Choose Your Three Super-Sleuths

OK, this week’s challenge: choose three women who have a knack for solving mysteries. Since I’m planning a Choose Your Investagative Team challenge later, for this one, amaetur sleuths only, please. Not in their work ethic, of course – just in the fact they don’t get paid for it. These are women who do it for fun (or just have a talent for finding trouble) and discovered a knack for unravelling the clues that no-one else can and finding the bad guy.

My picks:

Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman. Is it cheating to have two characters from the same multiverse? I don’t know, but this is my series, so I can make up the rules as I go and change them when it suits me :p Oddly enough, no matter what the challenge, when I think of one, the other always comes closely to mind.¬†They’re ¬†such different women and yet Greenwood has imbued them with many of the same core characteristics; intellligence, perseverence, a sense of justice. All of which make for a great sleuth.

Val McDermid’s Lindsay Gordon. A journalist-cum-lecturer, she’s the first person her friends call when one of them’s in trouble with the law. I suspect the real reason McDermid moved her to California was that she had run out of friends in England to get in trouble. I liked how her journalistic skills come into play regarding her sleuthing ability, and how she manages to get results on the cheap (with the occasional wealthy backer) on account that she isn’t actually getting paid to do any of this.

Your picks?


  1. says

    Dinah Drake-Lance (Black Canary I, DC Comics) I would nominate Renee Montoya, except that she at least used to be a professional detective, so is probably out of it. Other than Renee, then, Dinah Drake is one of the few female costumes in DC that specialize in actually detecting, rather than kickassery or information broking. Even the Bat ladies don’t really fit.

    Miss Marple Obviously, I would have thought.

    Rosemary Boxer (Rosemary & Thyme) ruling out her partner for the same ex-professional reasons, you never know when it’s going to be useful to have a botanist on the team. And she’s Felicity Kendel, so – yum.

    All mine are women of a certain age today, and I don’t care in the slightest!

  2. gabriella says

    Debi Linton,

    Hee, I thought about Miss Marple, but I’m not that familiar with Agatha CHristie, so I thought it was best if I left her to someone else.

  3. Jennie says

    Debi Linton,
    Given that I can’t have Cordelia Grey or Thursday Next because they’re professional, and you’ve already picked two of mine (Canary and Marple) I shall have to choose just one, and she will be… Hell, I’m torn between Irene Adler and Jessica Fletcher but I think I’ll go for Jessica Fletcher, because she’s the most successful uncaught serial killer EVER.

  4. iiii says

    Miss Marple, for looking harmless and being a steel trap.

    Meg Langslow (Donna Andrews), for having a smart mouth. This one time, someone she’d been arguing with turned up dead, so the cops were asking around about her. And everyone they asked was all, “why would she whack him with a poker when she could do so much more damage with her tongue?” Not the best mysteries as mysteries, but great fun to read.

    Willa Jansson (Lia Matera), for finding it upsetting to keep stumbling over corpses. You know how amateur detectives are usually all blase about yet another dead body? She freaks out and, after a while, decides to just stay stoned. Still figures out who done it, though.

  5. SunlessNick says

    Miss Marple’s best line, I think, is “Very dangerous to believe people. I haven’t done it for years.” (I don’t know if that’s original Christie, or just Joan Hickson, but regardless…). Or perhaps, “He called me Nemesis. And he was only being partly humorous.”

    My picks…

    Lydia Asher from Barbara Hambly’s Immortal Blood (aka Those who Hunt the Night). Able to bring science to the table, and can piece together the homes and movements of a city full of vampires from nothing but news stories and geographical profiling (not to mention detecting an illusion-hidden house by walking around the area doing maths in her head and noting the spots where it gets harder). I think she’d make short work of more mundane mysteries.

    Harriet Westerman from Imogen Robertson’s Instruments of Darkness and sequels. Georgian-set, so she has to do without most modern detective conveniences (although she does have the help of an anatomist). Clever, determined, dedicated to justice – also does the administrative work for her family’s estate, so she knows how to follow the money.

    Actually, I think Harriet and Lydia would make a great detective duo.

    Does Lisbeth Salander count as a professional? Her job isn’t exactly to solve crimes, but it is investigative.

  6. Ara says

    Nancy Drew is kind of an obvious one, but she does solve crimes impressively, especially given her age.

    Patricia Anne Hollowell from Anne George’s Southern Sisters Mysteries is another pick; she’s an ordinary retired schoolteacher in Arizona who just happens to keep stumbling onto dead bodies and solving the crimes, and she’s got a lot of good common sense which would nicely balance out Nancy’s penchant for getting locked into cellars/storerooms/disused elevators…

    I’ve been trying and trying but I can’t think of a third amateur– I’m a big fan of police procedurals, but those are all professionals.

  7. The Other Anne says

    Rachel of the Animorphs.

    Meryl of Trigun.

    Cassie from Push.

    This one was hard! I was having a hard time deciding who wasn’t a professional sleuth. I decided law enforcement, definitely, but I wasn’t sure how much Meryl might count as a professional? She gets paid to find Vash. But I went with her because Meryl.

  8. Cassandra Davis says

    Mine don’t generally solve mysteries of the Mystery Novel type in their own worlds, but they totally could. So.

    Daine, from the Immortals by Tamora Pierce. Because she can get animals to spy/look for clues/etc.

    Pomegranate Woman, from Sisters of the Raven. Because she has the rather useful gift of knowing things about people by items they’ve used, and knowing things in general.

    Tanaqui, from The Dalemark Quartet. Because in her world, she figured out its underlying supernaturalism by weaving a coat, and then used this knowledge to save the world.

  9. SunlessNick says

    My third pick is Amelia Peabody. Who I also think would make for good teamwork with Harriet Westerman and Lydia Asher (if one a little more filled with ascerbic banter).

  10. Jane says

    I adore Miss Marple beyond reason, especially as portrayed by Joan Hickson, but you all know about her already, so I’ve chosen three other awesome characters:

    Maggie Ryan, in novels by P M Carlson. We meet her as a college student, when she helps produce an amazing Hamlet, falls in love, takes a flunking fellow-student to Canada so he won’t go to Vietnam, plays the flute, does gymnastics, gets dumped and solves the mystery. As the series develops, she finds her career and makes a family life, finding killers and applying her own individual sense of ethics as she goes along. The books are sadly not in print, but I think I’ve scored all of them second hand, and you know that always makes the books even dearer. The first one is Audition for Murder.

    Bast, who narrates Speak Daggers to Her, Book of Moon and The Bowl of Night by Rosemary Edghill. Bast is a Witch (no, the religion) living in New York, and the pagan community and gentrifying neighborhoods of the 1990s are central to the mysteries. She’s funny and snarky and can always be talked into helping her friends. She’s got impressive integrity.

    Madame Karitska, in The Clairvoyant Countess and Kaleidoscope by Dorothy Gilman. She has an amazing backstory from Russian aristocracy to begging in the streets in the Urals, on to married life in Paris with a diamond merchant, and to bankruptcy and immigration to New York state and the imaginary city of Trafton. There she decides to give professional clairvoyant readings, which brings her into contact with police detective Pruden. She drinks Turkish coffee, enjoys people of all kinds, tells the truth even when people don’t believe her, and has a calm, determined outlook on the changes of fortune she and others have experienced.

    I think what I love about these characters is that each of them is terrifyingly intelligent and completely true to herself, making her own decisions and pursuing her own ends, without being self-centered. Each builds her own community and invests in it but also protects herself and knows when to move on.

  11. says

    Helena Justina, who has good friends in high places, which complements her husband Falso’s bad friends in low places. It’s good to be an extremely intelligent senator’s daughter in ancient Rome.

    Harriet Vane, who is actually intelligent enough to leave a message as to where she is going in a shaky situation, and to call back to make sure a telephone call really came from the person it was supposed to. You’d be amazed how many people forget this simple rule.

    Lisbeth Salander, of course; she makes computers jump through hoops and bow down to her (speculates, briefly, on the sort of children her and Steve Jobs might have had).

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