Thursday List: Young Women Detectives



Ruth Galloway - doing a little light archaeology between murders 



Last week’s list featured books about Older Women Winning Through. There were some great suggestions from readers, and quite a few of them were female detectives - some of whom didn’t quite make it onto my list.

So female detectives need their own list – and I’m going to divide them into two groups by age. It’s a pretty arbitrary division – in the end I decided that the women should be self-selecting. So if they consider themselves to be an older lady, they are on next week’s list. This week we have the young and wonderful. No sidekicks (sorry Amanda and Harriet), and (with one exception) they have to be part of a series. All of these were created by women, though that wasn’t a deliberate decision.




1) Ruth Galloway from Elly Griffiths' archeological mysteries. I love these books, and I love Ruth. And in any list of my favourite male detectives, the wonderful Harry Nelson would be there too – the thinking woman’s policeman. (And a list of favourite druids would include Cathbad). Two of the books, here and here, have featured on the blog, along with a short story.



2) Dandy Gilver in Catriona McPherson’s
wonderful series. She’s a wealthy married lady living in 1920s Scotland, who solves crimes together with her detective partner Alex, along with occasional help from her maid, Grant, and her dog, Bunty. Her husband puts in the occasional appearance, her children feature even less frequently. She is quite splendid, and wears wonderful clothes. Three Dandy books have appeared on the blog, and one of McPherson’s standalones.









3) Christine Poulson’s Cassandra James. Academic sleuth, mysteries set in Cambridge in colleges and museums and bookshops - what’s not to like? Wonderful stuff - click on the link to see more. And not only that, but I have got to know Chrissie online via blogging and a shared love of crime fiction and many other books – our tastes coincide so much, it’s unsurprising that I like the ones she writes so much.

4)  Antonia Fraser wrote about Jemima Shore - TV journalist and detective, and I loved these books, which are SOO redolent of the 1980s. Jemima was an excellent heroine – I wish Fraser would write us an update. Oxford Blood is on the blog here – the Sloanes, the Ball, the dresses. You could re-create the Thatcher era from this book.




5) Sarah Caudwell and the women of the New Square Chambers at Lincoln’s Inn: Julia Larwood is my favourite lawyer in literature, and Selina is pretty good too. Julia is an expert on tax (though not her own), and she is messy, joyful, and likes young men. Her adventures in Venice are outlined in Thus was Adonis Murdered, one of my top 10 mysteries of all time. (There’s the question of whether Hilary should be on this list…)


6) Marion Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close was a book I wasn’t expecting to love, but actually I adored it. It IS part of a series - she has written many books about one Dublin family, the Walshes – but so far as I know this is the only one where Helen Walsh is a private detective. I sincerely hope she will write more about Helen.


7) Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn No murderer will go uncaught in Regina Saskatchewan, where our favourite academic, TV personality and family woman goes about her business. She tells us what she eats and what her children are up to, and she has unashamed feminist and left wing views. Love her.


8) Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone. Another star of the 1980s – still sitting there, as Grafton moves towards the end of the alphabet, with only a few years, at most, having passed in Kinsey-land. You know where you are with Kinsey and her polyester black dress for special events.
 

9) Laura Lipmann’s Tess Monaghan – Baltimore beautifully realized, Tess doing her rowing, leading her complicatrd family and personal life, and investigating crimes.

10) Laurie R King Some might argue that her


heroine Mary Russell in her historical novels is a sidekick to one of the most famous detectives of all, but I would say she’s an equal partner. And this author has another series featuring modern-day detective Kate Martinelli solving crimes in San Francisco.

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This list just about wrote itself, I didn’t have to search around, nor make difficult decisions on whom to omit. But I’m sure readers would have quite different lists, and I hope you might put them below, or just tell me where I went wrong. Or, put in your suggestions for next week’s older lady detectives.
 


Comments

  1. Some good detectives there and some I'm unfamiliar with. Personally my favourite young female detective is Vanda Symon's Sam Shephard, who features in four New Zealand-set novels as she advances from sole-charge policewoman in a rural town to lowest-on-the-totem pole detective in a bigger city.

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    1. I'm not familiar with this series, obviously I need to try it - sounds good! Thanks....

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  2. Not my area of expertise (wrong word - I'm expert at nothing)....familiarity then.
    I've only fleetingly crossed paths with Grafton and Milhone.
    Ziskin's Ellie Stone springs to mind.

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    1. Yes indeed, having just discovered her thanks to you I must try another one.

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  3. I like Ruth Galloway too - but isn't she large? Or am I muddling her with someone else?

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    1. I like to think she's not as large as she thinks she is! the picture is an impressionistic version....

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  4. I love this list, Moira! You've named some fabulous fictional sleuths here. You also made me think of Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski and of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher. I really do enjoy your Thursday lists :-)

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    1. Great additions thank you Margot!

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    2. Just popping in to say I finally got a copy of the first three Phryne Fisher novels and greatly enjoyed them. I found the first one a little heavy handed, but the author seemed to settle into her stride after that. And GREAT clothes, Moira! "The deep decollete was artfully concealed with strings of jet beads, which served the function of preventing the dress from sliding off the wearer's shoulders, but leaving a gratifying impression that this was, indeed, what it might at any moment do."

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    3. Thanks Sarah - I really am going to have to go with Phryne Fisher....

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  5. Wow, thank you, Moira!
    Young women detectives: I have a soft spot for Amelia Sachs in Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme novels: she is really an equal partner.
    There is also the Quentin Bates's Sergeant Gunnhildur - though she is maybe more middle-aged than young. Fortyish, I think.

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  6. Oh, and I really like Asa Larsson's lawyer and public prosecutor, Rebecka Martinsson.

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  7. I hope you will include Patricia Wentworth's Miss Sliver series in your list of older lady detectives. An excellent example of Golden Age Mysteries.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth - she is a classic older lady detective....

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  8. I simply must second the nomination of V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky's detective, a courageous, feisty, smart, bold, independent woman -- and my favorite woman detective. Not only that, she lives in Chicago, where I grew up, is a dog lover and good friend and neighbor. And talk about being an unreconstructed leftist! There is not one book in the series without an important issue as a theme.

    Paretsky has allowed her private eye to age, so although she was once young as we all were, she is now middle-aged.

    And, as long as we're talking about Kerry Greenwood, I also submit the name of her contemporary Melbourne baker-detective, Corinna Chapman. She is a riot at times, especially when dealing with her eccentric neighbors.

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  9. I also want to mention Laurie King's other protagonist, Kate Martinelli. I loved those books, wanted more, especially when a family developed. Wish she'd write more of those unusual good books.

    And then there are Emily Tempest, Aborigini detective in Australia; Mms Precious Ramotswe of Botswana, Ella Marconi of Sydney, Australia, Jayne Keeney, also a favorite, an Australian ex-pat living in Thailand.

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    1. Great additions to the list, thanks Kathy, and very interesting to hear more about Sara Paretsky. I never really took to the VI W books, but perhaps I should try them again - I love me a left-wing cause!

      Yes, I think Laurie King is overdue giving us more Kate Martinelli.

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  10. I'm rather fond of Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple, although she's possibly a little lightweight.

    Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher, although I've only read one of the books so far, is an absolute knockout and I want more of her.

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    1. I'm definitely adding to my list of books to try from doing this list... if you recommend Daisy D then I must try her....

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  11. Hmmm, this makes me think of who I would pick, but not for long because it is too hard to choose. Maybe someday.

    On the basis of your review of The Mystery of Mercy Close I bought Watermelon by Marion Keyes. Have not read it yet, of course.

    I have only read a book or two by some of these authors. Except for Laurie R. King. I have read three of the Kate Martinelli books; I liked the detective and I love King's writing but she is heavy on issues. I have only read the first Mary Russell novel, and have more to try.

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    1. You should do a list Tracy, I would love to read it. Is Watermelon the first Marion Keyes book? I still haven't read anything else by her, but have high hopes based on Mercy Close.

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    2. I will think about a list. To be honest, not many female detectives spring to my mind as favorites. But I do have a block that way.

      Watermelon appears to be her first book and the first one in the Walsh family series. Must get to it soon. But I say that about so many books.

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    3. Maybe you should just do a list of favourite detectives - no gender specified....

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    4. Actually, I did come up with a list of female sleuths that I like, and I will probably follow up on it, although I want to do a favorite book to movie list first... and I am lagging.

      I have decided I have a preference for male detectives in fiction, and that disturbs me. But I did find a lot of crime fiction books featuring women that I own but have not read... So I am sure I will discover more women I like in mystery fiction.

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    5. Well actually I really want to see your book-to-movie list too. Too many blogposts to do, too little time....

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  12. I can't wait for the book-to-movie list. Then I can add to both of my lists.

    Sara Paretsky, creator of V.I. Warshawski participated in the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, and also is known to be a strong proponent of First Amendment rights to free speech, assembly, etc. She speaks out on a
    lot of issues, especially civil liberties, while promoting her books.

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    1. See, Tracy, your public is awaiting your list!
      And Kathy, that's good to know about Sara Paretsky, most encouraging.

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  13. Sara Paretsky has a good blog and often good discussions going on. She is such a good, principled person, and her books show it in that V.I. Warshawski discusses nearly every issue that occurs in the U.S.
    Critical Mass, her last book goes back to WWII and the A-bomb testing in Nevada as well. Usually her books are strictly contemporary, but this one has flashbacks.

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    1. You're definitely making me realize that I should read more of her books!

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  14. Yes, the public definitely wants to see the book-to-movie list.

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    1. I will do that. In the midst of working on it, but keep getting interrupted.

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