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The Female Detective

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  268 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In 1864, the British writer James Redding Ware (1832–c.1909), under the pseudonym Andrew Forrester, published The Female Detective, introducing readers to the first professional female detective character, G., and paving the way for the more famous female detectives of the early twentieth century, namely Miss Marple and Nancy Drew. This edition from the British Library mak ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by British Library (first published 1864)
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Average rating 3.06  · 
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 ·  268 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Katie Lumsden
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very intriguing read. I liked some stories more than others. There are a few great mysteries here, and I enjoyed the writing very much.
Nancy Oakes
I can't really give a number on this one but it's somewhere between like a 2.8 and a 3. I was just so disappointed, which hasn't been my reaction to any book up to now in my history of mystery reading project.

Having finished this book now, I have to say that out of the seven stories in this book, there are only four in which the "female detective" plies her craft. It's rather disappointing, when I think about it, since it seems to me that if you're going to write about a woman detective this ea
Dec 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Interesting for its historical significance, for the most part, and for explicitly acknowledging the private spaces to which a woman would have access that a man would not. Also interesting as a perfect encapsulation of the early Victorian versions of what constitutes a "happy" (or at least satisfying) ending...inconvenient children not born to the appropriate parents under the appropriate circumstances die young before they can inherit; legal but morally suspect heirs drop dead (apparent cause ...more
This is a book that is more interesting in what it presaged in literature than in terms of the book itself. Widely accepted as the first work of fiction to star a professional female sleuth (it's predated in the amateur female sleuth genre by Susan Hopley, Or, The Adventures of a Maid-servant by Catherine Crowe), the book is remarkable largely on that ground only. (Although it is interesting that it features a story based on the infamous Road Hill House Murder, arguably the first major crime to ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of short stories featuring Mrs Gladden - the first female detective. The book is primarily of interest because it shows how crimes could be detected by deduction and by meticulous collection of evidence. Mrs Gladden has a huge advantage over her male counterparts in that she is not generally regarded with suspicion because she is female. She has another profession as a milliner and as such she can go into houses where she makes and repairs hats and can sit and chat with the ...more
russell barnes
This is a rum do and no mistake.

Plucked from the British Library's archives, the problem with this collection is one of false advertising: In the back of your mind, driven by the blurb and introductions (including one Alexander McCall Smith must have knocked off at the wrong end of a bottle of gin) is the much-heralded lineage of narrator, "Mrs G" as the eponymous - and first ever - literary female detective and ancestor to Miss Marple, Mma Ramotswe, and (apparently) Lisabeth Salandar.

Whilst th
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Described as a novel but actually two novellas of about 100 pages each and a few short stories, this collection written in 1864 is the first to feature a female detective in British literature. The female detective features strongly in the novellas though she is not developed much as a character other than by revealing her belief in being devoted and objective in her work. She never even identifies herself by name other than a pseudonym she uses when one is needed as a undercover detective and w ...more
The Female Detective was published in 1864. Written by James Redding Ware under the pseudonym Andrew Forrester, it not only represents what is probably the first stories about the Metropolitan Police (formed in 1829) but also introduces readers to the first professional female detective in fiction. She is unnamed in the longest story, "The Unknown Weapon," but in other stories by Forrester, she is referred to as Mrs. G---- of the Metropolitan Police. She makes reference to herself and another fe ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
this was very comfortable although hardly groundbreaking at a narrative level. at the risk of being slightly spoiler-y, do not expect much in terms of twists and turns regarding each mystery. however, i must say it was a pleasant surprise to find one of the cases inspired by the very same case discussed in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. it almost felt like reading a wripped-from-the-headlines law and order episode. ...more
Colin Mitchell
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This was in the local library during my first visit since lockdown and I mistook it for a whole book in the British Library Series. It was a collection of stories about a female detective, with no name, that was supposedly in the police force a long time before this actually occurred, these stories were originally published in the mid 1800s.

This writing style is of its time and by modern standards disjointed and overstated. Very hard going. The tales themself were often without a conclusion and
Brittany (Lady Red)
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
This one was tough to get through. It wasn’t that it was badly written, just too loaded with details that distracted from the story.
It was wonderful to see the first female detective regardless, particularly since I’m writing one myself.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Very enjoyable. I particularly liked seeing a male author writing a historical female character acting in an unusual female role. A little bit different.
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a not insignificant portion of the bookish world that seeks out the first instance of particular characters and genres. Because I am a trivia hound, I follow scholars who try to identify the first novel (probably The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shibiku, depending on how you define it), the first science fiction story (probably The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish), etc. etc. The first time I tried to chase down the first instance of something happened after reading “The Purloined Let ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
It was incredibly interesting to read a Victorian take on the female detective. I think fans of historical novels will like this a lot, but if you are going into this expecting an early Miss Marple, you will be disappointed. This isn't that kind of novel; a cozy mystery. This is a collection of tales from the career of this Female Detective. The stories don't follow the the normal pattern of more modern detective tales, so don't expect a complete beginning, middle, and end. But if you are intere ...more
The first British mystery with a female detective, published in 1864. Just came out this year by Poisoned Pen Press. Not beautifully written but you get used to the style. Two novellas and six short stories. The detective earns some of her money from the new London police force, on the QT and some as a milliner but she seems to have independent means. She avoids identifying herself as a detective, getting her information on the strength of her wits. I don't think I'd recommend you rush out and b ...more
Christopher Roden
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
First published in 1864, this collection of stories from the British Library archive present England's first female detective
While historically interesting, the cases presented are narrations in method, and generally no one is brought to book as a consequence of the investigations.
The language and style is very much mid-Victorian and this is a book very much of its time.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mixed bag of stories. I didn’t realise that they were short stories until I got the book and I may have thought twice about it if I’d known. I’m not much of a short story fan. They don’t satisfy the suspense that I prefer. This is in no way the book’s fault though.
Having said this, these stories were entertaining in their own way. They give us insight into the very early days of detectives, when a female detective was almost unheard of and certainly taken less seriously than their male counter
James Hold
Mar 29, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A far better title would be THE FEMALE WINDBAG. The book is full of unnecessary and redundant repetition. If only she'd shut up and get to the point. It has both a forward and an introduction, neither of which serves any purpose. Then we get the stories, each of which contains a little sermonette before getting underway. On page 9, we get: '...that which I am about to relate, and to which I have given the title of "Tenant for Life".' Well geez, but I already know that since that's what's on the ...more
Not sure what I expected from this book, but was curious what the worlds first female detective fiction looked like. I thought it was interesting and maybe it fits better in its own time period than modern stories, but it seemed a bit pat. Some stories just ended - oh I set out to tell the story of the weapon not how I escaped to tell the tell. That just seems like cheating to me. Sometimes it was unclear exactly who was telling the story - not that it didn't say but what was the point, she didn ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandon-ship
Tried to read this but had to abandon ship! Love the concept but I agree with others there’s a bit of false advertising making it sound more appealing than it is. Mostly I just couldn’t deal with the long rambling sentences & totally incoherent language, I don’t think it’s aged well. Just gave me a headache & left me feeling thoroughly disappointed! Only gave 2 stars as I thought Mike Ashley’s introduction was excellent, really it was the best part of the book for me, & that’s saying something i ...more
Barbara Bengston
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written in the mid-1800's, before there were any female detectives. It was interesting how the author described the detection process. Little is made known of the detective herself. Several crimes are presented and how they were solved, or not solved, was described. The laws at that time were also described and how they were applied to the cases. ...more
Did Not Finish. The narrator is way too intrusive in these stories; always apologizing and justifying and overexplaining in a way that just gets in the way of the story. I actively did not want the detective to succeed in the first story; it was so clear that interfering was completely unwarranted and it was unclear what her motives were. I couldn't take it any more. This was no fun at all. ...more
Lucy Jane
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books
Short stories have never really been my cup of tea and here was no exception. I would have enjoyed one long story where characters were met properly and The Female Detective became better known to the reader than she was here.
Cindy Ladensack
Like any short story collection, this one was a little uneven. While there were certainly some flashes of cleverness in the plots, I thought many of the detective’s deductions were a stretch. And it always irritates me when an author tries to write in dialect.
James Sundquist
Jun 16, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting curiosity with amusing stories told in an unusual style (even to readers familiar with later Victorian works) - or rather, variety of styles as the stories are quite varied. Enjoyable as an historical document more than a work of literature...
Kat Walter
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, but not pleasurable, read.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was alright but a chore to read, using 3-4 paragraphs to say what could be covered in 1 or 2 sentences. Urgh!
Vanessa-Ann Dowsett
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Not one for me I am afraid, I did try very hard
Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
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