Tuesday, November 24, 2015

WOMEN PROTAGONISTS IN CRIME FICTION

I have been thinking of compiling a list of crime fiction books where the chief or one of the main protagonists is female.
Here is a list of books with female detectives or police which I have read and enjoyed. This list will be updated as and when I recall any book I have read with a female or when I read them. There is no order to this list. I have written the names of books and authors as I recalled them.

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The eighth commandment by Lawrence Sanders, one of my favorite writers is another stand-alone novel  with a female protagonist.  I loved this humorous/realistic-ish/crime fiction  and read it a few times. It's set in the New York city of the 80s; I loved the female character Dunk and really admire the fact that Lawrence Sanders wrote as a female narrator and got it  'just right'!
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Zoe Ferraris an American writer married to a Saudi Arab man (and  divorced)  has written the following three crime novels set in Saudi Arabia. I liked these books as they are the only crime fiction novels set in Saudi Arabia I have come across ! It's so difficult to find books set in Saudi Arabia or any one of the Gulf countries while there are simply millions of crime fiction novels set in the USA or UK . One of the chief protagonists is a female ? Forensics scientist Katya Hijazi. I really appreciate the fact that this author has depicted the life in Saudi so realistically and the day to day concerns faced by women in this country. I really appreciate the fact that there is a female protagonist in this male dominant country, even if she is only fictional

Finding Nouf 2008
City of veils 2010
Kingdom of strangers 2012

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I have enjoyed the crime fiction set in  South Africa by Jassy Mackenzie.  The 4 books featuring the female PI  Jade De Jong are:

Pale horses
Random violence
The fallen
Stolen lives
Jade is a female PI in south Africa and I find that unusual! There is quite a bit of violence and sometimes, I felt,  South Africa was scarier to live in than  India! Jade is in love with a police officer who has some Indian blood in him and that is another exciting thing for me! ( I am so thrilled if there is an Indian in any crime fiction book as Indians don't seem to figure much in crime fiction books....though this  is changing now)

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I loved reading the three  crime fiction books set in Sweden, by Stieg Larrson featuring the wildly popular female protagonist, Kickass Lisbeth Salander.  I also enjoyed the fourth in the series featuring Lisbeth but written by a new writer, David Lagercrantz. I think, Lisbeth  is the favorite of millions of women and girls all over the world.

The girl with the dragon tattoo
The girl who played with fire
The girl who kicked the hornets nest This is one book I have reread a few times, especially the pages with the  court scenes.
The girl in the spider's web.

I saw the Swedish movie of the first book with English subtitles. I did not enjoy the movie! I think I am so used to the American movies that this Swedish movie, though, excellent, did not appeal to me. I missed the music/sound accompanying the scenes...in this Swedish movie, there was no music at all! the movie was so bleak, I dint enjoy it though the actors were so good.
 
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Michael Genelin's Commander Jana Matinova series are the only crime fiction books from Slovekia that I have read.

The books I read were:

Requiem for a gypsy
The magician's accomplice
Dark dreams and
Siren of the waters

I enjoyed these books as they were realistic and I got to see inside a country, I had hardly ever heard of . Though I live in Toronto, a city with people from all over the world, I have not yet met a Slovekian!

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I loved and thoroughly enjoyed the 17 crime fiction  books by Victoria Thompson set in the late 1800s in New York City where a mid-wife, Mrs.Sarah Brandt , is one of the two protagonists solving murders.   The other is Detective Frank Malloy.
The books with Sarah are:


Murder on Astor Place 1999
Murder at St. Mark's Place 2000

Murder on Gramercy Park 2001
Murder on Washington Square 2002
Murder on Mulberry bend 2003
Murder on Marble Row 2004
Murder on Lennox Hill 2005
Murder in Little Italy 2006
Murder in China Town 2007
Murder on Bank street 2008
Murder on Waverly Place 2009
Murder on Lexington Avenue 2010
Murder on Sister's Row 2011
Murder on 5th Avenue 2012
Murder in Chelsea 2013
Murder in Murray Hill 2014
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue 2015
Murder in Morningside Heights 2016

My only criticism of this series is that the writer has simplified her writing to a great extent and leaves nothing unsaid. But I forgive this as it's still a great read and gives me a great deal of information  about life in NYC in those days, the social problems of those days, life of ordinary people, their clothes, life of women in lower and upper classes, etc.
 
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I enjoyed the short stories featuring the female private investigator in Chicago i.e. V.I. Warshawski (Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski) by the  author Sarah Paretsky. Unfortunately I really did not enjoy all the longer crime fiction novels with Warshawski. For some reason, I had difficulty finishing them. Here is the complete list but I have  read only a few of them. I plan to read them all  some day.

The novels  with this female PI are

Indemnity Only 1982
Deadlock 1984
Killing orders 1985
Bitter medicine 1987
Bloodshot 1988
Burn marks 1990
Tunnel vision 1994
Hard time 1999
Total recall 2001
Blacklist2003
Fire sale 2005
Hardball 2009
Bodywork 2010
Breakdown 2012
Critical Mass 2013
Brush back 2015


Short stories collections of V.I.Warshawski
Windy city blues 1995
V.I.X2

What I liked about these books were the fact that she seems so real...she has financial problems, the people around her seem 'realistic', and she encounters  'male attitude' toward women like the rest of us and so on.

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Michael Robotham has written a stand-alone crime novel featuring a Sikh lady, Detective Constable Alisha Barba as the chief protagonist in the crime novel The night ferry. I chose to read this simply because it had a Sikh female as the chief protagonist and I loved the book! This is the first time I have ever read a novel with an Indian (origin) female as the chief hero in a crime fiction novel! It was fast paced and thrilling.

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Crime fiction set in China is another rare thing for me. I read one book and not sure if I enjoyed it(I don't remember now) but I do remember appreciating the fact that it was realistic, set in modern China and had a female PI! The book is Eye of the Jade by Diane Wei Liang. This author has fled China and lives in the west. The second book of this female PI is "Paper butterfly'.  I enjoyed this. It gave another perspective about the Tiananmen square massacre by the Chinese army  and information about life in Chinese prisons.

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The comics (graphic novels) and crime fiction novels by the British writer, Peter O Donnell, feature my all time favorite fictional female, Modesty Blaise. My all time favorite crime novels
feature Modesty Blaise!
The novels include:

1.Modesty Blaise 1965
2.Sabre-tooth 1966
3.I, Lucifer 1967
4.A taste for death 1969
5.The impossible virgin 1971
6.Pieces of Modesty 1972 (short stories)
7.The silver mistress 1973
8.Last day in limbo 1976
9.Dragon's claw 1978
10.The Xanadu talisman 1981
11.The night of the Morningstar 1982
12.Dead man's handle 1985
13.Cobra trap 1996



The  Modesty Blaise comics are listed below.
 These books listed here are the ones re-published by Titan books; each one weighs about half kg and each one consists of three stories. These strips have appeared in newspapers all over the world in many languages since 1960s. They are available for purchase on Amazon and currently i.e. 2015, cost between 9-15US$. They are available on other sites too such as ebay, but amazon seems to have all of them at any given point in time.

Below, I have listed the names of the Modesty Blaise graphic novels  published by Titan, followed by date of publication  and the names of the three stories in each comic collection.






1The Gabriel setup          Apr 1st 2004

  2 Mister Sun      Jul 1st 2004  Mister Sun, The Mind of Mrs. Drake & Uncle Happy

3Top Traitor            Oct 1st 2004 Top Traitor, The Vikings & The Head Girls

4The black pearl Feb 1st 2005 The black pearl, The Magnified Man, The Jericho Caper and The Killing Ground AKA (A most dangerous game)

5Bad Suki        May 1st 2005 Bad Suki, Galley Slaves and The Red Gryphon.

6The hell makers        Jul 1st 2005  The Hell Makers, Take Over, & The War-Lords of Phoenix.

7The green eyed monster                Oct 1st 2005 Willie the Djinn,The Green Eyed Monster and Death of a Jester

8The puppet master    Feb 1st 2006  The puppet master, The Stone Age Caper & With Love From Rufus

9The gallows bird Apr 1st 2006  The Bluebeard Affair,  The Gallows Bird, The Wicked Gnomes, The Iron God

10Cry Wolf    Nov 1st 2006  Take Me To Your Leader, The Highland Witch, & Cry Wolf

11The Inca trail  Jul 3rd 2007 The Reluctant Chaperon, The Greenwood Maid; Those About to Die, & The Inca Trail

12Death trap                        Nov 27th 2007 A death trap, The Vanishing Dollybirds, and  The Junk Men.

13Yellowstone booty   Jun 10th 2008     Yellowstone Booty, ‘Idaho George,  and  The Golden Frog.

14The green cobra                        Sep 16th 2008  Green Cobra, Eve & Adam & ‘Brethren of Blaise

15The ladykillers                 May 12th 2009  Dossier on Pluto, The Lady Killers & ‘Garvin’s Travels.

16The scarlet maiden           Nov 24th 2009  The Scarlet Maiden, The Moonman & A Few Flowers for the Colonel.

17Death in slow motion       Jun 1st 2010  The Balloonatic, Death in Slow Motion & The Alternative Man

18Sweet Caroline            Sept. 28 2010  Sweet Caroline, The Return of the Mammoth & Plato’s Republic

19The double agent              Jun 21st 2011 The Wild Boar, Kali’s Disciples & The Double Agent

20The million dollar game Sep 2011 Butch Cassidy Rides Again, Million Dollar Game & The Vampire of Malvescu

21Live bait                           Feb 4th 2012   Samantha and the Cherub, Milord & Live Bait.

22Lady in the dark                Nov 13 2012 The Girl from the Future, The Big Mole and Lady in the Dark.

23The girl in the iron mask      April 9th 2013  Fiona, Walkabout and The Girl In The Iron Mask

24The young mistress                June 24th 2014 The Young Mistress, Ivory Dancer and Our Friend Maude.

25The grim joker            Nov 18th 2014‘The Grim Joker’, ‘A Present for the Princess’ and ‘Black Queen’s Pawn

26The Killing distance            May 12th 2015  The Killing Distance, Guido The Jinx, and The Aristo.

27 The Ripper Jax                  March 1st  2016

28 The murder frame               November 1st 2016 .This book has 4 stories i.e.   The murder frame, Fraser's story, Tribute to the Pharoh and The special orders.
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Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft features a female PI Fina. I read this book but don't remember anything about it. I don't even remember if I finished it!

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One of my favorite series of crime fiction is the Donald Lam series set at time of world was in California by A.A.Fair AKA Erle Stanley Gardner. In this series, Bertha Cool, a middle aged lady is running a detective agency and hires Donald Lam who becomes the chief protagonist since the very first book. But I loved Bertha too, who was a PI, running this agency even before Donald came along! She is one unique character, not as bright as Lam, but strong, bold and irascible! The 29 books in this series are :

  1. The Bigger They Come (1939)
  2. Turn on the Heat (1940)
  3. Gold Comes in Bricks (1940)
  4. Spill the Jackpot! (1941)
  5. Double or Quits (1941)
  6. Owls Don't Blink (1942)
  7. Bats Fly at Dusk (1942)
  8. Cats Prowl at Night (1943)
  9. Give 'em the Ax (1944)
  10. Crows Can't Count (1946)
  11. Fools Die on Friday (1947)
  12. Bedrooms Have Windows (1949)
  13. Top of the Heap (1952)
  14. Some Women Won't Wait (1953)
  15. Beware the Curves (1956)
  16. You Can Die Laughing (1957)
  17. Some Slips Don't Show (1957)
  18. The Count of Nine (1958)
  19. Pass the Gravy (1959)
  20. Kept Women Can't Quit (1960)
  21. Bachelors Get Lonely (1961)
  22. Shills Can't Cash Chips (1961)
  23. Try Anything Once (1962)
  24. Fish or Cut Bait (1963)
  25. Up for Grabs (1964)
  26. Cut Thin to Win (1965)
  27. Widows Wear Weeds (1966)
  28. Traps Need Fresh Bait (1967)
  29. All Grass isn't Green (1970)
 
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How could I forget the world famous Miss. Marple, created by Agatha Christi! I have read the novels and short stories featuring this lady and enjoyed them, especially the short stories.

The murder at the vicarage 1930

The body in the library 1942

A murder is announced 1950

They do it with mirrors or Murder with mirrors 1952

A pocket full of rye 1953

4.50 from Paddington or What Mrs.McGillicuddy saw 1957

The mirror cracked from side to side or The mirror cracked 1962

A Carribean mystery 1964

At Bertram's hotel 1965

Nemesis 1971

Sleeping murder written in 1940 and published in 1976

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In my childhood, I read the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and enjoyed them thoroughly. I loved the painting on the cover of each book so much, that I cannot express fully, the emotions in my mind as I sat staring at the cover for ages! It was only in my late 30s that I discovered that Carolyn Keene is only a name and that it is a male who was writing the books and the Nancy Drew books has been written by more than one author! How naïve can I, a crime fiction reader be!

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I enjoyed the children detectives in the series by Enid Blyton featuring both boys and girls; however, Enid Blyton, made the boys braver than the girls...in those days, the characteristics attributed to girls and boys were  gender-stereotyped and so boys were depicted in a very flattering way and the girls were, in  my opinion, depicted  in  less flattering  ways.

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I did not read the books but saw a couple of episodes based on the series, 'The number 1 ladies detective agency written by Alexander McCall Smith. I enjoyed the TV episodes. I am not sure if I have the patience to read the books. I should give this series a try! I saw the show on Netflex in USA in November 2015. The chief protagonist is
Mma Precious Ramotswe a female private detective.  The list of books is below and no, I have not read any of them. Reviews of these books have been kind and said that these are nice 'feel-good' books with more about the Botswana culture and less about crime. So, this Christmas holidays, I plan to borrow and read a few of these books and if I enjoy, read 'em all!

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series

  • 1999: The no 1 ladies detective agency
  • 2000: Tears of the giraffe
  • 2001" Morality for beautiful girls
  • 2002: The Kalahari typing school for men
  • 2003: The full cupboard of life
  • 2004: In the company of cheerful ladies (also known as: The Night-Time Dancer)
  • 2006: Blue shoes and happiness
  • 2007: The good husband of zebra drive.
  • 2008: The miracle at speedy motors
  • 2009: Tea time for the traditionally built
  • 2010: The double comfort safari club
  • 2011: The Saturday big tent wedding party
  • 2012: The Limpopo academy of private detection.
  • 2013: The minor adjustment beauty saloon
  • 2014: The handsome man's deluxe cafe
  • 2015: The woman who walked in sunshine
  • 2016:  Precious and Grace
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Listed below are Susan Oleksiw's 4 books with Anita Ray an Indian American protagonist fighting crime in Kerala, India!

Under the eye of Kali 2010
The wrath of Shiva 2012
For the love of Parvati 2014
When Krishna calls August 2016

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I will add to this list as I read more female protagonists.




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The world is a very difficult place for women, even in the relatively progressive west such as USA & Canada. For women to be PIs, soldiers, police officers is more difficult than for it's for men...not because women find the job  difficult, but because of their male colleagues'  chauvinistic attitudes and often terrible behaviour  toward them, society's condescending and autocratic treatment of women.


Just today (Dec 9th 2015) I read with sadness, anger and disgust about male police officers in Victoria(B.C) sexually abusing their female colleagues often, over long periods of time, with impunity! If this can happen in the so called progressive, modern, democratic country like Canada, imagine, the fate of women in other more primitive societies such as India and Afganisthan? ( Indians, please don't get riled up if I call India primitive. I am an Indian and I admit, Indians are primitive)

I read on yahoo news in January 2016 about the sexual abuse in the name of hazing which women who join the airforce undergo. http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2016/01/08/reports-sexual-assaults-spike-military-academies/78496948/
 I felt so miserable to read it and I curse the SCUM who humilate and exploit women, their own colleagues, in this manner. I hope these bastards suffer and die.

 I also read with anger and disgust about the women working in the Grand Canyon being exploited by male staff. http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2016-01-12/apnewsbreak-report-charts-history-of-abuse-at-grand-canyon



Millions of women  are sexually, physically and emotionally abused in the world. But for some reason, these  news items I have  mentioned above stuck in my memory and made me so miserable. I think it is because:
 I always admired women joining airforce and military and police and jobs such as at the Grand Canyon.;
 I loved their courage and career choice...
In my mind, I see little girls, who, unlike the majority of their peers, choose these adventurous roles in childhood and work hard toward them. Imagine a little girl, who loves nature and is determined to work in a natural environment like the grand Canyon; she learns swimming, camping in the wilds, she learns boating, she loves animals and studies about animals and volunteers at animal shelters and finally gets to  do the work of her dreams. Imagine that little girl, who is now a woman,  HATING  the work, she has been dreaming about and striving for since childhood, because her male colleagues  sexually abuse her! Imagine the hard choice she has to make? Give up what she has strived for since years and years or put up with the sexual assault as she wants to do her dream job?


 I had the naïve notions that men in the west are more respectful of women than men from the east and that men in services such as the  military and police  are more honorable and decent than other men. Reading these news, I am so bitterly disillusioned  by  these men/scum !


Protect Female Farmworkers   article in new York times is  the name of another article I am adding here if anyone is interested in reading




We women need these fictional female crime fighters and real-life crime fighters to derive strength, faith, confidence and belief in  women's potential.











A note to my blog readers who are from Toronto, Ontario: TPL has all the books listed here  except those authored by A.A.Fair (i.e. the Donald Lam series)Peter O'Donnell (Modesty Blaise books and comics)& Carolyn Keene(Nancy Drew). They may have a few of these three writers too...I don't know for sure. I own the books by these three authors and did not need to borrow them from TPL.













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