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Queens of Crime

Bookhound investigates three of our favourite female crime writers: Patricia Cornwell, Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole 

One is the Miami born daughter of a lawyer who began her writing career as a journalist, one a former RADA trained actress from Liverpool, one a one-time convent school girl raised on an Essex council estate - but what do these three Queens of Crime fiction have in common? 


They have overcome adversity... 

Patricia Cornwell had a turbulent childhood, marked by the absence of her father and her mother's struggle with mental health, resulting in her being fostered.

Martina Cole was expelled from school aged 15, Before finding success as a writer she worked in a series of low-paid jobs, including as a wine waitress and a supermarket shelf-stacker  and would sleep the kitchen floor of her council flat so that her son could have the only bed.

Although she has enjoyed great success professionally, Lynda La Plante's struggle with infertility is well-documented. She once said "I would exchange every penny I have earned and every word I have written for a child". In later years she adopted a son. 

They create legendary fierce female characters...

In Postmortem Patricia Cornwell created a new subgenre of crime fiction: the "forensic thriller", and broke new ground with the lead character of  Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a forensic scientist enjoying success in a traditionally male-dominated field.

DCI Jane Tennison, the heroine of Lynda La Plante's Prime Suspect novels has become perhaps the definitive tough female police officer to a generation, having been immortalised by Helen Mirren in the ITV drama series of the same name.

Perhaps inspired by her own background and upbringing, Martina Cole is known primarily for her strong female characters. She says: "I think my readers like the strength of my female characters. From Maura Ryan in my first book, who changed from being just an average girl, living an average life, into a woman who took over part of gangland London, to Reeva and Jade from Betrayal, who are women who are trying their hardest to live in a world where everything is against them, what connects all of my women is the fact that they are strong in the face of adversity"

They fly in the face of convention...

In Patricia Cornwell's case, quite literally! She pilots a helicopter and, to add to her "action woman" persona, dives and drives a Ferrari.

Lynda La Plante became a first-time-mum at the age of 59, when she adopted her son. She has said that he is "the light of my life – he has made my life full. His adoption happened very quickly. I had reached a point when I thought it would never happen. I was divorced, I had a Great Dane and a racehorse and it was over. ... that evening I had the call about Lorcan ...it was the most extraordinary moment of my life."

Martina Cole keeps chickens with names including Tom Cruise and Miss Snowflake. A music and art lover, she has a record label and owns a Picasso, a Renoir and a Warhol.  

Are you a Cornwell superfan or a Cole aficionado? What do you think of the Queens of Crime? We'd love to hear from you here! 

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