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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 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 Miss Violet, the first “girl detective.” Not bad for someone who had only tried her Hand at crime fiction because she’d felt that her verse had not received the recognition it deserved.

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Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.