I'd argue there are plenty of ass-kicking women to be discovered in the Reacher books. There's one no-nonsense, tough-as-nails woman he becomes enamored with in pretty much every offering--usually a cop. That said, he is always the one who saves the day in the end, all by himself. Whether or not that's sexist is _somewhat_ arguable, considering, as IJ points out, Reacher's self-reliance is probably his single most defining character trait.
Just finished Nevada Barr's gritty New Orleans-based "Burn." I was there last year and she brought back all the sounds, smells of the French Quarter including the feel of slippery cobblestones under foot. I visited the city before Katrina and four years after it. Barr's character, Anna Pigeon writes that the storm washed the city clean and gave it a fresh start. I will always think of New Orleans as Spanish Moss. Beautiful, invasive, and squeezing a life out of mid air.
Kate Sedley's Roger the Chapman series. I stopped reading it more than a decade ago when her HOLY INNOCENTS and THE EVE OF ST HYACINTH seemed to me to have lost freshness. I picked them up on THE WEAVER'S INHERITANCE, which I liked very much for its humanity, and now reading THE SAINT JOHN'S FERN. The question of why and how the accused murder, caught almost redhanded, managed to disappear is a neat mystery.
Maureen Jennings, NIGHT'S CHILD. Jennings is a Canadian author of a historical police procedural set in Victorian Toronto. I enjoyed this novel. The protagonist, Detective William Murdoch, is believable and has a personal life, and the characters are interesting. The author's books border on the noir, but than anything Victorian always strikes me as noir. Must be those old photographs. Notwithstanding a couple of grammar bloopers, this author can be recommended.
It's interesting you say this, because I have sort of the same reaction. I think it's because of the contradictions inherent in Victorian society: the extremes---sexual repression and strict morality on the one hand, libidinous excesses on the other; wealth and glitter and the progress of industry contrasted with the most abject poverty and abuses. Jack the Ripper. Jekyll and Hyde. Sherlock. The great botanical conservatories. I always thought those an apt symbol of the age---this fascination with lush, torrid plants from tropical climates, housed in glass. Displayed as delights for the wealthy, yet also imprisoned. I may have to have a look at this Canadian author too.
Finished Sedley's THE BURGUNDIAN'S TALE today, started THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE. Roger wasn't happy in London, so I didn't enjoy THE BURGUNDIAN'S TALE near as much as the 2 previous ones, even though it was a neat solution.
Away from the metropolis, Roger is happy again, enough that his small discontents merely spice up his life wandering among small communities. Enjoyed THREE KINGS, ready to start THE GREEN MAN. In this one Roger will be summoned into Scotland, to join Richard Duke of Gloucester and Alexander Duke of Albany in the campaign again James III, who was repeatedly raiding England.
I couldn't sleep last night, so I read partially and tossed two books in succession. Both are historical mysteries.
Rennie Airth's police procedural THE DEAD OF WINTER came highly critically acclaimed. Set in London during the Blitz, the book drags on with incredible verbosity and an obvious intent to stretch a thin plot over the maximum number of pages, even to the point of holding over a witness's reply to a question until after an interruption and into a new chapter. The same witness interview served for three separate chapters.
Sara Fraser's THE DROWNED ONES takes place in 1827 in the British countryside. The author is Roy Clews, using a pseudonym. For what it's worth, I always suspect that is done to sell more books to a specific group of readers. It suggests that other shortcuts are being taken to make the book more commercially successful. But what bothered me in this case is that the protagonist, a constable, is a wimp and a coward when it comes to physical confrontations. Or if you prefer, you can say he is a non-violent person. And that doesn't work for me for a policeman.