By Evangeline Jennings
So the frequently lovely Lip Mag published an article entitled Top Ten: Rockin’ Female Detectives, and it rocked slightly less than all French music ever before Daft Punk. It did, however, inspire me to make my own list – just because. And while I yield to no one in my affection for Agatha Christie and Modesty Blaise, I included them out because Lip Mag had excluded them in. I also stayed away from crappy daytime TV and took – predominantly – to my books. So here, in no particular order and for no good reason is my rushed attempt at an alternative top ten kick-ass female detectives.
The Exceptional Kathy Mallory
Star of nine novels by Carol O’Connell. I’ve already written about her.
Almost a ground-breaker and always value for money, the San Francisco-based PI McCone appears in almost thirty novels by Marcia Muller.
Boston-based accidental investigator Emma Victor up-ended the hard-boiled stereotypes with radical feminism, women’s shelters, tofu, and cats. She drank in a lesbian bar, fucked a lady doctor, and soon made the move to San Francisco.
Val McDermid’s `cynical socialist lesbian feminist journalist’ appears in six books. She was one of my first literary loves. And stop me if you’ve heard this before …
The very lovely Linda Barnes has written eleven novels about Carlotta, a tough-talking ex-cop turned Boston PI with a cab. Think Spenser with huevos. And maybe a touch of Hawk.
Lauren Henderson has written seven novels about the wonderfully anarchic artist and anti-heroine Sam Jones. The early ones are the best. When I get time I will write at length about Sam and her influence on me.
In her three Pam Nielsen novels, Barbara Wilson – also known as Barbara Sjoholm – subverts the genre to explore sexuality, pornography, and violence against women. She also does a great job of portraying real women living in the real world and struggling with real relationships.
Author Liza Cody started with an idea: “What would happen to an ordinary, competent English woman who happened to be a detective; someone who went unarmed, used the Yellow Pages a lot and got hurt when she was hit?” The idea spawned six small-f feminist detective stories that spanned the 1980s and a rather poor TV show that started me thinking about Imogen Stubbs – which was nice – and then about TV and movies in general. I was tempted by Sonja Sohn’s Kima from The Wire or Lucy Bates (Betty Thomas) in Hill Street Blues. But really, unlike Highlander, there can be only two.
First, Marge Gunderson
Enthralling in Fargo, ya.
And then, of course, the one, the only Veronica Mars.
Possibly the best ever.
“Here’s what you do. You get tough. You get even.”
One way or another.
I think I feel a big-ass Veronica piece coming on.