an American living in London at the beginning of World War II. The series begins with her working as a secretary for Prime Minister Winston Churchill but over the course of the next two books joins MI-5 and then the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – Great Britain’s spy network during the war. Maggie is a mathematician at heart who loves puzzles and codes and that lends her well throughout her career. She personifies courage and perseverance in the face of very tough odds but MacNeal does an amazing job of making her human with faults and emotions and dreams.

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear

This time we head to 1930s London where we find Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, opening her office for the first time. She begins her career in service at Lord & Lady Compton’s Belgravia mansion but her employers discover her reading in their library late one night and realize she has an exceptional mind. Their generosity provides for her to go to college, but it is interrupted by World War I when Maisie enlists as a nurse. After completing her studies and apprenticing under Dr. Maurice Blanche she opens her own private investigative business. Winspear has created a character that lives and breathes by order, control, and method but underneath that tough exterior lies a woman with scars, both physically and emotionally, whose greatest desire is to help those in need and to always do the right thing.

Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood

Traveling around the world we land in 1920s Melbourne, Australia. Phryne Fisher has left the boring high society of England for the exotic clime of down under to become a private detective. Oozing style, sass, charm, and excitement, Phryne quickly becomes a character that you not only want to be best friends with but someone you want to be for a day. Driving around Melbourne in her bright red sports car, Phryne finds herself foiling kidnappers one minute and seducing handsome men the next. Did I mention she knows how to fly an airplane?

Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron

I have to admit that Jane Austen is my favorite author of all-time so I love just about any book that tries to expand on her famous stories but what I love about this series is that Jane gets to be the heroine for a change. Barron does an excellent job of working to stay true to Austen’s persona and background while creating a character that has a way of always finding herself in the middle of an intriguing mystery. Many of the supporting characters throughout the series are real people from Austen’s life and times, which makes it easy to imagine the stories actually happening. If you have never read Austen’s famous works, start with this series and you’ll quickly fall in love with Austen and find yourself picking up a copy of Pride & Prejudice.

Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King

Ever wondered what it would be like if Sherlock Holmes had a female apprentice and partner? Mary Russell is exactly who she would be. They first meet in 1915 when Mary is fifteen and Holmes is retired and studying honeybees on the Sussex Downs. Holmes is intrigued by her intelligence, wit, and audacity and takes her on as an apprentice. Over the course of the series they literally travel the world, solving crimes, catching villains, and growing closer to each other. Although Holmes plays a big role in the novels, Russell is the focal point. Her fearlessness and independence will leave you cheering for her every time.

Joanna is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

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One thought on “Five Book Series with a Kick-Ass Female Lead

  1. justjane1813 says:

    I love Stephanie’s series too. As an ardent Austen admirer, I think she does a brilliant job capturing Jane’s voice in a way that resonates with Janeites because Stephanie’s approach to reimagining Jane in her series is a wonderful combination of Stephanie’s meticulous research, her engaging and emotive storytelling, and her deep and abiding admiration for Austen.

    A must-read for every Austen lover!

    Liked by 1 person

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