We’ve discussed it here before…I’ve been a mystery reader since way back. If you weren’t around for it, here’s the post for the Best Eleven Mystery Books I’ve Ever Read. Those books, however, included only one written by an out member of the LGBT community; Patricia Cornwell. None of them included lesbian protagonists although Cornwell’s Kaye Scarpatta series books typically include Scarpatta’s lesbian niece Lucy in a minor or supporting role. So, what about lesbian mysteries?
I discovered actual lesbian-themed fiction (that wasn’t written for heterosexual men) the same way so many of us have that didn’t have access to the pulps of the 1960s or the 1970s; reading fan fiction on line. Somehow, some way, I found some short story romances by Kim Baldwin while I was digging around on sites like Live Journal, the Athenaeum and a few others that existed at the time. They were refreshing in that they weren’t Xena and Gabrielle based but unique and based on women that were not in their early twenties but mostly middle age and beyond. When Kim took the leap to actually publishing, I got one of the first copies of her first mystery/intrigue book, Hunter’s Pursuit, autographed by her and I still have it.
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Kim Baldwin leads my list of my four favorite authors of lesbian-themed mysteries. Since publishing Hunter’s Pursuit in 2005 she’s gone on to write an additional 14 novels and two anthologies. Many of her standalone novels are mysteries or mystery/intrigue works but several are part of the Elite Operatives intrigue series she writes with Xenia Alexiou.
My favorite Kim Baldwin book is actually her second one, Force of Nature, also published in 2005. It’s not a mystery but, well, lesbian firefighters anyone?
After reading the work of Baldwin, I went in search of more full on mysteries that were lesbian themed and that’s when I discovered Gerri Hill. Gerri writes both mystery and romance novels and she writes them equally well. In fact, her mysteries set the standard for romantic tension and upheaval. They’re all good – I have no complaints – but it’s always the most fun to start with the first one, Hunter’s Way with a pair of homicide detectives, Tori and Samantha as the lead protagonists. As an aside, I think it’s interesting that two of my favorite lesbian fiction authors started their series with ‘Hunter’ named books.
Gerri Hill is the author of more than two dozen books. She has enough great material available out there to keep you happy and reading for the next several months.
Starting 4-5 years ago, for a few years, I wrote a book review blog focused on LGBT literature and non-fiction. In my constant pursuit of new material to read and review for the few followers that I had back then, I ran across the book, Molly, House on Fire by R.E. ‘Decky’ Bradshaw. The book got one of the most glowing reviews I’d ever written. As mysteries go, this tomb of a book is un-put-downable. At well over 400 pages, it’s not a one night read but, believe me, you’ll try!
Since writing that, Bradshaw has concentrated on her Rainey Bell mystery thriller series with fantastic results.
Last, but by no means least, I come to one of my very favorite lesbian themed mystery authors, Ellen Hart. Hart writes two different series but here I’ll focus on the lesbian-themed one, her Jane Lawless series of books. Chef Jane, her sidekick Cordelia Thorne (who Hart writes as a flame-haired white actress diva but who, if you read her stuff you’ll probably agree, plays better as an African American actress diva), and whatever woman Jane is currently dating get involved in one mystery after another.
Hart has written 22 Jane Lawless books starting with Hallowed Murder back in the early 1990s. This is a series that’s better read together but each book can stand alone. My favorite book in the series is her 2011 release (#19), The Lost Women of Lost Lake. It’s engrossing because the mystery isn’t readily apparent in it. It takes a while to build to it then before you know it, you’re smack dab in the middle of it.
You honestly can’t go wrong with any of Hart’s Jane Lawless series. Truth be told, her more mainstream Sophie Greenway series is equally good, it’s just not representative of the LGBT community in particular.
Those are my top four. These ones have stood the test of time. The next time I talk about lesbian mystery authors, I’ll talk about some of the new young blood out there that’s setting the world on fire.