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Riot Recommendation

23 of the Best Female Villains

Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

This Riot Recommendation with your favorite female villains is sponsored by The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Celadon Books).

The Silent Patient cover imageAlicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. She is a famous painter and her husband, Gabriel, is an in-demand fashion photographer. One evening, Gabriel returns home late from work, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face and never speaks another word. Alicia’s refusal to talk turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, and she is hidden away at the Grove, a secure psychiatric unit. Enter Theo Faber, a psychotherapist obsessed with unravelling Alicia’s mystery. Shocking, thought-provoking, and deeply twisted, The Silent Patient is a spellbinding psychological thriller about violence, obsession, and the dark side of passion.

Make the biggest bucket of popcorn—I am Jessica Fletcher all-in when there’s a female villain! That’s why we asked you to tell us the best female villains. You know what we mean, the characters that make you catch your breath, or lean forward into the book in shock and sometimes a bit of amazement, at the devious villainy. And you delivered! Here is your list for the best female villains—excuse me while I go book shopping.

23 of the best female villains as recommended by readers. book lists | female villains | best villians

Ayoola in My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Invidia Aquitaine from the Furies of Calderon series

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

#FashionVictim by Amina Akhtar

Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl

Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles

Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter 5 and on)

Jadis/The White Witch from C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew

Zenia in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride

Annie Wilkes in Misery by Stephen King

Lady Macbeth!

Phyllis Dietrichson from Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity

Madame Rouge from the DC Universe

Serena Clarke or Marcella Riggins from V.E. Schwab’s “Villains” series

Irene Adler in Sherlock series

Madame De Winter in Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Kate Trask in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

Cruella de Vil in The Hundred and One Dalmatians

Melisande Shahrizai in Kushiel’s Legacy series

Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love

Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest