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The Number One Ladies' Detective Stories

Updated on August 11, 2014

IMHO ~ The No. 1 Ladies Detective Series

I have the whole collection in paperback and on audiotape with delightful reader, Lisette Le Carr. I listen to them a little bit every night before I go to sleep! :)
I have the whole collection in paperback and on audiotape with delightful reader, Lisette Le Carr. I listen to them a little bit every night before I go to sleep! :)

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on DVD

I Love A Mystery!

Or more precisely, I love a plentiful mystery series with well-rounded, interesting, quirky characters, set in an unusual place, with lots of side information such as recipes, history, and local stories! I also love a well-rounded, complex heroine who is full of surprises.

That's why I love these ladies’ detective stories:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

This is a sprawling series by prolific author Alexander McCall Smith. It is one of his several series, so it has the added benefit that you can go right on enjoying the author, even after you have devoured all of these marvelous stories.

Mma Precious Ramotswe is the heroine of these lovely tales set in Botswana. She is a traditionally built lady who does not need to worry about silly things like dress sizes. This leaves her free to own her own home and run her own business, purchased with the proceeds of her inheritance from her dear father. Mma Ramotswe is a kind - hearted, intelligent, sensible, no-nonsense sort of lady who always comes up with solutions that will benefit everyone involved. The stories are peopled with proud, hard-working, folks, and we learn a great deal about African history and customs in the course of the tales. When I am reading a Precious Ramotswe mystery, I often find myself wondering what is happening in my book when I have to stop reading and do something else!

The Elizabeth Goodweather Mysteries

There are only four books in this series so far, and I have consumed them in record time! Elizabeth Goodweather is a heroine after my own heart. She is middle aged, hard-headed, creative, strong, and independent. She lives on her own herb farm in the mountains of North Carolina, and she has three dogs! When she is not creating lovely herbal wreaths for every occasion, she is solving local crimes with her new boyfriend, Phillip, a retired police detective. Interwoven in the tales of contemporary mountain life are tales of its past. Local characters are rich and interesting, and author Vicki Lane writes beautifully in the mountain dialect.

Believe me when I say, your mouth will water every time she has dinner at an old-timer's house! I have actually written down some of the meals she has enjoyed so that I can try to reproduce them in my own kitchen! You can find recipes at the author's website!

A Bountiful Series! Starting with One for the Money

The Stephanie Plum Mysteries

I have to be honest! I almost gave up on this series by Janet Evanovich, a former romance writer. The first two, One For the Money , and Two For the Dough , were a bit too fluffy-romancy for me. Of course, all ladies' detective stories have an element of romance, but it is usually fairly subtle. The first two in this series were not subtle. However, by the third book, Three to Get Deadly , the author had her legs under her and the romance was put on the back burner. I encourage you to read the first two books to get the background of the character; even though, you may find them a bit mushy.

Be advised, by book four, Four to Score , the tone moves into frankly erotic with an edge -not fluffy!

Stephanie Plum is a hapless New Jersey bounty hunter who is constantly bumbling her way through one misadventure after another with hilarious results. As her friend Lula (hooker, turned file clerk, turned bounty hunter’s assistant) puts it:

“We’re bounty hunters. We can do anything we want. We’re protected by a dumb-ass law made back in 1869 when people didn’t know any better.“

Because of this, anything can happen and usually does, and these books are really just laugh-out-loud funny. Between the extremely colorful local characters, the obligatory Saturday dinners (fix-ups) with the folks, constant car problems, and concerns over flirtations, big hair, fashion statements, Italian Catholicism, keeping the cupboard stocked with pop-tarts, Ritz crackers, salsa and beer, and bonding with lovable pet, Rex the hamster, there's hardly time for mystery.

But, dead folks just keep turning up in Stephanie Plum's world, and she just has to find out who-dun-it! You learn a lot about pistol-packin’ New Jersey in the Stephanie Plum mysteries. It may not all be true, but it is quite nicely done!

UPDATE 8/11/14

Actually, my opinion of this series has changed. After the hopeful third volume, the quality of the series just went downhill in my humble opinion. I soldiered on through about story #16 but finally gave up in disgust. It's essentially like reading the same story over and over again, and they just get more ridiculous with each incarnation. Whatever you do, don't read the "between the numbers" novels, which are holiday themed, very fluffy romance novels featuring the characters from this series. Yuck!



Charlaine Harris

Of course, Charlaine Harris is best known for her Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels on which the series, True Blood , is based. It may (or may not) surprise you to know that these are not her best work. She has also written several terrific mystery series whose main characters, in my opinion, are far more well-rounded and interesting than Sookie!

The Lily Bard Mysteries

My favorite of her series’ is the Lily Bard mysteries. In fact, I believe this series is her best work. Lily is a very complex character whose life experience is based on an incident in Harris' own life. The character was kidnapped, raped and tortured as a young, innocent, debutant, and the experience completely altered her personality and her life. She left her former life behind and focused the rest on becoming strong and invulnerable. She works independently as a house-cleaner, but mystery and murder just have a way of dropping into her lap. You learn a lot about the inner landscape of a survivor of sexual abuse when reading the Lily Bard mysteries.

Harper Connelly and Aurora Teagarden

In addition to the Lily Bard series, Charlaine Harris has created two other fine series of ladies’ detective stories:


The Harper Connelly Mysteries, and the Aurora Teagarden mysteries.Both are very, very good, but of the two, I prefer the Harper Connelly series. It’s a bit edgier and grittier.

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  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 2 years ago from Texas

    Thanks! I haven't read the 44 Scotland Street ones yet. I've read some of the Isobel Dalhousie series and a couple of the ones about the little dog. :D

  • hazelbrown profile image

    hazelbrown 2 years ago from Central PA

    Oh, I LOVE the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency! I love all of his books, especially 44 Scotland Street. Awesome hub!!

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 3 years ago from Texas

    Yeah, absolutely! Her other series are far higher quality than the Sookie Stackhouse series. That series just caught on because of the vampires. I liked it at first, but I've lost interest in it, and I think the quality of the stories and the writing has declined. The Lily Bard series is pithy, interesting and deep. The Lily Bard character is complex and is also based on Charlaine Harris, who is a rape survivor. (Oh! As I just realize I have already said in a previous comment! :)

    I've also lost interest in the Stephanie Plum series. The first dozen were good, but I can see that there's not going to be any character development and the author plans to just rehash the same plot lines over and over again.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

  • thebiologyofleah profile image

    thebiologyofleah 3 years ago from Massachusetts

    Thanks for sharing your suggestions on ladies detective series, since we have Mma Ramotswe in common I am inclined to check out your other suggestions. I wasn't aware that Charlaine Harris wrote other series in addition to the Sookie Stackhouse one, worth checking out.

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

    Patricia Cornwell's books are within the mystery genre. I have read a few of them, but I always feel they are a cheat because so often the murderer is someone who wasn't even in the story. I go along looking for clues and trying to figure out whodunnit, and then in the end Kaye Scarpetta's disgruntled college dorm mate steps out from behind a door and reveals herself to be the murderer without having ever been mentioned before.

    I discussed her books with a good friend who is a real fan of the mystery genre, and she said she had read a few of the Kaye Scarpetta novels but gave them up because the protagonist is always in such a state of emotional upheaval. She said she kept expecting Scarpetta to kill herself at any moment!

    Of this collection, the Lily Bard mysteries and the Harper Connolly mysteries are sort of along those lines - dark and brooding- but I like them because I know Charlaine Harris' personal background. She is a rape survivor and a lot of the angst these characters deal with comes from her personal experience.

    The Stephanie Plum series is sort of a madcap mystery series, and the Dead Until Dark series started out that way but has become rather gruesome and dark. These two series' have fallen out of favor with me because they seem to be resting on their laurels with no new character development in evidence.

    I far prefer cozy mysteries these days. All of Alexander McCall Smith's books fall into that category as does the Aurora Teagarden series. By far, the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series is my favorite.

    Thanks for commenting! :)

  • aud99 profile image

    Audrey 4 years ago

    I'm not too sure if they are considered detective stories but I enjoy books by Patricia Cornwell with her Kay Scarpetta character. I have read an Aurora Teagarden book but other than that, I have not had a chance to read the rest of the books suggested here.

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

    Thanks, Peggy! I have also begun listening to the No. 1 Detective Agency books on tape (yes actual audiotape) at night when I go to bed. I loved the series, and I like to visit the characters a bit each day. The reader is just fabulous and listening is a lovely way to drift off to sleep. :)

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Wow...this is quite a series of interesting detective books written by some of your favorite authors. Thanks for the descriptions. Many of them sound good. Up, interesting and useful votes!

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

    Yes, me too! :)

  • hbentleymom profile image

    hbentleymom 5 years ago from Alabama

    I love the Harper series!

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas

    Oh, well you gotta read these. They are mostly quick, easy reads, but very satisfying - especially the No. 1 Ladies Detective series.

  • PaperNotes profile image

    PaperNotes 6 years ago

    I remember when I was in grade school, I used to frequent the library not to research for homeworks but to borrow Nancy Drew novels. I gotta have time to read novels again!

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas

    Thanks, Izzy! Yes, and there is also a BBC radio series that we can get on CD. I want to be sure to check into those, as well! :)

  • IzzyM profile image

    IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

    I've read the book and watched the movie of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and thought it brilliant! Simply written but powerfully thought out. Haven't read the rest but thanks for suggesting them - will need to look out for them :)

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

    Thank you! I'm sure you will enjoy them! :)

  • tracykarl99 profile image

    Tracy 7 years ago from San Francisco

    Really interesting ~ will look into these!

  • justmesuzanne profile image
    Author

    justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

    Yes, I still like Charlaine Harris, but I prefer her other books. Thanks for your comment! :)

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    I'll have to take a look at the he No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.

    I was a fan of Charlaine Harris but I can't get with the vampire thing.