Vivian Marlow

Created by Lori Armstrong
Pseudonyms include Lorelei James

In 2023, it may seem a little odd to come across a short story  referring to private investigation as “No Place for a Dame,” since we’re not exactly bereft of female gumshoes these days, but since the story’s set in 1942, so I guess we can cut it some slack.

Still, an angry description of VIVIAN MARLOW by the villain as “a tart with big breasts and a small brain who can barely answer the phone” seems like overkill. Okay, they weren’t as woke back then.

We get it. Likewise, the last name.

Then again, that’s not the only time Vivian’s breasts are mentioned in the story—fist person narrator Vivian mentions them herself often enough, which makes me wonder if Armstrong was trying to channel Mickey Spillane?

But the story’s a good one. It first appeared in the 2022 anthology Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, and nabbed Armstrong, a former Shamus winner, yet another nomination.

It’s 1942, the boys are off overseas, and Vivian’s a working woman, running the Minneapolis office of her husband Dennis’s private detective agency, keeping the books, scheduling appointments and generally keeping things afloat. “And make no mistake: I run this business,” she proclaims at one point, “If anyone is the lackey here, it’s my husband.”

Meanwhile that ne’er-do-well lackey of hers has wandered off, probably on one of his “sleazy schemes,” playing things close to his vest as always, disappearing for days at a stretch without letting Vivian in on what he’s up to.

Only this time, he’s been gone for two weeks.

Which leaves Vivian, she of the “eye-catching cleavage,” frustrated and in the dark. And then an elegantly dressed, handsome client walks into their fifth-floor office, a dead-ringer for Tyrone Power, her current “cinematic crush,” hoping to hire Dennis to follow his wife, whom he suspects is cheating on him.

With Dennis MIA, Vivian convinces the client to  hire her instead. Things do not go well, although Vivian proves herself more than up to the task in the end.


Lori Armstrong is the three-time Shamus Award, twice for her Julie Collins mystery series, and once for No Mercy in the Mercy Gunderson series. She is also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romances written. Lori, her alter ego Lorelei, and her gun guy hubby, all live in western South Dakota with their spoiled corgi.



  • June 15, 2023
    The Bottom Line: It’s 1942, and she’s got some “eye-catching cleavage,” a missing husband, a detective agency to run, and a hunky new client.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply