While I was putting together a 🏳️🌈Pride book stack for a #bookstagram post in June, I realized that I didn’t really have (or know if I had) any queer authors on my shelves. I was disappointed that I couldn’t include queer authors while trying to acknowledge queer people, and was privately called out in my DMs for this as well after the post went up. Trust me, I hear you and I am listening! I weighed the pros and cons of that post extensively before deciding to go ahead with a caption focused on queer issues.
There have always been queer authors since the beginning of literature, but chances are that part of their life was not revealed until much later when societal norms shifts, or it was never revealed at all.
For instance, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Wolfe, James Baldwin, Truman Capote and Walt Whitman are all counted among the LGBTQ+ community. (Whitman is debated by historians as he was notoriously cagey about his personal life, but Wilde is quoted as confirming Whitman was gay and said, “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips.”)
Speaking of Wilde, did you know that after a botched libel trial initiated by Wilde himself, evidence was present in court that provided Wilde was gay and he was subsequently arrested and jailed for two years (hard labour) for “gross indecency” with men?
Wilde was released from prison in 1897 and published The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life, one year later. He died in 1900 at the age of 46 due to meningitis.
Today, there is a myriad of authors who are publicly “out”, and there are others who just don’t feel a need to comment on such things. And honestly I understand it either way. On one hand it’s important to showcase representation for marginalized and oppressed groups, and on the other hand it’s not like straight authors ever have to make a statement about their straightness.
But, in honour of that sassy bitch Wilde, and all others who came before and after him, I present to you my round-up of LGBTQ+ mystery/thriller authors who are indeed out and proud. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but simply a place to start in order to help us diversify our bookshelves with dark and twisty stories that haven’t been written by the typically published cis, straight author.
🔪 Next Girl to Die (The Calderwood Cases, #1) by Dea Poirier
Published: Thomas & Mercer | 2019
Filed Under: Detective with a haunted past.
Back of the Book: Solving the case will avenge her sister-unless the killer finds her first.
It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.
Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.
When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.
🔪Once You Go This Far (Roxane Weary, #4) by Kristen Lepionka
Published: Minotaur Books | 2020
Filed Under: Badass Private-Eye
Back of the Book: Junior-high school nurse Rebecca Newsome was an experienced hiker, until she plummeted to her death to the bottom of a ravine in a Columbus metro park. Her daughter, Maggie, doesn’t believe it was an accident, and Rebecca’s ex-husband is her prime suspect. But he’s a well-connected ex-cop and Maggie is certain that’s the reason no one will listen to her. Roxane quickly uncovers that the dead woman’s ex is definitely a jerk, but is he a murderer?
As she pieces together the days before Rebecca died, Roxane finds a series of trips to Detroit and across the border into Windsor, Canada, major withdrawals from her checking account, and more contacts with a casino manager than a middle-aged school nurse from Toledo should reasonably have.
When the investigation leads to Leila Hassan, the cunning con artist who got away in What You Want to See, Roxane is determined not to make the same mistake twice by falling for Leila’s lies–except she might actually be telling the truth this time. Roxane needs to figure out the connection between Leila, a secretive church group, a women’s health organization, and Rebecca’s fall in the woods…before a dangerous secret gets someone else killed.
🔪Cut to the Bone (Agent Sayer Altair, #3) by Ellison Cooper
Published: Minotaur Books | 2020
Filed Under: FBI Female Lead
Back of the Book: A bus full of high school students has disappeared from Washington D.C. and FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair must hunt down the culprit who has a link to her own past.
After grieving the death of her fiancé and almost losing her job, Agent Sayer Altair is finally starting to rebuild her life. Her research into the minds of psychopaths is breaking new ground and her strange little family is thriving. But Sayer’s newfound happiness is threatened when she is called in to investigate a girl’s body left inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. When they discover that the dead girl is one of twenty-four missing high school students, Sayer quickly realizes that nothing in this case is what it seems.
As the investigation draws her in to a tangled web of fake identities and false leads, the trail soon begins to point directly to her own life. Now, Sayer must confront her painful past to uncover her connection to the deranged killer if she hopes to save the missing teens and protect everything that she loves.
🔪 Stolen Things by R.H. Herron
Published: Dutton | 2019
Filed Under: Missing Persons
Back of the Book: “Mama? Help me.”
Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.
Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB—“Citizens Against Police Brutality”—movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.
But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper—and the police department—on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves . . . and time is running out.
🔪 Seven Suspects (Bobbi Logan, #3) by Renee James
Published: Ocenview Publishing | 2017
Filed Under: Stalkers Stalking
Back of the Book: Bobbi Logan is a successful businesswoman and a celebrated hairdresser. She is a witty, articulate woman who has survived rape, gender transition, a murder investigation, and countless acts of bullying and bigotry to get where she is–and she’s made enemies along the way. Now one of them is stalking her.
With each passing day, the threats become more brazen, more violent, and more personal. No one knows who here stalker is or why he’s after her, but he’s getting closer every day. Bobbi is intimidated but she has vowed to never be the victim again. She accumulates a list of six suspects, and with courage and persistence, she hunts them down, one by one–stalking her possible stalkers. But as she confronts those men who may want to do her harm, the number seven keeps haunting her–there must be a seventh suspect. And when she finds him, Bobbi’s world implodes.
🔪 The Kill Club by Wendy Heard
Published: Mira | 2019
Filed Under: Vigilantes
Back of the Book: Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.
Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.
Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.
All she has to do is kill a stranger.
🔪 The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Published: Ballantine | 2020
Filed Under: Inheritance Parent Trap
Back of the Book: “Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”
Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.
When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.
An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?
🔪 A Broken Woman (Jinx Ballou, Bounty Hunter, #3) by Dharma Kelleher
Published: Dark Pariah Press | 2019
Filed Under: Bounty Hunter
Back of the Book: Jinx never cared if a fugitive was innocent. Until now.
Months after a series of bombings shattered the city of Phoenix, bounty hunter Jinx Ballou still struggles to rebuild her life, haunted by the people she’s lost.
When a new job offer comes her way, she is forced to choose between returning a fellow transgender woman to custody or taking on a legal system that provides justice only to those society deems worthy.
In the third book of her highly acclaimed and groundbreaking Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter series, author Dharma Kelleher once again takes readers on a thrill-a-minute ride through the sun-scorched streets of Phoenix, Arizona.
🔪 Grave Intent (DCI Jack Lambert, #2) by A.M. Peacock
Published: Bloodhound Books | 2019
Filed Under: Criminal Underworld
Back of the Book: Robert Norris. An eighteen-year-old petty criminal is brutally tortured and left in a farmer’s field to die.
DCI Jack Lambert and his team think they have it all figured out. It’s a robbery gone wrong. Suspicion immediately falls on the man who called it in.
What Jack doesn’t realise is that this is just the beginning.
An escaped prisoner, an attempted hit, and a seemingly unending trail of violence and retribution follows.
As the mystery unfolds, Jack begins to suspect the existence of a secret, but powerful, syndicate operating on the very edges of the North East’s criminal underworld.
With the situation spiralling out of control, Jack finds himself at a crossroads—one which could lead him back into the kind of life he has spent a career running away from.
Time is running out and this case might not only cost Lambert his job, but also his life…
🔪 Done to Death (Campbell & Strauss Mystery, #3) by Charles Atkins
Published: Severn House | 2014
Filed Under: Antiques Roadkill
Back of the Book: TV presenting proves dangerous, when Ada and her partner Lil become involved in a new antiques show and get sucked into a morass of lies, secrets and murder . . .
Barry Stromstein has a serious problem. If he can’t come up with a concept for a new TV antiques show asap, his terrifying boss – TV sensation Lenore Parks – will fire him, and his perfect life will be over. But when he talks to antiques columnist Lil Campbell, he unexpectedly hits pay dirt. Her partner, Ada Strauss, not only suggests the perfect hook for the show, but is the perfect woman to host it.
Ada’s elated, but production of The Final Reckoning seems blighted before it’s even begun when, shockingly, Leonore dies. But Barry seems strangely determined to continue, and as Lenore’s children – the unsettling Rachel and her beloved older brother Richard – become involved, the pilot episode becomes increasingly ghoulish in tone.
Ada’s enjoying herself – really, she is – but as she and Lil are drawn deeper into the lives and affairs of the Parks, they begin to suspect that there are dark, twisted secrets at the heart of the family, and very real danger for them all . . .
🔪 Affinity by Sarah Waters
Published: Riverhead Books | 2002
Filed Under: Prison Spiritualist
Back of the Book: An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by an apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes.
Selina was imprisoned after a séance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom, and her own.
🔪 Blood Echo (Burning Girl, #2) by Christopher Rice
Published: Thomas & Mercer | 2019
Filed Under: Dexter on Drugs
Back of the Book: Kidnapped and raised by serial killers, Charlotte Rowe suffered an ordeal that made her infamous. Everyone in the world knew who she was. But no one in the world has any idea what she’s become…
Charlotte is an experiment. And a weapon. Enabled by a superpower drug, she’s partnered with a shadowy pharmaceutical company to hunt down and eliminate society’s most depraved human predators. But her latest mission goes off the rails in a horrifying way. Unsettled by her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants some time to retreat so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff’s deputy in the isolated Central California town she now calls home.
If only the threats hadn’t followed Charlotte there.
Something sinister is evolving in Altamira, California—a massive network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte’s influential and corrupt employers. As a vast and explosive criminal conspiracy grows, the fate of Charlotte’s hometown hangs in the balance. With everyone she cares about in danger, Charlotte has no choice but to bring her powers home.
Charlotte Rowe has been triggered, and now she’ll have to take matters into her own powerful hands.
🔪 What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
Published: Thomas & Mercer | 2020
Filed Under: The Ol’ Ball and Chain
Back of the Book: Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.
They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.
Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.
But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.
Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.
Alright, readers! Go out and build those TBRs!
For what it’s worth, Ellison Cooper and John Marrs are excellent choices for your reading list, imho. Cooper’s Sayer Altair series is very Criminal Minds profiler-y. And Marrs is always ready to serve you some shocking twisty-twists within his dark (occasionally depressing) tales.
Until next time, Booknerds…