cover image The Big Book of Female Detectives

The Big Book of Female Detectives

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $25 ISBN 978-0-525-43474-0

Penzler’s entertaining eighth Big Book (after 2017’s The Big Book of Rogues and Villains) spans 150 years and assembles 74 stories featuring female sleuths from both sides of the Atlantic. The anthology carries bloat—several women are but ancillary characters, and a section highlighting “bad girls” seems thematically incongruous—but it also packs plenty of substance. Charlotte Armstrong’s “Meredith’s Murder” and Phyllis Bentley’s “The Missing Character” illustrate the shrewdness of adolescents and elderly ladies, respectively. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s “Locked Doors” makes a strong case for nurse detectives. Agatha Christie’s “The Secret Adversary” firmly establishes the coequality of investigative duo Tommy and Tuppence. Mignon G. Eberhart’s “Introducing Susan Dare” proves that manor-house mysteries can have high stakes and a ticking clock. Sara Paretsky tackles homophobia with “Strung Out”; Nevada Barr’s “Beneath the Lilacs” argues for the subjective morality of murder”; and in Marcia Muller’s “All the Lonely People,” Sharon McCone—the first fictional female PI written by a woman—pillories dating culture while baiting a thief. This is an essential volume for crime lovers of all genders. (Oct.)