Friday, January 27, 2012
Wanted: One Strong, Smart, Sassy Woman
Gemma James. I used to devour Deborah Crombie's series featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James of Scotland Yard. Crombie wrote some terrific mysteries, like Dreaming of the Bones and Kissed a Sad Goodbye. She has a real talent for plotting and conveying a strong sense of time and place. Eventually, Crombie developed a personal relationship between Duncan and Gemma, and now they're married and sharing their children.
A few books ago, King began sending Holmes and Russell off in different directions in their investigations. They would still usually have some correspondence and would eventually meet up and work together, but the characters on their own missed the spark they had when together. In the latest book in the series, Pirate King, Holmes is out of the picture almost entirely, until more than three-quarters of the way through the book. The story is told mostly through a first-person narrative by Russell, who comes across as a self-satisfied, humorless prig. I'm thinking this book is meant to set the stage for the series to become entirely Russell-focused. If so, I'm out.
So where are the good female protagonists these days?
Liza Cody was also a favorite in my (relative) youth. She wrote two gritty series, one featuring Anna Lee, a London PI, and another with Eva Wylie, a wrestler and security guard. Cody seems to be done with these series, though she is still writing. Maybe I should check out her latest nonseries book, Ballad of a Dead Nobody, about the mystery of the death of a female founder of a rock-and-roll band.
And I can't forget another old favorite, Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski. Over the years, though, I've gone off her. Or maybe not so much her as the books, which came to feel dominated by social issues. What do you say, should I go back and try again?
I used to like Margaret Maron's Sigrid Harald series, but I could never get into her Deborah Knott books. Her new book, Three-Day Town, puts the two characters together for the first time, but to the detriment of both. The book can only be described as a disappointment to fans of both protagonists.
So, here we are. I've trashed a bunch of female protagonists––I hope not too many readers' favorites––and bemoaned the disappearance or too-little-appearance of women characters I like. But it can't be hopeless. I'm convinced there must be some female protagonists going strong out there. Two possibilities, and I'd welcome comments on them, are Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak and Julia Spenser-Fleming's Claire Ferguson.
Note: I received free review copies of Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her and Laurie R. King's Pirate King.