Saturday, August 18, 2012
Crime on Her Mind: Review
Crime on Her Mind: Fifteen Stories of Female Sleuths from the Victorian Era to the Forties is an excellent collection of stories edited and introduced by Michele B. Slung. It features women detectives already well-known to me (Mrs. Bradley, Miss Withers and Susan Dare, for example), a few that I had previously met in one short story (Loveday Brooke, Dorcas Dene, and Miss Strange), and then brought several new female detectives to my attention. It is a very nice overview of some of the earliest women sleuths in fiction. We have a wide range from upper-class ladies like Miss Strange who "refuses to betray the principles instilled by her breeding and disdains anything so vulgar as spying or eavesdropping" to a stripper who is willing to go to any lengths to find the real killer and get her brother off the hook. An enjoyable collection of stories--Highly recommended to connoisseurs of the vintage years of crime fiction. Four Stars
"Snafu Murder" by Stuart Palmer: Starring Miss Hildegarde Withers, schoolteacher and amateur sleuth extraordinaire. Miss Withers teaches Inspector Piper and the FBI how to spot a murderer and proves that cheaters never win.
And a run-down of the stories:
"The Murder at Troyte's Hill" by C. L. Pirkis: Starring Loveday Brooke--the first known female detective created by a female author. Miss Brooke is presented as not only an intelligent and independent young woman, but as a woman who has taken up the profession because she is good at it. She's not supporting a sister or a disabled husband. She's not ultra-feminine to make up for her brains. She's just a good detective. In this one, she gets to the bottom of the mystery of who killed Alexander "Sandy" Henderson, lodge-keeper to Mr. Craven of Troyte's Hill. The police have fastened on to the son of the house, but Miss Brooke has reason's to doubt the official reading of the case. [I read this story earlier this year in The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories by Michael Sims (ed)]
"The Man with the Wild Eyes" by George Robert Sims: Starring Dorcas Dene, a former actress who seems adept at assuming any role. In this one she masquerades as a private nurse in order to find out why a man's daughter claims to have had a fainting fit when it's obvious she's been attacked--and nearly strangled at that. [I had also met Dorcas The Dead Witness--in "The Haverstock Hill Murder."]
"The Stir Outside the Cafe Royal" by Clarence Rook: Starring Miss Van Snoop. This is the only detective story to feature Miss Van Snoop. She follows a familiar route for early female detectives--only taking on the role to avenge the death of a loved one. She immediately resigns as a detective once her unorthodox method of capture brings the villain to justice.
"Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will" by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace: Starring Florence Cusack. Mr. Bovey leaves a will where the legal heir must be proved his weight in gold--literally. But when the heir is named and the gold is handed over--he is promptly robbed of his fortune. Miss Cusack discovers where the thief has hidden the golden booty and saves the day.
"The Fordwych Castle Mystery" by Emmuska, Baroness Orczy: Starring Lady Molly of the Yard. Lady Molly must discover who has murdered the faithful servant of the claimant as the rightful heir to the title and estates of the d'Alboukirk family. A younger daughter claims that her elder sister is really illegitimate and her servant has held the proofs in paper form. However, the servant has been murdered and the papers are gone....It's up to Lady Molly to get to the bottom of it.
"The Man With Nine Lives" by Hugh C. Weir: Starring Miss Madelyn Mack, a very Holmes-like detective--complete with a faithful Watson in the form of a female reporter and an addiction of her own (to a cola stimulant that helps her go without sleep and almost without food while on a case). A man sends a letter to Miss Mack claiming that eight attempts have been made on his life and he fears that a ninth will be made--successfully. He begs her to hurry to aid him. She does, but too late, and finds herself searching for an apparent madman as the culprit.
"The Golden Slipper" by Anna Katherine Green: Starring Miss Violet Strange. Miss Strange proves who is behind a series of high society thefts. It would seem to be one of group of friends known as "The Inseparables"--with suspicion focused on one of the young ladies in particular. Miss Strange uses her own jewels as bait to catch a sneak thief.
"The Dope Fiends" by Arthur B. Reeve: Starring Constance Dunlap. Miss Dunlap discovers the ring leader behind a drug gang and takes care of a bit of police graft while she's at it.
"The Murder at Fenhurst" by Hulbert Footner: Starring Madame Rosika Storey. It seems an open-and-shut case--the father had kept too tight a grip on his daughter, denying her the right to money she had inherited, keeping her from her lover, not allowing her to go out and about unsupervised. Her father is found dead and all the evidence seems to point at her. But then Madame Storey steps in to show us that sometimes all is not as clear-cut as it might seem.
"Too Many Dukes" by E. Phillips Oppenheim: Starring Baroness Clara Linz. An inheritance of jewels. Two men claim to be the duke and rightful heir. The jewels are stolen as the men make a crossing from France to England. It will take the Baroness to discover who took them and where they are. But don't ask the real duke to stand up....Oppenheim doesn't bother to tell us that.
"The Calico Dog" by Mignon G. Eberhart: Starring Susan Dare. Another case where two men are claiming to be the same person. This time it is a lost son who is coming back to claim a mother's affection (not to mention she's rich and will have some serious cash to leave to an heir). She hasn't seen Derek since he was small (apparently kidnapped by the nursemaid) and both men have the right general features and seem to remember details from childhood that only Derek would know. But they both can't be the son. Susan Dare puts a plan in motion that results in a death, stolen & recovered pearls....and, oh yes, discovering the real Derek.
"Angel Face" by William Irish: Starring Angel Face aka Jerry Wheeler (as well as Honey Sebastian). When the cops nab her brother as the killer of Ruby Rose Reading, Jerry knows that her brother has been fitted for a frame. Using all the tricks of her trade (and then some), she manages to finger the right man before her brother can be sent to the chair. A striptease detective that predates Gypsy Rose Lee's G-String Murders.
"The Mother of the Detective" by G. D. H. and M. Cole: Starring Mrs. Elizabeth Warrender, mother of James Warrender, private detective. Mrs. Warrender finds the stolen family silver (her own!) when her son and the local inspector think it must be long gone.
"Daisy Bell" by Gladys Mitchell: Starring Mrs. Beatrice Bradley before she became a Dame of the British Empire. It is the puzzle of the missing victim as well as the victim who is not nearly damaged enough by the accident she has apparently had. Can one run into a stone wall without looking like one has run into a stone wall?