Miss Violet Strange

Created by Anna Katherine Green
(1879-1944)

If you have a case of subtlety without crime, one to engage my powers without depressing my spirits, I beg you to let me have it.”

Poor old dad had no idea what his darling daughter was up to.

VIOLET STRANGE is considered by many to be the first “girl detective,” being only seventeen in her first story — a sort of Victorian-era Nancy Drew,  a rebellious, wealthy young white woman (a New York debutante, in fact) whose intellectual restlessness drew her into all kinds of mayhem, but she was no amateur — she was a no-nonsense professional, discreetly (and occasionally reluctantly) taking on cases for an unnamed private detective agency in order to earn money that wasn’t controlled by her domineering father.

The settings may seem pretty dated and the writing a little creaky, but the notion of a ambitious and defiant young woman chafing under the thumb of male domination and societal expectations will be more than familiar to modern readers. Even better, the stories are pretty well plotted, and the resolutions to the puzzles hold together legally and logically, offering a fascinating view into New York society at the time, full of musicales, teas and other social hoity-toityness, which Violet often uses to gather suspects and follow “clews.” Mind you, it’s not all fun and games — happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and there’s a definite tinge of sadness that hovers over many of the tales that feels rather modern. Of course, Violet displays ample empathy, though “not muddle-headed sentiment.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Katharine Green, often called “the mother of the detective story,” was an American poet and novelist, who has been widely (but erroneously) credited with writing the first American detective novel, 1878’s bestselling The Leavenworth Case (The Dead Letter by Seeley Regester was published in 1866). Still, there’s no doubt she was tremendously influential — developing the first series detective (Ebenezer Gryce of the New York Metropolitan Police Force), and the first spinster sleuth (Miss Butterworth), as well as the first “girl detective.”

UNDER OATH

  • ” I’ve just recently been reading/rereading Anna Katharine Green’s The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915), a novel in stories featuring a young socialite-turned-detective who is in many ways a prototype of Nancy Drew (in the same way that Green’s Amelia Butterworth was a prototype for Miss Marple). Green’s been called the mother/grandmother/godmother of American detective fiction—a reputation that rests mostly on her mega-successful 1878 novel The Leavenworth Case. But her other work deserves notice—and Violet Strange especially, I think, despite critic Howard Haycraft having said in 1941 that Strange was “best forgotten.”
    — Art Taylor

SHORT STORIES

  • “The Golden Slipper”
  • “The Second Bullet”
  • “An Intangible Clew”
  • “The Grotto Spectre” (June 1913, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Dreaming Lady”
  • “The House of Clocks”
  • “The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock”
  • “Missing: Page Thirteen”
  • “Violet’s Own”

COLLECTIONS

  • The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915)

RADIO

  • THE INTANGIBLE CLUE
    (2013, BBC 4)
    Based on the story by Anna Katherine Green
    Adapted by Chris Harrald
    Produced by Liz Webb
    Starring Jeany Spark as VIOLET STRANGE
    Aired as part of the BBC series The Rivals

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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