Women of Mystery

Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction
Year Released
Film Length(s)
53 mins
Remote video URL


"What those of us who are writing about women detectives are doing is extremely revolutionary. We're providing speech for those who have long been silent." – Sara Paretsky in Women of Mystery

Featured review

The biggest changes in the detective fiction genre over the past quarter-century occured when American women like Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and others entered the field and the convention of Heroic Man rescuing Helpless Maiden had to be overhauled.
Marilyn Stasio
The New York Times


Why is the female private eye a hero?

She did not believe the old story. The official story. The repeated story. The lie, police cover-up, or millionaire's powerplay.

Her job is to seek justice when society turns a blind eye. And she will not give up until the whole truth is told.

Women of Mystery explores the writing lives of three authors (Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller) who started a literary revolution and, in the process, captured readers' imaginations around the world. Their novels told a new story about crime and justice—and continue to do so today. In 2020, Paretsky (hailed by P. D. James as “the most remarkable” of modern crime writers) published Deadland, her 20th V.I. Warshawski novel, as well as Love & Other Crimes, a collection of short stories that "run deep with aching sketches of love and loss" and "haunting versions of possible futures" (Library Journal). Women of Mystery spends intimate time with each author on her heroine's home turf and raises questions deeply relevant today: Why is a female P.I. uniquely positioned to investigate crime, truth, and justice? How can a detective story function as a novel of social realism? In what ways does historical trauma find expression in the present? Women of Mystery can be screened on its own, or paired with book discussions of the authors' novels—or those of other revolutionary crime novelists, such as Barbara Neely (author of the groundbreaking Blanche on the Lam), multi-award winning Attica Locke (Bluebird, Bluebird), and Edgar Awardee Naomi Hirahara. Women of Mystery is the perfect way to inspire questions and engage discussion in a variety of venues: classrooms, libraries, and book discussion groups.

Watch our newly completed 9-minute update on Sara Paretsky for free on Vimeo: vimeo.com/445649727. In "DEAD LAND/Sara Paretsky: A Reflection," Paretsky reflects on 40 years of writing crime novels and how the recent death of her husband shaped the 20th installment in her V.I. Warshawski series. The short documentary is the perfect companion to "Women of Mystery."


A TERRIFIC documentary. Ideal for courses in women writers, popular culture, and women's studies. Should prompt lively discussion among students.
Maureen Reddy
Professor of English & Women's Studies, Rhode Island College
This keenly crafted triple portrait is a treat. . . . [Includes] surprising views on the nature of crime and justice.
Video Librarian
Video Librarian
In Hardball, Paretsky tells a deeply relevant story of white privilege, police corruption, and historical trauma. It joins Total Recall and Blacklist as my favorite of Parestky's novels—those that reckon with the haunting persistence of a violent past.
Pomona College alum (BA History
Our attendance was the largest [our library] has ever had for a program of any sort.
Programming Librarian
Shasta County Library

Awards and Screenings

BOOKLIST "Editor's Choice" Video
Highlighted in Masterpiece's "Book & Film Club II: A Guide for Libraries"
Featured in American Libraries Magazine: "Women of Mystery: A Filmmaker and a Librarian Team Up to Connect Crime Authors with Social Issues on the Page, on Film, and in the Library"
Inspired California Center for the Book's groundbreaking screening-reading-discussion program

Promotional Material

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