It’s always exciting when fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters is about more than just sexual orientation or the coming out process. The mystery genre has evolved a lot in recent years, and LGBTQ+ characters have gone from being the victims to solving crimes and chasing down leads. Here are ten of our favorite LGBTQ+ characters in mystery and thriller novels!
CHARACTER: Betty Rhyzyk
Betty is a tough-as-nails Brooklyn cop who relocates when her girlfriend gets a new job in her hometown of Dallas, TX. Working on a new team provides plenty of challenges for Betty, especially when her first big case involving the drug trade spirals out of control.
Betty's investigation gets deep and dangerous real quick, but her relationship with her girlfriend is a bright spot throughout the novel, and it is what keeps Betty grounded. This is the electric start of a crime series.
And don't forget about the sequel which finds Detective Betty going rogue in an investigation that leads directly to an underground Dallas drug cartel.
CHARACTER: Leonard Pine
Leonard Pine is one half of the iconic duo Hap and Leonard, best friends who often find more than they bargained for in their various misadventures. The two get embroiled in all sorts of mysteries and rollicking trouble, but they're friends through and through, despite vast differences.
The novels are the basis of the TV show Hap and Leonard, which was sadly canceled after three seasons. Luckily for fans, Joe R. Lansdale has a new Hap and Leonard adventure, called The Elephant of Surprise!
Villanelle is as mysterious as she is dangerous, but her sense of style is undeniable. She's gone undetected as an assassin for months, until MI6 agent Eve Polastri begins to connect the murders and track her. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game ensues, spanning around the world, as Eve becomes obsessed with bringing Villanelle down, and Villanelle becomes obsessed with Eve.
The novels are the basis for the excellent TV show Killing Eve, starring Jodi Comer as Villanelle and Sandra Oh as Eve.
Once upon a time, there were four meddling kids who made up the Blyton Summer Detective Club. After one terrifying case, which they barely solved, the group disbanded. Now, years later, the twenty-somethings are scattered across the country, mourning the death of one of their own.
When the culprit from years ago makes parole, Andy tracks him down and confirms what she always suspected—they got the wrong guy. Now she's on a mission to get the gang back together and solve this mystery once and for all. Andy is queer, and there's some light romance, but the focus of this book is on the mystery and the close bond between the four friends.
Alice is protagonist Perveen's best friend in this historical mystery set in 1920's Bombay. Perveen is a solicitor, and she and Alice met at school in England. Alice is somewhat of a disappointment to her aristocratic parents due to the fact that she wishes to work for a living and is more interested in kissing women than entertaining male suitors, but she is determined to make a good life for herself and she eagerly assists Perveen in her investigations in this first novel of a brand-new series!
CHARACTER: Dylan Reinhart
Dylan Reinhart is an expert on criminal behavior, having written a bestselling book on the subject. When a murder scene shows up with evidence that someone is taking his expertise to heart, NYPD detective Elizabeth Needham solicits Dylan's help in tracking the murderer before he can keep killing.
Dylan is gay, which is just a facet of his identity, but that fact becomes more important when you consider that the TV show adaptation if Instinct starring Alan Cumming is "the first hourlong broadcast series on any broadcast network with a gay lead" (TV Guide)!
CHARACTERS: Rufus and Sebastian
If you thought that having to prove your sister didn't commit murder is hard, imagine trying to do so with your ex-boyfriend in tow. That's exactly what Rufus faces when his sister April wakes up covered in her dead boyfriend's blood, and his ex Sebastian insists on helping him solve the mystery.
This book is set on one long, action-packed night as Rufus and Sebastian dig through the past (including their own) to find the killer before the sun rises.
Allene, Jasper, and Birdie were once best friends, until Allene's father refused to let Allene see her childhood friends anymore. They reunite at her engagement party, where a fellow partygoer drops dead of mysterious circumstances. Jasper, a morgue janitor, and Birdie, a factory worker, join socialite Allene in solving the mystery, further complicating the passionate feelings the three share for each other.
While Kang doesn't explicitly make statements on the characters' sexualities, Allene feels attraction and deep affection for Jasper and Birdie, and a contemporary reading of these characters indicates a strong likelihood that Allene is queer.
CHARACTER: Roxane Weary
Roxane Weary is a PI, still reeling from her detective dad's death and drinking way too much. When a woman contacts her about re-opening a cold case in order to save her brother from death row, Roxane dubiously takes it on, needing the money. As she bounces between the case, her father's ex-partner and a toxic ex-girlfriend, Roxane finds herself growing increasingly alarmed by the cold case, which is growing warmer by the second.
Finding great bisexual representation in fiction is tough, but Kristen Lepionka does a wonderful job with Roxane in this first book of a series!
Alma Rosales is a detective who is just as comfortable in men's trousers as she is in a lady's finery. When a job for the Pinkerton Detective Agency goes sideways, Alma finds herself working for (and aspiring to be with) Delphine Beaumond, who wants her to track down her stolen opium.
With constantly shifting loyalties, boundaries, and identities, Alma thrills in the chase even as one wrong step could unravel everything. Carrasco's debut novel is sexy and intense, and a fascinating examination of a woman who strains against the confines of society.
What to Read Next
Tirzah Price is a writer and librarian who loves scouting out LGBTQ+ genre fiction. She’s a contributing editor at Book Riot, and can be found tweeting @TirzahPrice.