10 Page-Turning Murder Mysteries by Women of Color

This post is part of our monthly series, “Decolonize Your Bookshelf!” Every month features a different genre, providing a curated recommended-reading list of fiction by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

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It was Professor Plum—in the library—with a shocking reality.

Mystery novels make up one of the most popular fiction genres in the US, with surveys over the years finding that nearly half of readers pick up at least one mystery or crime thriller a year. 

But that’s not the shocking part.

Even though mystery novels continue to be almost universally popular, the genre has historically been dominated by a narrow, white male perspective. 

While diversity and representation remain issues across fiction, the obstacles faced by authors of color are particularly glaring in the crime genre.

In a conversation with Writer’s Digest, six crime fiction authors—Rachel Howzell Hall, Danny Gardner, Naomi Hirahara, Gar Anthony Haywood, Kellye Garrett, and Gary Phillips—highlight some of these barriers to entry. 

If a publisher already signed one Black mystery author, for example, they may consider the box checked and won’t sign another. And if a manuscript doesn’t match their image of what a diverse read should be—i.e. not “Black enough,” “Asian enough,” or “Latinx enough”—it likely won’t check that box, either.

Gardner sums up the issue: “while the face of crime in America is a face of color, the face of crime fiction is kept white—aggressively so.”

The lack of opportunity for mystery writers of color compels many of these authors to move on to other genres altogether, which means the mystery, crime, and thriller shelves continue to be predominantly white.

As readers, we have the power to change that.

In no particular order, here are 10 un-put-down-able murder mystery whodunnits by women of color. Every book on this list puts its own twist on the genre—but don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything!

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