Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

England/USA: 1864-1915


The Penguin Book of
Victorian Women in Crime

Michael Sims, Editor

These eleven short stories, or excerpts from them, were written between the late Victorian era to World War II. They portray female cops and private eyes who were employed or at least consulted by the official police at a time when women in fact were largely absent from these activities. This is fiction that, as editor Sims says, was “decades ahead of reality.” The idea that women sleuths fit perfectly with the solving of specific kinds of detective work appears from the first in stories written in the early 1860s. Like the subsequent tales, women’s “feminine sensibilities” were used to notice clues men had overlooked. Women, too, could be welcomed behind doors closed to their male counterparts.

All the stories are lively, enjoyable reads. While most of the authors were male, Sims brings attention to the most famous authors. Anna Katharine Green has two female detectives, one who appeared in a 1897 story, the other in one from 1915. Mary E. Wilkins has an investigative character she created in 1895.

\Michael Sims gives a full introduction delving into the historical context which produced these “women in crime.” There is a bibliography with suggestions for further reading. Each story includes a short background introduction about the author and the piece.



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