the lesbian dedective novel book coverNew Book Explores the History of Lesbian Mystery Fiction 

I’ll admit that I used to be a Sherlock Holmes fan. I read Conan Doyle’s entire canon and dozens of pastiches like Solar Pons by August Derleth, The Irene Adler Mysteries by Carole Nelson Douglas, and so on. While I was reading the first of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries, I discovered that King had written a series featuring a lesbian sleuth—Kate Martinelli.

A lesbian detective! Someone I could relate to on so many levels. I located as many of the Martinelli books as I could find and in the process, I managed to locate a few more authors who had created lesbian sleuths: Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless, for instance, and the first African-American lesbian detective, Virginia Kelly, by Nikki Baker. But others were hard to locate, even with all the fancy online search engines that came along one after another.

Luckily, Megan Casey has created a kind of bibliography/database in which she lists every mystery novel ever written featuring a lesbian sleuth. And a sleuth or detective can be any profession—a police inspector like Martinelli, a restaurant owner like Jane Lawless, or even a financial analyst like Nikki Baker. In fact, their diversity is one thing that makes lesbian detectives so interesting.

The Lesbian Detective Novel begins with a dozen of the author’s mini-essays on various aspects of the lesbian mystery novel, such as pseudonyms, artistry, and even sex. Following this, Casey lists 336 authors and 1032 titles arranged by year of publication. The ebook links every one of these books to its Goodreads page so you can check out what others thought of the book—including in many instances Casey herself.

Following this section, each of the authors has their own page, listing each lesbian mystery or series of mysteries they have written as well as a tidbit of information about the author of the book, such as the book set, the age and profession of the protagonist, and so forth.

And getting back to Sherlock Holmes, there are a number of lesbian sleuths based on the iconic detective, like Sandra de Helen’s Shirley Combs, Debra Hyde’s Charlotte Olmes, Claire O’Dell’s Lambda Award-winning series featuring Janet Watson and Sara Holmes—to name only the most obvious. But mostly the stories and novels feature people more like you and me, going about our business and stumbling into murder or other trouble. Some are feminist classics, some literary gems, and others just mind-numbing beach reads.

Mind you, The Lesbian Detective Novel is not something you would generally read from cover to cover. Rather, it is something to sample over time—especially when you are searching for a new novel to experience or a new author to explore. And there are a lot of both.


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