Bloody Women: How Female Authors Have Transformed the Scottish Contemporary Crime Fiction Genre

Lorna Hill 1
  • 1 University of Stirling, , Stirling, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


This study will explore the role of female authors in contemporary Scottish crime fiction. Over the past thirty years, women writers have overhauled the traditionally male dominated genre of crime fiction by writing about strong female characters who drive the plot and solve the crimes. Authors including Val McDermid, Denise Mina and Lin Anderson are just a few of the women who have challenged the expectation of gender and genre. By setting their novels in contemporary society they reflect a range of social and political issues through the lens of a female protagonist. By closely examining the female characters, both journalists, in Val McDermid’s Lindsay Gordon series and Denise Mina’s Paddy Meehan series, I wish to explore the issue of gender through these writers’ perspectives.

This essay documents the influence of these writers on my own practice-based research which involves writing a crime novel set in a post referendum Scotland. I examine a progressive and contemporary Scottish society, where women hold many senior positions in public life, and investigate whether this has an effect on the outcome of crimes. Through this narrative, my main character will focus on the current and largely hidden crimes of human trafficking and domestic abuse. By doing this I examine the ways in which the modern crime novel has evolved to cross genre boundaries. In addition to focusing on a crime, the victims and witnesses, today’s crime novels are tackling social issues to reflect society’s changing attitudes and values.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Anderson, Lin. Driftnet. Edinburgh: Luath, 2003. Print.

  • ---. Unpublished interview with Lorna Hill (Stirling, 11 September 2016).

  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

  • Engender, Scotland’s feminist organization. n.d. Web. 30 November 2016.

  • Gerrard, Nicci. “Move over, Morse: female TV detectives are on the case now.” The Observer, 5 October 2014. Web. 25 October 2014.

  • Guttridge, Peter. “Murder she wrote - and plenty of it: Denise Mina on her career.” The Guardian, 29 July 2007. Web. 20 October 2016.

  • Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1998. Print.

  • Henry, Alex. “Denise Mina in Conversation with Alex Henry.” Dundee University Review of the Arts, 25 October 2013. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • Hoskins, Richard. The Boy in the River. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.

  • Kean, Danuta. “Blood, guts and girly gore: Why do female authors write nastier and more violent crime novels than men do?” The Daily Mail, 19 July 2012. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • Martinson, Jane. “Can tackling awards inequality help close journalism’s gender gap?” The Guardian, 13 March 2016. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • McDermid, Val. Report for Murder. London: Harper Collins, 2004. Print.

  • McDermid, Val. “Niche off the leash: Val McDermid on progress in lesbian fiction.” The Independent, 11 September 2010. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • Mina, Denise. Field of Blood. London: Orion, 2006. Print.

  • Mina, Denise. The Last Breath. London: Bantam, 2008. Print.

  • Munt, Sally. Murder by the Book: Feminism and the Crime Novel. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

  • “NCA Human Trafficking Report reveals 21% rise in potential victims.” National Crime Agency. 16 December 2015. Web. 27 November 2016.

  • Peto, Andrea. “Honouring Adrienne Rich, key ‘second-wave’ feminist writer and poet (1926-2012).” GEA - Gender and Education Association. 13 January 2013. Web. 6 February 2017.

  • Plain, Gill. Twentieth Century Crime Fiction, Gender, Sexuality and the Body. U of Edinburgh P, 2001. Print.

  • Sanghani, Radhika. “Nicola Sturgeon: ‘We’ll never have gender equality until we stop domestic violence.’” The Daily Telegraph, 9 October 2015. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • Scottish Government. “Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2013-14 & 2014-15.” 27 October 2015. Web. 24 March 2017.

  • Scottish Parliament. “Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill.” 1 October 2015. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • Scottish Women’s Aid. “Scottish Women’s Aid Census Day 2015 finds 25,000 new cases of domestic abuse each year.” Scottish Women’s Aid. 7 December 2015. Web. 9 March 2016.

  • Smith, Anna. The Dead Won’t Sleep. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.

  • ---. Interview with Lorna Hill (Email interview, 18 September 2015).

  • Stop the Traffik, Global Coalition. “The Scale of Human Trafficking.” n.d. Web. 16 January 2017.

  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling.” UNODC. N.d. Web. 21 December 2016.

  • Wanner, Len. Tartan Noir. Glasgow: Freight, 2015. Print.


Journal + Issues