Excellent perspective; highly recommended for mystery readers
This book offers a unique perspective on the history of women in law enforcement, examining the subject from both a factual and fictional point of view. the two are inevitably tied together but the author does a good job of demonstrating how fictional female detectives and policewomen reflect the times they live in. the book is broken into chapters by specific subject areas such as “the first police woman”, “spinster sleuth”, “girl detectives” and “hard boiled heroes” but it also leads us through time, taking us from the mid 1800’s all the way up to the present day. early chapters focus on how conditions were changing for women. “the formative years of detective writing coincided with the development of the women’s suffrage movement and women’s advancement into public life.” several chapters provide thorough background material beyond policing duties, including one chapter devoted to what life was like behind bars for female criminals. being a fan of detective and mystery stories i was especially drawn to the summaries of many of the important milestone works involving female sleuths, and wish more time had been spent on these parts. i enjoyed reading about how today’s well-known fictional stars like kinsey millhone, v.i. warshawski, kay scarpetta, mary russell, and temperance brennan, etc. grew from roots put down by characters nearly unheard of today such as eleanor vane, amelia butterworth, and maud silver. but readers need to beware that a couple of the examples provided in the text include spoilers on whodunit. it is necessary, however, to drive home the point the author is making at the time. after completing the book i now have a much better appreciation for the challenges that women have had to overcome to gain entrance into the mostly male fraternity of police work. despite the prevalence of tv shows and modern fiction featuring lady detectives, our society still has a long way to go before true equality is achieved.