She was a legit private eye, even if she referred to herself as a "crime analyst." She solicits her cases by letter of inquiry, and works on a $10,000 contigency basis. Her generally well-regarded debut, The Desert Moon Mystery (1928), features, according to the front cover blurb, "Three murders and a suicide -- one of them a lovely girl with a secret. No clues, yet clues everywhere. Days and nights of suspense, danger, suspicion. The Desert Moon Mystery offers the most sophisticated detective story fan, and unusual thrill."
But it's all no match for MacDonald, who arrives in the nick of time to solve the case and comes off as a very shrewd and even Holmes-like detective, even if she herself at times ridicules the Holmesian inductive method. She's tall and solid, with "carroty" red hair and gray eyes.
But considering there were very few fictional woman private detectives prior to the 1940s I thought it would be a good idea to include this one.
Collectors should note that The Desert Moon Mystery was the first Doubleday Crime Club book to be published. Doubleday's long-running mystery imprint (its last title was released in 1991) boasted some of the finestcrime fiction writers around, including Edgar Wallace, Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Frank Packard, Hulbert Footner, and Rufus King.
There were six more books featuring MacDonald, and by most accounts there's a serious drop-off in quality as the series progresses and MacDonald is relegated to a secondary -- and ever-diminishing -- role in her own series (she usually arrives well into the story, often not until the final third of the book). Her cases, which often boasted rather bizarre twists (a midget poses as a child in one and in another she's called in to investigate an apparent suicide -- that was committed almost thirty years earlier), took her to San Francisco, Nevada and California, although mostly she stuck to Oregon
Kay Cleaver Strahan herself was apparently born, lived and died in Portland, Oregon. Besides the seven MacDonald mysteries, she wrote several other novels, including Something That Begins With "T" (1918) and Oh Happy Youth (1931).
Respectfully submitted by John Norris, with additional information by Kevin Burton Smith.
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