While doing research for a completely different topic, I ran across an author who I’d never heard of and who wrote about an amateur sleuth in the late 19th century. As often happens with me, that eventually led me to wonder when the first professional woman detectives were introduced and who had written about them. The following list is the result of that piqued interest.
I’ve divided the genre into the five following categories:
- 19th Century Sleuths (1801-1900),
- Early 20th Century Sleuths (1901-1969),
- Late 20th Century Sleuths & Police Detectives (1970-1989),
- Late 20th Century Sleuths & Police Detectives (1990-1999), and
- Early 21st Century (2000-2010).
I don’t claim that this is a comprehensive list, but if you’re interested in the genre, it will give you a place to start reading.
I’ve divided the list into four parts to be posted on October 5, 7, 12, and 14.
19th Century Sleuths - 1801 - 1900
- Valerie Brinton an amateur sleuth determined to prove her husband innocent of murder by British author Wilkie Collins (debuted 1875)
- Amelia Butterworth is a nosy society spinster who assists the New York Metropolitan Police Force in a series by American poet and author Anna Katherine Green (debuted 1878)
- Violet Strange is a debutante and amateur sleuth in a series of stories by American poet and author Anna Katherine Green (debuted 1878)
- Irene Adler is an opera singer and amateur sleuth in the short story “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Arthur Conan Doyle (debuted 1891)
- Loveday Brooke is an early "lady detective" created by Catherine Louisa Pirkis (debuted 1894)
Early 20th Century Sleuths - 1901 - 1969
- Molly Robertson-Kirk is the head of the "Female Department" of Scotland Yard in short stories by British author Emma Orczy (debuted 1910)
- Constance Dunlap is a reformed thief and detective by American author Arthur B. Reeve (debuted 1911)
- Tuppence Beresford solves crimes with her husband Tommy in a series of novels and short-stories by Agatha Christie (debuted 1922)
- Maud Silver is a retired governess turned amateur sleuth in a series by British author Patricia Wentworth (debuted 1928)
- Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley is an elderly private detective and polymath psychoanalyst in 65 novels by Gladys Mitchell (debuted 1929)
- Nancy Drew, “girl detective,” was created by American author Edward Stratemeyer (debuted 1930)
- Jane Marple is an elderly amateur investigator in a series by English author Agatha Christie (debuted 1930)
- Harriet Vane is detective novelist and amateur sleuth in a series by Dorothy L. Sayers (debuted 1930)
- Hildegarde Withers is a school teacher and amateur slueth in a series by American author Stuart Palmer (debuted 1931)
- Dol Bonner was a private detective in “The Hand in the Glove” and several Nero Wolfe mysteries. She was created by Rex Stout (debuted 1937)
- Bertha Cool is a private investigator in the Cool and Lam series by American author A. A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner) (debuted 1939)
- Trixie Belden is a girl-detective starring in a multi-author series created by Julie Campbell Tatham (debuted 1948).
- Honey West is a private investigator in a series by G. G. Fickling (aka Gloria and Forest Fickling) (debuted 1957)
- Charmian Daniels is a detective in a series by English author Jennie Melville (aka Gwendoline Butler) (debuted 1962)
- Kate Fansler is a literature professor and amateur sleuth in a series by American professor Amanda Cross (debuted 1964)
- Christie Opara is a police detective in New York City in a trilogy by American author and former police detective Dorothy Uhnak (debuted 1968)