Mr. Bazalgette’s Agent

Leonard Merrick. British Library (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $12 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-7123-5702-9
As scholar Mike Ashley notes in his introduction, this reissue of Merrick’s first novel, originally published in 1888, is “almost certainly the first ever British novel to feature a professional female detective.” Miriam Lea, the narrator, says of herself, “I was a governess until people discovered I had been an actress, and I was an actress till they discovered I could not act.” Of the “musical family” with whom she lodges in London, Miriam says it “resolved itself into a red-haired child who murders ‘The Carnival of Venice’ with the pertinacity of a barrel-organ deprived of its variety.” A suggestion that she check out the agony column of the newspaper for a suitable position leads her to a job with a detective agency. Her initial assignment puts her on the trail of an embezzler, sending her to Europe and later South Africa. A surprising amount of dry humor helps compensate for the disappointing ending. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
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