Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Spotlight Australian Female Private Investigators

Last week I discussed humorous Australian crime authors (or was that Australian crime authors who write humorous books - yeah, that probably sounds better).

This week I want to run my eye over female private investigators...er, that's not meant to be as creepy as it sounds. The list is not exhaustive and I haven't read all books by all authors listed below, but I reckon this will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from each series.

Author : Marele Day P.I. : Claudia Valentine

I'll start with the Claudia Valentine series by Marele Day becaue this is the series I read first, so it seems only fitting.

The series begins with The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender which was published in 1988 and immediately asserts itself as a hardboiled detective novel. Claudia wakes with a killer hangover, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels and a full ashtray lying beside her bed and a sleeping blonde lying in it. The series lasts for 4 books and puts Claudia into all manner of dangerously tight spots requiring measured ingenuity over brawn. A messy marriage break-up involving two children gives her a complicated past and a reason to lapse into self-examination. This is a strong, complex series set in Sydney.

Titles : The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender, The Case of the Chinese Boxes, The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado and The Disappearances of Madalena Grimaldi.


Author : Gabrielle Lord P.I. : Gemma Lincoln

The Gemma Lincoln series is now 4 books strong with Shattered having been released earlier in the year. All of these books are complex thrillers that contain multiple threads running at once. She runs a detective agency employing a string of agents who report to her. Much more business-like than your average P.I., as well as maintaining a fast pace throughout the series, we also find that the personality of Gemma Lincoln plays a major role, growing as the series progresses. Whereas most other P.I. novels focus mainly on the crime that is being investigated, Lord gives us a lot more development of the Gemma Lincoln character.

Titles : Feeding the Demons, Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing, Spiking the Girl, Shattered.

Author : Cathy Cole P.I. : Nicola Sharpe

Nicola Sharpe features in 2 detective novels, Dry Dock and Skin Deep. She lives and works in Sydney's inner west suburb of Balmain dealing with dodgy property developers, hardened dock workers and slimy union officials all of whom operate on the shady side of the game and are less than impressed to have a woman butting in on their deals. Out of necessity she's got to be tough and capable and this ensures that the books are strong and interesting.

Titles : Dry Dock, Skin Deep

Author : Leigh Redhead P.I. : Simone Kirsch

Simone Kirsch is a P.I. with a real difference, coming from a background where she worked as a stripper. As a matter of fact, over the course of the 3 books so far in the series, she still hasn't completely given up the stripping. The big advantage with this kind of a background is that it gives Simone great contacts in the nightclubs and brothels around Melbourne. She is also willing to take whatever chances necessary to make her investigation work.

Titles : Peepshow, Rubdown, Cherry Pie.

Author : Angela Savage P.I. : Jayne Keeney

So far, Angela Savage is the author of one book, Behind the Night Bazaar, which features Australian private detective Jayne Keeney who has relocated to Bangkok. Filled with all of the dangers and customs of Thailand, Savage's prose is filled with authenticity and realism and Keeney battles through the unfamiliar territory with unparalleled tenacity. This is a top quality debut thriller which earned Savage the 2004 Victoria Premiers Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript.

Author : Tara Moss P.I. : Makedde Vanderwall

I have only read 1 of the 4 Mak Vanderwall books and I found that the character appears to be closely based on the author herself. Canadian ex-pat, former model now living in Australia. I've got to say, I was far from impressed with Hit finding the story was continually bogged down my Mak moping over her personal life while the investigation dragged to the point that it was unfinished by the time the book ended (obviously you're to read the next one). I'd recommend this one last on my list if I were to rank them.

Titles : Fetish, Covet, Split, Hit

Author : Lindy Cameron P.I. : Kit O'Malley

Kit O'Malley is an ex-police officer turned P.I. working the seedy side of Melbourne's streets. She's tough, likable and a lesbian and features in 3 books. I've read Blood Guilt and found it a fast-moving crime novel that shows off Kit's detective skills to good effect. It also establishes her as a hopeless romantic who eats herself up with unfulfilled sexual frustration.

Titles : Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts, Thicker Than Water

Author : Kirsty Brooks P.I. : Cassidy Blair

I haven't read any of Kirsty Brooks' books but having read some of the reviews for her Cassidy Blair books, perhaps I should have included her in the humorous post. Cassidy Blair is a P.I. (at least, I think she is) and while she works cases, it seems that the results are more in the realm of the hilarious rather than the hardboiled. Plenty of talk about bad fashion and dangerous guys, these books sound like great fun.

Titles : The Vodka Dialogue, The Happiness Punch, The Millionaire Float, The Lady Splash.

Author : Claire McNab P.I. : Kylie Kendall

Again, I haven't read any of Claire McNab's books. She is now based in the USA and is the author of 3 long-running series, the 3rd of which features P.I. Kylie Kendall. Because I know little about the series, I will simply quote the introduction on Claire's website: "Think Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum blended with Crocodile Dundee. That's brash, enthusiastic Kylie Kendall, raised in the remote Outback of Australia. She's familiar with perilous situations and dangerous animals. Even so, nothing has prepared her for the challenges Los Angeles provides when Kylie inherits a private eye business and decides to lob in and run it herself."

Claire McNab's 2 other series feature Detective Inspector Carol Ashton (18 books) and Denise Cleever, an Australian Intelligence Organisation agent.

Titles : The Wombat Strategy, The Kookaburra Gambit, The Quokka Question, The Dingo Dilemma.

There should be something amongst these 8 authors for everyone to enjoy, whether it's hardboiled, humour, thriller or a bit of each.

2 comments:

Lucy Sussex said...

Well, you left out a few. How about mentioning AE Martin's THE MISPLACED CORPSE (1944), with its Rosie Bosanky? That is as far as I know the first oz book with a female PI. Lucy Sussex

Damien said...

Hi Lucy, thanks for that. With yesterday being such a wild and wet day in Sydney, I spent the day going through my copy of Australian Crime Fiction by John Loder and came across the A.E. Martin entry. Certainly a notable first.

I also found another two female P.I. series. The first is Jean Bedford's Anna Southwood series. Bedford is the wife of Peter Corris and the series comprises 3 books. The second is the Ruth Claremont (pseudonym of Rosemary Cresswell and Carol Manners) book To Sleep, To Die featuring 2 investigators Drusilla Ward and Julie Carrington.