Novels with undercover crones?
January 14, 2022 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to read page-turners (mysteries, thrillers, spy novels) where older women play important strategic roles. I'd love a novel starring Dorothy Sayer's Miss Climpson and her colleagues in the typing agency. Or a heist executed by a ring of 50-something jewel thieves. Anything where women are people rather than A Lady - in leading roles without being honey-pots. Give me your crone-island detective novels please!
posted by jebs to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club and the sequel, The Man Who Died Twice. They’re about a group of mystery solving friends who live in a retirement community, with very strong elderly women characters.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:56 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]

Mrs. Pollifax is an older woman who works for the CIA. Most of the supporting cast is male, but she’s cool. There are more than ten books in the series.
posted by soelo at 9:00 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]

I believe the character of Ada Oliver from Tidepool, the cthulhu-esque debut novel by Nicole Willson, meets the requirements of this query. It's more horror story than detective story, but certainly could be considered the latter if one squints. The protagonist, Sorrow, is also a woman-who-is-not-A-Lady though she is young.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 9:01 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Miss Marple
posted by rd45 at 9:17 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is a Lovecraft inspired novel starring an older female professor. I really enjoyed it, it's a quick, fun read.
posted by ananci at 9:18 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross.
posted by rjs at 9:22 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert is historical fiction set during WWII (the Nazi occupation of Paris), with a narrator who is an old woman. WWII historicals aren't usually my thing, but this one was pretty interesting.
posted by Janta at 10:05 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

The protagonist of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which I would categorize as a mystery, is an older woman and she's certainly central to the narrative (and very interesting).
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:06 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]

I'm halfway through Bryant & May: London Bridge Is Falling Down, by Christopher Fowler, and so far it's largely about some old women being underestimated because they are old women.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:50 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]

Miss Silver mystery series
posted by meijusa at 12:18 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]

The narrator of The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart is a mother of adult children, but not what you would call a crone. Also, the book is a mystery story, but I wouldn't call it a detective story.

Agatha Raisin is MC Beaton's version of Miss Marple.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:39 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series
posted by Morpeth at 2:36 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]

The Little Old Lady who Broke All the Rules: A group of 70-somethings decide to pull off a Robin Hood heist. Hijinks ensue.

The Alice Network: Former WW1 spy confronts her demons in late 1940s France.
posted by basalganglia at 2:43 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

The Marlow Murder Club is great fun, not to be confused with the Richard Osman novel, previously mentioned, with a similar title.
posted by zadcat at 6:29 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Memory tells me that Gladys Mitchell's Mrs Bradley books have a very sharp, but also quite elderly, detective protagonist. Turns out she's younger than I think, only 57 in book 1 (Speedy Death). Perhaps 57 was older in 1929 than it is now? Anyway, you might enjoy them.

Zadcat, thank you, I spent some of my formative years in Marlow and have therefore immediately bought a copy of The Marlow Murder Club. 15 text matches for the name of my school; I'm half-expecting to meet someone I know in there somewhere.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:05 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell has a male main character but a very strong ensemble cast, of whom one is a older woman who is a key part of the story. It's ostensibly a sci-fi novel but that's entirely incidental; it's a beautifully written mystery, with a dark and profound climax, and it's 100% a page turner.
posted by underclocked at 10:05 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Beverly Connor's Diane Fallon mysteries might suit you, although she is mid-thirties. She runs a museum, an is an anthropologist, so the stories are complex. The series begins with One Grave Too Many.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:29 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

+1 Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, omg it's TERRIFIC.
posted by athirstforsalt at 12:27 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes (1946) is a favorite of mine. She’s not a crone, but is an independent woman of a certain age. I wish there were a series of her, but perhaps the magic would be lost.
posted by mumkin at 9:13 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all!!! Winter reading completely sorted!
posted by jebs at 12:54 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

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