Friday, 19 February 2010

Female Detectives

I’ve long been a lover of detective stories. I grew up in a house with stacks of paperbacks and cut my teeth on Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason and (writing as A.A. Fair) Donald Lam stories. Mom introduced me to Dick Francis and I inherited her collection of his books, which I’ve kept topped up ever since; sadly, I've just learned that Francis died only recently, on the 16th of February (yesterday as of this writing).

I’ve mentioned previously that Bill and I both love Peter Wimsey books, particularly the later ones which were incomplete until finished by Jill Paton Walsh, whose other books I keep meaning to hunt. Sadly, while the Campion TV shows starring Peter Davison are quite good, the original books by Margery Allingham were a bit disappointing. I've read her biography; she had quite a difficult life.

It turns out that my friend, Vivien, also likes detective stories, but she has two criteria: they have to have been written by a woman and the detective has to be a woman. She has discovered two series that she quite likes and has generously been loaning me these in installations each time we meet up.

One is a rather daft but amusing series by Elizabeth Peters, an amazingly prolific author whose other titles I've yet to explore. It's about a family of Egyptologists, written from the perspective of the journals of the main character, the wife, Amelia Peabody Emerson. Set in Victorian England (and Egypt), they are written very tongue in cheek and one could not really enjoy these without a wry sense of humour. It took me a while to appreciate this, but once I did I found them quite a good laugh. I’m not too fussed about Egyptian stuff, but the adventures do catch you up in the mysterious foreign-ness of the place and the plots are tricky enough to pull you through. I don’t particularly identify with any of the characters, per se, but neither do I have any trouble finishing once I’ve started.

The other series I’m in danger of having to buy myself, I’m afraid. I re-read these books 2 or 3 times before returning them. Sue Grafton titles her books in alphabetical order; she's up to U and I do hope she doesn't stop at Z! I’ve just finished F and G. Grafton writes about her 30-something year old, twice divorced, California dectective, Kinsey Millhone in a rather terse style that reminds me of my beloved Donald Lam/Bertha Cool books and something else. Never mind that I become Kinsey when I'm reading just as I move into and practically live whatever film I'm watching (Heaven help anyone who interrupts my viewing). Remember the cop-speak of the TV series Dragnet? Sort of like that. She’s even a runner (3 miles every day), how cool is that? The books can be read in any order, you get a precise of the main characters in each, but the stories are sequential and linked, so I recommend that approach.

In return for such rich reading, I have introduced Vivien to Phryne Fisher; I do hope she’ll enjoy them even half as much as I’ve enjoyed Peters and Grafton.

Writing this has reminded me that I also I love the Mrs. Bradley TV series with Diana Rigg. It has just occurred to me to perhaps look into the books it originated from, by Gladys Mitchell! See how useful it is to blog?!

1 comment:

Jo said...

I read a story by Joanne Fluke who put the recipes of each of the items mentioned in each chapter. One of them was for Multiple-Choice Bar Cookies. She gives four columns and you pick one item from each column and put them with a couple of main items then bake. It looked really interesting something one should be able to put together on short notice when needed.