Tuesday, December 4, 2018

There is Nothing Like a Dame: Fun mysteries featuring women

From my recent reading — these books are all about female crime solvers or, in some cases, criminals!

The Big Book of Female DetectivesThe Big Book of Female Detectives
edited by Otto Penzler
Otto Penzler gathers the most iconic women of the detective canon over the past 150 years, captivating and surprising readers in equal measure. The 74 handpicked stories in this collection introduce us to the most determined of gumshoe gals, from debutant detectives to spinster sleuths to groundbreaking female cops and contemporary crime-fighting P.I.s
This is a first class collection of short stories (mostly) ranging from Victorian times to the present. I liked all the time periods pretty well except, to my surprise, the pulp era stories. However, that is clearly a matter of personal taste. Otto Penzler serves up a wonderful selection and I discovered several new authors to investigate further. There are all sorts of detectives from the young and beautiful to the old and canny. Some have sidekicks (usually male), some have a gang of admirers/assistants, and some work completely alone. There is also a final section of stories featuring female villains which was a lot of fun also.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes this sort of thing as much as I do.

The Brotherhood of the Seven KingsThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings 
by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace

I was led to this via the collection above.

Madame Koluchy is beautiful, charismatic, and able to miraculously heal. Too bad that she is a diabolical master villainess. Only two men know the secret and are trying, behind the scenes, to expose her fiendish plots and bring her to justice. Meanwhile, she is plotting to destroy them.

Interestingly, L.T. Meade was a woman who wrote a ton of books and had several male co-authors who she worked with regularly.

Written in 1899, these are enjoyable, clever stories which take the reader on exciting adventures to try to foil evil. One of my favorite Librivox readers has a good audio version.

The Sorceress of the Strand
by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace
From the moment Madame Sara arrived on the scene, she has taken London society by storm. Madame is both beautiful and mysterious, but it soon becomes clear to both Dixon Druce and his friend, police surgeon Eric Vandeleur, that there is something sinister about the woman and the goings on at her shop on the Strand. They soon become obsessed with proving her guilty of the many crimes that follow in her wake!
Obviously this is similar to the tales of the villainess from The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings by the same authors. It was also quite enjoyable though I liked the other book better as Madame Sara's plans were not quite as involved or diabolical as Madame Koluchy's. Still a lot of fun though! I also listened to these via Librivox.

Constance DunlapConstance Dunlap 
by Arthur B. Reeve

I really enjoyed this book about a clever woman who turns forger to help her husband.

This is told as a series of short stories and after the first few Constance is not an anti-hero any more. She uses her skills and interest in new-fangled inventions like fingerprints, blood pressure machines, and audio recorders to help those who have inadvertently wound up on the wrong side of the law. Although the stories are short, each case is interesting and I was drawn into them eagerly to see what Constance would discover. I especially enjoyed seeing her outsmart the corrupt hired detective Drummond with whom she crosses paths repeatedly. Via Librivox.

That Affair at Portstead ManorThat Affair at Portstead Manor 
by Gladys Edson Locke
An English country home during a house party becomes the scene of a double mystery. One of the three detectives employed on the case is a woman whose common sense, calm, and plain logic are skillfully employed in straightening the tangle.
Not the greatest from a mysterious point of view but worth reading (or listening to) for watching Mr. Clavering in his humorous detective attempts while Mary Gray is the obviously talented detective. I enjoyed their dynamic in this otherwise rather ordinary manor house murder mystery. Via Librivox.

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