Tracking the Detectives

Idon’t know if I can do this book justice. I can describe this guide to mysteries written by women living and otherwise by saying that in 478 pages it lists in several different ways the authors, their biographies, their books (including those being published this year); that it follows this section with more sections listing pseudonyms, book awards and chronologies; and that it recasts the information in several different ways, so that if you were looking for books, say, about left-handed female archeologists who specialized in Mesoamerican pottery shards, you could find it with a few flips of a page.

Well, maybe not that one. But there’s a lesbian chicken farmer, a needlework shop owner, a children’s author fluent in Russian, a freelance-assassin-painter and even an Anglo-Sudanese forensic scientist. And that’s just on two pages.

Compression does lead to some eyebrow-raising descriptions, especially in the “cross-genre” section, which lists characters Kevin Bradley (daemon art recovery specialist), Jack Fleming ( 30s reporter turned vampire), David Silver & String (homicide cop & alien partner) and Rosie Lavine (private eye to the elf world). And I forgot to mention that “Detecting Women” is beautifully designed and laid out and comes in hardcover so it stands proud on your shelf, ready at hand.

I suppose someone could put all this on a CD-ROM that offers a complete search function, but I can’t imagine why. It would work just as well as the book, but denies the reader the pleasure of spinning the pages and discovering new authors by accident.

Just now, for example, there’s an entry on Brit author Lauren Henderson, whose third and fourth books about sculptor Samantha Jones was published in this country. Who could resist looking into an author described by one Brit paper as “the dominatrix of the British crime scene?”

In addition to “Detecting Women,” Heising also writes”Detecting Men,” which covers currently published male authors.