MYSTERY LEADS MID-MONTH MONDAYS FROM SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF put the magnifying glass the second Monday of each month on classic detective and crime fiction.
Shannon will take the time to talk about her own personal discoveries as she looks back at the masters and lesser known writers of the past and how it can inform us as writers and readers today.
This month’s column focuses on Shannon Muir discovering groundbreaking mystery sleuth Violet Strange.
Hello, and welcome to this months’ MYSTERY LEADS MID-MONTH MONDAYS. The idea of this once a month column is to encourage going back and reading backlist or classic titles.
Until recently, I thought that Agatha Christie paved the trail for female sleuths with her Miss Marple character. Then I learned about Anna Katherine Green, an American author and daughter of a lawyer who actually predates Christie and many other writers of detective fiction, and arguably could be classified as the first female writer of detective fiction, as only Poe and a handful of other male authors precede her.
Anna Katherine Green, while better known for a male detective lead named Ebenezer Gryce, also did a series of stories about a female sleuth named Violet Strange. This young debutante reminded me of a slightly older Nancy Drew who also had access to finances to take care of matters herself instead of partnering with her father when needed; in fact, her father is quite unaware of what she’s doing. Violet discreetly takes care of matters in the upper crust society in which she lives, helping to solve matters without the unwanted attention of the police.
Bits are revealed over time, but Violet is a very well developed character. She doesn’t just solve mysteries for profit or even just for fun; there is a real motivation for why she does what she does that becomes the final mystery of the set, one that ultimately goes to the core of character development and emotional motivation that I love.
Anna Katherine Green probably overlooked because she wrote in less of a literary style. I’ll admit she does have some stilted dialogue, and often relies on other people retelling the tales in flashback instead of first person accounts (at least in the Violet Strange stories). Where her stories shine are in their tight plotting and well thought out solutions. I’m glad to have discovered this overlooked trailblazer, and hope you’ll consider doing the same.
Catch you next Monday mid-month. Until then, keep following those mystery leads!