The world of crime fiction is filled with an incredible range of lead characters types. From the bumbling, nosy senior with a cat, all the way to the suave, sophisticated and debonair secret agent.
One characteristic that is seemingly universal among them is toughness. Sometimes it is physical ruggedness or simply a dogged determination with a disregard for personal safety. Sometimes it is distorted by vengeance and pain. Either way, a toughness of spirit is usually required to save the day, or at least what can be salvaged of it.
If you are looking for your crime solvers to be on the tougher side...
V.I. Warshawski series, by Sara Paretsky. A tough private investigator from Chicago who can't help herself from getting into tough situations. Strong of mind and body, Warshawski is relentless in her pursuits and will always champion the downtrodden. The mean streets of the Windy City provide great settings and Paretsky skillfully controls the pacing with an ebb and flow that keeps the reader slightly off guard.
Jack Taylor series, by Ken Bruen. A hurting alcoholic with a thirst for justice. Jack Taylor stories are definitely dark and violent, but also tempered with some wry humour.
Ed Loy series, by Declan Hughes. Set in the bad parts of town, Dublin PI Ed Loy is about as rough and tough as they come. He'd much rather hit first and ask questions later. A tough, edgy writing style perfectly sets the tone.
Havana series, by Leonardo Padura - Lieutenant Mario Conde is a reluctant detective in Havana, one who'd rather drink and write the great Cuban novel. Like many other crime fiction heroes, Conde gets really upset when the "little guy" is pushed around. The setting of Havana really comes alive in these pages. Conde and his adopted family endure some lean, tough times, but still manage to savour their victories, however small.
Jade del Cameron series, by Suzanne Arruda. A historical series set in WWI Europe. As a wartime ambulance driver, Jade has seen a lot of danger and can take care of herself. Her strong loyalty to others, especially to that of her dying suitor, brings her to even more dangerous situations. Exotic locations and a charismatic heroine make for an enthralling read.
Molly Murphy series, by Rhys Bowen. Not dark at all like the others, but Molly still has all the toughness and fortitude required to track down a killer. Set in the turn of century New York City. Great settings and characters. Charming.
Please note that many of these reading suggestions are inspired by the entries found in the wonderful readers' advisory guide:Read On... Crime Fiction: reading lists for every taste,
by Barry Trott (2008).