The first female detective is generally agreed to have been "G", the hero of "The Female Detective," an 1864 novel soon to be republished by the British Library. However, the author was a man, James Redding Ware; it took another twenty years or so before female writers of mystery fiction started to make waves, with Anna Katharine Green one of the most prominent early figures in the field.

Now, female mystery writers are not only established names, but often lead the genre. Here's a list of some of the English language's most talented female exponents of crime fiction.

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  • Margery Allingham

    One of the four so-called Queens of Crime (alongside Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers), her creation Albert Campion, with his manservant Magersfontein Lugg, were highly popular characters in the 1920s and 30s.

  • Emma Orczy

    Her full name was the wonderful Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi. She was the Hungarian daughter of a Count and Countess who went to college in London, who became best known for writing about Sir Percy Blakeney, a fictional character who rescued aristocrats from revolutionary France, but she also wrote detective stories, including Lady Molly of Scotland Yard.

  • Agatha Christie

    What can be said about the best-selling novelist of all time (according to <em>Guinness World Records</em>) that hasn't already been said? Miss Marple (lead character in 12 novels and four short story collections) and Hercule Poirot (33 novels and 65 short stories) remain by far her most famous creations.

  • Mary Roberts Rinehart

    Not only is this hugely prolific author considered the originator of the phrase "The Butler Did It", but she also invented a superhero called The Bat, who was cited as an inspiration by Batman's creator.

  • Anna Katharine Green

    One of the early writers of detective fiction in America, her novels were known for being legally precise and well written. Her most famous recurring characters were Ebenezer Gryce, nosy spinster Amelia Butterworth and girl detective Violet Strange.

  • Laurie R. King

    Her main character is Mary Russell, a young American who ended up marrying a semi-retired Sherlock Holmes.

  • Dorothy L. Sayers

    Her first novel introduced her most famous creation, Lord Peter Whimsey, a gentleman detective who solved crimes alongside fictional novelist Harriet Vane. She also wrote a highly regarded translation of Dante's <em>Divine Comedy</em>.

  • Margaret Millar

    A Canadian American, she was named Woman of the Year <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1994-03-29/news/mn-39629_1_margaret-millar" target="_hplink">by the LA Times in 1965</a>, and she was notable for writing intelligent female characters, sexually liberated people and surprise endings.

  • Ngaio Marsh

    Pronounced "Ny-o", she is the only New Zealander in this list, best known for creating British gentleman detective Roderick Alleyn who served in WWI. She wrote from the 1930s to the 1980s.

  • Val McDermid

    A highly popular Scottish crime writer who is best known for three characters: Lindsay Gordon, Tony Hill and Kate Brannigan.

  • Ruth Rendell

    Following her elevation to the British House of Lords, her full name now includes the title Baroness Randell of Babergh. She's won pretty much every major literary crime award in the English language. Her most iconic character, Inspector Wexford, first appeared in one of her novels in 1964.

  • PD James

    Also a Baroness of the realm, this is her 50th year of writing. She's 91 years old, and her creation Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is as popular as ever. She also wrote the book that the movie <em>Children of Men</em> is based on, as well as <em>Death Comes to Pemberley,</em> a murder mystery sequel to <em>Pride and Prejudice. </em>

  • Patricia Cornwell

    Creator of medical examiner Dr Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell has become an expert in forensic science, influencing such TV shows as <em>CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.</em> She is also known for her quest to prove that painter Walter Sickert was the real identity of Jack the Ripper.

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