It used to be that mysteries were a particularly men-centric corner of the publishing world. You had your Agatha Christie and later on Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell. But while those authors could sell in the millions, the authors that many literary types preferred tended toward the male: Raymond Chandler and the like.
But more recently, in the post-Gone Girl era, that seems to have changed. Not only do female readers appear to be taking up more of the audience, and women authors occupying more of the bestseller positions in the genre, but the books are increasingly being critically recognized.
There’s good reason for that, argues Terrence Rafferty:
The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence. Murder is de rigueur in the genre, so people die at the hands of others—lovers, neighbors, obsessive strangers—but the body counts tend to be on the low side. “I write about murder,” Tana French once said, “because it’s one of the great mysteries of the human heart: How can one human being deliberately take another one’s life away?” Sometimes, in the work of French and others, the lethal blow comes so quietly that it seems almost inadvertent, a thing that in the course of daily life just happens. Death, in these women’s books, is often chillingly casual, and unnervingly intimate…