Blind Descent by Nevada Barr (Berkley, $8). National park ranger Anna Pigeon enters the frighteningly deep Lechuguilla Cave to rescue an injured woman. Claustrophobic terrors and murder make this thriller a heart-stopper. Pigeon is a heroine’s heroine—so smart and resourceful that any man would feel safer with her at his side.

Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (Berkley, $15). This novel features another clever heroine, but one hampered by the fact that she lives in the year 1176. Adelia Aguilar is a doctor sent to Glastonbury by King Henry II to investigate two skeletons that may be the remains of Arthur and Guinevere. As fascinating as the mystery are the ways Adelia deals with the challenges of being a medical professional in a man’s world.

The Strange Files of Fremont Jones by Dianne Day (Crimeline, $7). Fremont Jones is an independent-minded woman who offers secretarial services in 1905 San Francisco. Who knew that taking dictation could be so dangerous? In short order, there’s murder and adventure galore. The amazing Fremont is every bit up to the task.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur, $8). Spencer-Fleming’s unlikely but winning sleuth, the Rev. Clare Fergusson, is an Episcopal priest in a small New Hampshire town. Priests are privy to secrets, and when one of those secrets leads to murder, Clare doggedly hunts down the truth.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens (Crown, $23). Vanessa Munroe is more than just a sleuth—she’s an unstoppable force of nature. In Africa to find the missing daughter of a client, Vanessa outsmarts killers, gunrunners, and various assorted nasties, leaving behind a mounting body count that would make James Bond envious.

The Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene (Grosset & Dunlap). It’s impossible not to mention the one sleuth who influenced just about every female mystery writer in America: Nancy Drew, whose stories were ghostwritten by several authors under the Keene pseudonym. Quick-witted and courageous, Nancy demonstrated to girls of my generation that we could accomplish anything, even with our girlfriends in tow.

Former physician Tess Gerritsen is the best-selling author of the Jane Rizzoli crime thrillers, including The Silent Girl— just published by Ballantine.