Carlotta Carlyle

Created by Linda Barnes

CARLOTTA CARLYLE‘s one tall (six feet!), red-headed, tough-talking, blues-loving, heart-on-her-sleeve-wearing, ex-cop cab-driving P.I. cruising the streets of Boston, MA, looking for trouble in all the wrong places. And usually finding it.

“As smart as Spenser and as mean as Hawk” is how Margaret Cannon in The Globe and Mail puts it. And to be sure, as the series has progressed, Carlotta gone from being something of an overly earnest do-gooder willing to cut a few corners to something of an avenger willing to not just cut corners, but mow them down if necessary, and generally revealing a darker side to her persona — angrier and more conflicted.

A lot of people love this series, but as it’s progressed, I’ve become a little uneasy about the characer’s scorched earth self-righteousness.

And in Cold Case (1997), she turns downright mean, making up a story about a dead child and runaway husband to fool an older woman who’s had these troubles for real — while secretly sneering all the while at the lady’s Okie accent and bad taste in home furnishings.

All of which is at least a respite from the cloying cuteness and “what about the children” flag waving that has at times has occasionally crept into the series, especially the ongoing subplot of Carlotta’s rescue/adoption of Paolina, a young Hispanic girl — it’s no doubt well-intentioned, but the ensuing (and no doubt well-intentioned) white liberal earnestness comes off as slightly patronizing and, worse, almost racist — certainly not the author’s intentions at all.

Author Linda Barnes is also responsible for the Michael Spraggue series, about an an actor turned P. I. turned actor again.


  • “… illuminates the power of our deepest regrets and the fleeting chances we sometimes get to fill the emptiness in our souls. Writing with sensitivity and grace, Linda Barnes once more demonstrates why ex-cop Carlotta Carlyle has become a treasured mainstay in the field of crime fiction.”
    — Robert Crais on Heart of the World
  • “… one of the best private-eye series ever.”
    — Harlan Coben
  • “Nobody knows Boston like Linda Barnes’s red-haired private investigator Carlotta Carlyle… Barnes’s knack for crisp, snappy dialogue and devising a mystery that has both timeless and contemporary appeal is a winner.”
    — The Boston Herald
  • “Beautifully plotted, exciting, moving, and leavened with wit”
    — Robert B. Parker
  • “… one of the most sparkling, irresistible heroines ever to grace the pages of a whodunit”
    — Chicago Sun-Times


  • “I think you do great work with this site, but I have to say that as a fan of Carlotta Carlyle that entry irritates me a lot; it just feels condescening. I’m sure that Ms. Barnes is an adult human being who might know what she is doing and what her intentions are. You don’t have to like it, but… I kind of see where you come from, but at least in Lie Down with the Devil Ms. Barnes wraps the series and its plots — also Paolina — in a way that shows that Carlyle has done what she’s done as a private individual with her own emotional baggage, and there has been damage done.”
    — Pekka (July 2019)



  • “Lucky Penny” (1985, The New Black Mask, No. 3)
  • “Miss Gibson” (1996, Women On the Case)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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