The idea of the murderous woman has exerted a particular fascination throughout the history of literature. Consider crime fiction maestro Lawrence Block’s stories following the corpse-littered trail of psychopathic Kit Tolliver; pulp legend James M. Cain’s desperate housewives of the 1930s and 1940s, Cora Papadakis (waiting for the postman to ring twice) and Phyllis Nirdlinger (dreaming of double indemnity); and, to class up the premise, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. There’s probably a cave painting somewhere out there of a Neanderthal woman taking out a deserving prehistoric creep with his own club. The following killers are of a more recent vintage, and all are recommended by Kirkus Indie.

B.J. Magnani’s 2021 thriller, The Power of Poison, features a protagonist with an interesting gig: Libby Robinson, a pathologist specializing in toxicology, consults at a medical school…when she’s not using her poisoning prowess to eliminate targets as a government assassin. Our review notes that “Magnani crafts some indelible images” and praises the “refreshingly unconventional hero.”

Shadowdays by Polly Schattel (2022) is a darker take on the trope. Melissa Sweet, haunted by a tragic mistake, carves out a measure of stability when she moves back home with her family. When a violent incident shatter’s Melissa’s hard-won peace, she doesn’t retreat further from the world—she strikes out on a rampage of bloody revenge. Kirkus’ starred review pronounces the novel an “exhilarating, sorrowful, and terrifying descent into retribution and possible madness.”

The 2022 novel Jazzed by Jill Dearman fascinatingly reimagines the infamous real-life 1920s murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb as sociopathic college roommates Wilhelmina Reinhardt and Dorothy Raab, brilliant, amoral thrill-seekers chasing the ultimate transgression: murdering a child. Our starred review highlights the novel’s “richly atmospheric panorama of New York in the Roaring ’20s” and calls it a “wildly entertaining and energetic period thriller.”

Arthur Smith is an Indie editor.