by Joanna Penn
I love reading thrillers with kick ass female characters. Here are a selection of books featuring feisty women who can fight as well as outsmart their enemies, some you may have heard of, and others will hopefully be new for you.
Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard, described as “ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction – Chicago Tribune” and Lee Child said: “If I were a woman I’d be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox.”
Just your average Pittsburgh soccer mom, baking brownies and carrying a loaded forty-caliber Glock…CJ Lyons’ FBI Special Agent Lucy Guardino has been described by real life FBI Agents as “dedicated, smart, and fearless.”
Half-Iranian bounty hunter reluctantly working for a defense contractor tracking down terrorists worldwide in the hope of finding her father, an Army colonel, who has been AWOL for 10 years. Poe is tough as nails, and never backs down from a fight, occasionally to her detriment.
Born in Vietnam, Seichan was raised on the streets, fighting for survival until she was recruited by the Guild to become one of their most feared assassins. Now part of SIGMA, Seichan seeks her past
An ex-Israeli military psychologist specializing in psychology and religion, Morgan joins the secret world of ARKANE to solve supernatural mysteries around the globe. A Krav Maga expert, passionate about protecting her family, Morgan never gives up on a fight or a quest.
Chandler isn’t a person; it’s the codename for a woman who was shaped from a raw military recruit into a living weapon. She’s an assassin without remorse or fear, doing the bidding of an agency so secret that only three people know of its existence. But when her cover gets blown, she becomes the target of a wide-reaching conspiracy led by a mysterious figure whose connection to Chandler goes far beyond what she could have imagined.
Spike inherited her dad’s construction company and when one of her workers goes missing with ten grand of her own dough, she’s got no choice but to go after him on her own. She doesn’t carry a gun, but a framing hammer.
Relentless victims’ rights advocate Jess Kimball and Jack Reacher both deliver justice when the legal system fails. Reacher waits until trouble finds him and then he does whatever it takes. But Jess pursues legal justice and draws lines she will not cross. How can she win against killers who refuse to follow the rules?
Assistant director of a local organization to aid abused women has been aiding and sheltering women and children for years, now she must do the same for her teen sister who has been targeted by a killer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Raised in a polygamous enclave, Eliza still manages to be a headstrong, independent woman, investigating evils both human and supernatural in The Righteous series. She doesn’t flinch from a fight, rescuing others and defending her family to the end.
Forced to fight for her District while the Capitol celebrates and the rest of Panem suffers under their tyranny, Katniss must kill to survive the murderous attempts of the other tributes.
Wisecracking reporter Dixie Flynn thinks fast and talks even faster—it’s the only way to survive the San Francisco crime beat. When she’s assigned to look into the death of her former lover, artist Diego Chino, Dixie’s instincts tell her there’s more behind the apparent suicide than the police are letting on.
Salander, a tattooed computer hacker who joins Mikael Blomkvist to investigate a murder in the powerful Vanger family, turns into an avenging angel as the series progresses.
Pia Sabel plays to win. Until a few weeks ago, she was an international soccer star. But now she’s taken the helm of her billionaire father’s private security company, and she’s playing against a whole new set of opponents – the kind who shoot to kill.
When two children are abducted and the case goes cold, private investigator Sloane Monroe is out for answers. Will she find them in time, or is it already too late?
Seeking insight into the deadly madman she must find, FBI rookie Clarice Starling turns to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a monster cannibal held in a hospital for the criminally insane. As Dr. Lecter invites Clarice into the darkest chambers of his mind, he forces her to confront her own childhood demons in return for knowledge; an unspeakable tuition he exacts to teach her how the monster thinks. Time is running out, but Clarice is stronger than you think …
Agent Jamie Dallas loves undercover assignments that get her out of the Phoenix Bureau. But when a woman and her baby disappear from an isolated community of preppers in Northern California, she knows the risk of infiltrating the armed group is dangerously high. Jamie specializes in undercover work and is an adrenaline junkie as well as a sniper.
Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, Karou has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
Jane is a sarcastic, strong, no-holds-barred heroine capable of fending off angry whalers, anti-whaling activists…and viking zombies! Shipwrecked on an arctic island where ancient Draugar (the inspiration for modern day zombies and vampires) were buried, Jane, along with a band of survivors must face off against the elements and a 600 year old enemy.
The girl who wouldn’t die hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist. Harper stalks his shining girls through the years – and cuts the spark out of them. But what if the one that got away came back for him?
The madness of futuristic America; corrupt, heavy with conspiracies– chillingly close to tomorrow’s headlines. President Ann Kinji trusts no one, except for government outsider, former private detective mother-of-three Serena Wilcox and her motley crew of vigilantes, burned agents & the criminally insane. As the United States continues to spiral out of control, can Serena stop all of the traitors before they kill the President? As the layers of betrayal are peeled, will anyone remain standing?
Karen Brown, angry and frightened after a kidnap attempt, has a choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…
Over to you! Who are your favorite kick-ass thriller heroines, and which books can you recommend to others looking for strong female characters? Please leave a comment below.
Joanna Penn is an author, professional speaker and entrepreneur voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.
She’s based in London, England although she lived in Australia and New Zealand for 11 years. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporates across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011.