Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reading the (Female) Detectives

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been reading mysteries. After I read Breakdown, I read Brush Back, which had been the latest VI Warshawski mystery. Last Sunday's New York Times reviewed a new book, Fallout. 

I went to the library: I'm fifth on the Fallout waiting list. The library expects to receive multiple copies, so the wait might not be too long.

I just finished Critical Mass. This book takes place between Breakdown and Brush Back, but I missed it. I also picked up Deep Pockets, a Carlotta Carlyle mystery. By googling, I discovered there's a later Carlotta book I haven't read (Lie Down with the Devil.)

Most mystery/detective books I've read feature female detectives. Nancy Drew is the first series I remember reading; I was in a book club and received monthly installments. I also read Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and the Dana Girls.

The first VI Warshawki and Kinsey Millhone books were published in 1982. Carlotta Carlyle first appeared in 1987. I'm not sure how I found VI or Kinsey or which one I read first, but obviously, I've enjoyed both series.

They are similar in some ways: both are licensed private investigators, divorced, runners, involved with musicians at some point, often at odds with the police, committed to their clients, smart and determined. Both have older male neighbors as confidants and friends.

Kinsey is a loner, almost anti-social. She's an orphan without family at least for part of the series. In later books, Kinsey discovers relatives from both sides of her family. She seems to have only one friend--Henry, her landlord and neighbor. In the series Kinsey's had three short-term romantic relationships. Kinsey was once a police officer before she went private. She never seems to cook--eating cereal, sandwiches, Big Macs and strange meals at Rosie's Tavern. One last thing that makes a big difference in her stories--Kinsey is "trapped" in the eighties--the setting of her mysteries--in her thirties.

VI is more social and comes from a large family. Friends and relatives are the catalysts for many of her cases. I think she has had three long-term relationships--although I'm not sure about the length of one (Conrad)--and a few other relationships. VI loves food and is a good cook. She is also a singer. VI is a feminist and a progressive; most--if not all--of her cases involve white collar crime. One predictable thing in VI mysteries--the rich/corporate people are almost always the guilty criminals.

I haven't read a Carlotta Carlyle mystery for years. She's tall, red-headed, a cab driver, a former cop, a guitar player. Carlotta has a long term off and on relationship with her cab company boss (or owner?) Sam, who has a mob family background. Carlotta is a devoted Big Sister.  I don't remember many details. I'll have to write more after I read Deep Pockets.

I prefer to read about female detectives, though I've read about male detectives such as Spenser, Lord Peter Wimsey and Sam Spade. I identify more with the women, I guess. There's no residual narrative sexism. (Hmm, what exactly is residual narrative sexism anyway? I like the phrase: did I just invent it?)

I'm  not sure if I'll continue with my mystery reading binge. For now, on to Carlotta.

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