Mysteries that feature strong heroine characters are my catnip. Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy novels were enjoyed with milk and cookies after school. When I was in college, Veronica Mars scratched the itch (if you’re not familiar it’s a television series that features a girl detective from a town called Neptune).
After college, I’ve been turning back to books. They’ve been hard to find because they exist in a weird genre fiction ghetto that is a cross between chick lit and mystery. I’ve been digging into backlists and seeking out clues to where I can find some of these hard-boiled dames.
My case notes so far have revealed:
Rhys Bowen’s The Royal Spyness Series
Name: Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie/Alias: Georgie
Age: Twenty-something or how her relatives describe her: Should be married to a prince by now.
Known Acquaintances: Darcy O’Mara—handsome playboy with a secret. Belinda Warburton-Spokes—socialite man eater and aspiring clothing designer, also friend.
Too much family to speak of. She’s 35th in line to the English crown, after all!
The Case: It’s hard earning an honest living for yourself when you are a distant relation to the crown in pre-World War II era England. Too aristocratic to be a shopgirl, but not aristocratic enough to have three square meals reliably—Lady Georgie decides to disguise herself as a maid and clean her royal friends’ mansions to earn some money. Little did she know that this would set off a chain of events that will end up with her trying to solve a murder, clear her brother’s name, and save her family estate!
Would I hire her for a case? Lady Georgie knows how to be discrete (she has to when she’s solving mysteries on behalf of the Queen!) and she has a lot of useful connections, including a former copper Grandad. I would hire her in a pinch.
Would I have a drink with her? Certainly! I gobbled up this series in a few months because she was so much fun to spend time with! Wine only, though. She gets a little tipsy imbibing cocktails.
Status: This is a long series, make sure to take out at least two or three at a time.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
Name: Claire DeWitt /Alias: N/A
Age: 20ish, 30ish. Hard to tell, the life of a detective ages you so.
Known Acquaintances: Constance Darling—mentor and New Orleans detective, murdered. Tracy and Kelly—former friends from her hometown Brooklyn. One missing, the other not speaking to her. Not a lot of people friendly with her right now, she has a reputation for being difficult. Family—wealthy at one point, but living beyond their means. Not in the picture now.
The Case: Claire is called to New Orleans to investigate the murder of a respected DA who went missing some time after Hurricane Katrina. She takes the case which disturbs both old ghosts and new. If you’ve watched True Detective, that would give you a taste of how this case unfurls.
Would I hire her for a case? She’s a hardboiled PI who throws herself into a case with little thought to the damage that she inflicts on herself or others, “I’d shot four people. I’d killed two. None were in self-defense.” She also has a very bizarre investigation style that is a mixture of French philosophy and mysticism. She looks for fingerprints and other physical clues, but she also pays attention to the metaphysical to lead her investigation. Nope, I wouldn’t hire her. I would get the answer, but probably get damaged in the process.
Would I have a drink with her? She’s a bit pickled as well as hard-boiled. I like remembering my nights, so rain-check!
Status: Two in the series so far, hopefully more to come!