Two Women Detectives, Two Different Styles

My doctors have told me one way to deal with having arthritis is to develop new interests.  If on the one hand I have to give up travelling as much as I used to, I can find new things to fill that space.

I’ve shared needle felting, a new hobby I’m enjoying.  I’m not sure enjoying is the proper word, since I find it very frustrating to do three dimensional work.  It is very satisfying after hours, or even days, of work to have a project done of which I am happy with the result.

Reading is one life long love I have taken to a whole new level since my diagnosis.  Reading has always been a joy, indeed in my case it is as necessary as breathing,  I always remember in the book “The Little Princess” when the father says that his daughter “Devours books like a wolf.”  Books look rather like prey to me at times.

I have been able to indulge my book addiction for the past year, and discovered many authors I would never have enjoyed had I not become ill.  There are few benefits of a painful immune disease, but the luxury of more time to read has to be one of them.

trixie one

Recently I have become aware of two mystery series, each with a woman narrator.  They both take place in the past.  I have  enjoyed mystery books ever since I found my mother’s old pile of Nancy Drew books.  Later I read Trixie Belden, and had to hunt up the out of print Belden books for my daughter Evelyn to enjoy.

I had neglected mystery novels for many years, instead focusing on being an autodidact .  My science education was very poor, and I had many years of reading to catch up on everything from evolution to Einstein.  However, long days resting inflamed joints in bed meant I could catch up on my science education and also read for pure fun.

The first book I discovered is a best seller.  Anyone can enjoy Flavia de Luce.  Right now Kindle has the first book “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” for only $1.99.  Flavia is from nobility down on their luck after WWII.  She’s 10 years old, and her passion is chemistry.  She solves mysteries using chemistry and plain old neglect.  Her mother ,Harriet, is presumed dead while mountaineering, and no one seems to keep a check on where Flavia is at any given time.  Her days are spent in a vintage chemistry lab (relic of an eccentric ancestor), and flying about the village on her bike Gladys (named so because she is so glad when Flavia takes her out).  I remember at 10 years of age believing my own bicycle was glad to see me and go out for a spin.  The sense of freedom a bicycle gives a child is an important part of the the novels.


Flavia has two older sisters, something I was spared.  Flavia fights sisters, mud, dirt and muck, as well as her own lonliness while solving crimes.  The best part is I’ve learned a lot of chemistry while reading the series.  It is meant for adults, though a young teenager would love this series also.

The second series of books are not meant for the young teen.  I find the two books in the series very difficult to read at times.  M.R.C.Kasasian has written a semi take off of Sherlock Holmes.  There is the great detective, Sidney Grice, with his false eye and contempt for mankind.  This ward, March Middleton has problems of her own.  Newly arrived in England from India, where her father was an Army physician, her mysterious past love is hinted at.  She also has a drinking problem.

trixie three

The series takes place before WWI, when London conditions for the poor were horrific.  Kasasian shows the reader a world where the poor were considered without pity, and hygiene was absent among most classes.  This is not your usual Holmes inspired novel.  Kasasian takes the reader into the world of short life spans and squalor, painting a true portrait of Edwardian England.  Views of mug shots taken from the time of the novels give a true picture of the criminal of the period.

The books are a reminder of what life was like before sanitation and penicillin.  I have read enough history to know that during WWI, the British were horrified to find their conscripts in such poor physical condition.  The majority lived without indoor plumbing of any sort. The numbers turned down for service because of illness was seen as a national crisis.  It took a world war, where the French and German soldier was stronger and in better health, for the British Empire to wake up to the condition of their average citizen.  When WWII came along, the condition of the poor was much better, and the pool of men healthy enough for service was much higher.

Mug Shot

Mug Shot

The books are graphic in descriptions of illnesses and even a botched hanging.  Still, despite the differences between Middleton and Grice, there is also a growing sense of family between them.  Also, despite his faults which lull the reader into a false sense that Grice is no Holmes, at the end of the first mystery “The Mangle Street Murders” the reader is truly impressed with his detective abilities.

Kasasian and Alan Bradley have both written women detectives worth investigating.

Categories: book review

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2 replies

  1. Thanks Kitty. You have such a special spirit that shows through even in the worst of times. You look at the bright side.

    I LOVED the Trixie Beldon books when I was I kid. I was going to name my first child Trixie and the second one Honey, I had it all planned out. LOL If I had done that (if I had girls that is) I’m sure everyone would have thought they were stripper names.

  2. Hi Kitty,

    Matt and I are so very sorry that you are in pain. We know you enjoy reading (we do to) but for a fun diversion we highly recommend the Australian produced TV series “Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries”. 2 seasons are available on Netflix. It’s a mystery series set in the 1920s with a lady detective. Matt and I really enjoy watching a show with a strong female lead who has the respect of the male police officer who costars. We think you would really enjoy it. The series is based on books written by Kerry Greenwood. We have just ordered three of her books. We’ll let you know if they are a worthwhile read.

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