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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, March 17, 2002

Female Sleuths Bust Criminals, Scrap With Bad Guys

In putting together a presentation on books for the local ANEW group, I discovered that there's a whole new generation of women sleuths. Old-timers like Dr Kay Scarpetta (the tough Virginia medical examiner created by Patricia Cornwell) and Kinsey Milhone (the LA area private eye in the A-B-C mysteries by Sue Grafton) have been joined by a legion of twenty- and thirty-something sisters in crime.

These crime fighters tend to be tough, beautiful, single, and in their mid-thirties. They're dedicated to their careers and work around the clock. If a husband is in evidence, he's the better cook and even enjoys housework.

They often find themselves in physical danger, but can throw a punch as good as the next guy.

Long Time No See by Susan Isaacs.

This is the sequel to the 1978 novel Compromising Positions, made into a movie starring Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia.

In the original mystery, Isaac's sleuth, Judith Singer, was an upper middle class housewife who had given up a promising career to tend home and hearth in Long Island. Extremely bored, she was immediately on the case when a local dentist was murdered.

Now 23 years later, Judith is back to solve another neighborhood murder. Her kids are grown, and she's completed her PhD and is teaching history at a local college. She's also a widow, her husband having dropped dead after jogging two years previously. And who should step back into her life but the homicide detective, now a Captain, who she had fallen in love with 23 years earlier?

The plot is detailed, and the mystery intriguing, but what makes this a wonderful read is the humor. Judith Singer's observations of others and herself are always sharp, on the mark and very, very funny.

Paradise Lost by Judith A. Jance.

Joanna Brady, sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona is the heroine of this mystery series. The daughter of a former sheriff and the widow of a cop who died during his own run for sheriff, Joanna stepped in after her husband's death and won the position for herself.

A tough cop, she isn't afraid to play with the "big boys." In fact the book starts with her winning $800 at a friendly game of poker at a sheriff's convention. To make her life more complicated, she has a 12-year old daughter and a new husband.

"Paradise Lost" begins with Joanna's daughter stumbling over a body on a Girl Scout camping trip in the desert. Joanna has to deal with numerous family as well as work-related crises before the murder is solved.

The Dead-House by Linda Fairstein.

Linda Fairstein has been the head of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for almost 25 years. Somehow, she's also found the time to write three mysteries featuring Alexandra Cooper, Manhattan Sex Crimes Assistant D.A.

Much of the action in Fairstein's latest mystery takes place on a 147-acre island located in the East River, in the Borough of Manhattan. Purchased by the City of New York in 1828 as a site for prisons, poor houses, and nursing homes, it was eventually home to many of the city's institutions, including the Smallpox Hospital and the Blackwell Penitentiary.

When one of Alex Cooper's domestic-abuse clients, Lola Dakota, is killed, Cooper discovers that Lola had been working with some colleagues on an archeological and sociological study of the island.

This mystery is full of action and peopled by intriguing characters.

You Only Die Twice by Edna Buchanan.

Set in Miami, this series by a Pulitzer Prize winning crime reporter evokes the steamy, colorful and sometimes violent climate of that city.

Britt Montero covers the police beat for the "Miami News." Her latest scoop revolves around a beautiful young woman whose body has washed ashore. The "fresh" corpse turns out to be that of a woman who was declared dead 10 years ago, with her wealthy husband long ago convicted of her murder. He's due to be executed within weeks.

Britt, of course, solves the crime and gets her headline, only getting beaten up a couple of times in the process.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.