Friday, July 4, 2014

"The Female Sherlock Holmes Was Bound to Arrive in Fiction"

By Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947).
Cassell & Co.
1910. 344 pages.
Collection: 12 stories.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
(1) "The Ninescore Mystery"
(2) "The Frewin Miniatures"
(3) "The Irish-Tweed Coat"
(4) "The Fordwych Castle Mystery"
(5) "A Day's Folly"
(6) "A Castle in Brittany"
(7) "A Christmas Tragedy"
(8) "The Bag of Sand"
(9) "The Man in the Inverness Cafe"
(10) "The Woman in the Big Hat"
(11) "Sir Jeremiah's Will" (Part 1)
(12) "The End" (Part 2 of "Sir Jeremiah's Will")

A contemporary critic thought Lady Molly's adventures were worth continuing but a reader a century later wasn't so impressed; Orczy's the Old Man in the Corner stories usually garner more favorable notice. Nevertheless, Lady Molly was a pioneer of the feminine detective:
[Full review] The female Sherlock Holmes was bound to arrive in fiction, and it was inevitable that she should have her subordinate, Mary Granard, who plays the role of Watson.
Lady Molly, however, works in connection with Scotland Yard, and she has neither chemistry nor the violin as recreation.
The twelve stories in which her feminine wit is described are of the ordinary detective class, put together with the authoress's well-known skill. In the last of them, Lady Molly succeeds in clearing her husband of suspicion on a charge of murder, and this enables her to retire from detective work.
It also enables Miss Granard to explain how her dear lady managed to keep her position in society and at the same time to practise her profession.
People who like the brandy of criminology can have twelve sips in this book. The authoress knows how to blend and serve up her stuff, and probably her large public will be curious to see how she contrives to excite them in this new role.
Probably, also, they will persuade her that Lady Molly's marriage need not interrupt finally her career as a feminine detective. — "Novel Notes," THE BOOKMAN [UK] (October 1910)
[Excerpts] Lady Molly and her uncomfortably devoted assistant, Mary, are part of a new group of female detectives in Scotland Yard. They solve mysteries.  . . .
. . . In every story, Mary tells us about the crimes under investigation, with an astonishing amount of detail considering she never actually witnessed any of them. Then Lady Molly sends her off to investigate, pops up at the very end, and pinpoints the perpetrator. Her "investigative technique" of choice is emotional manipulation, something no one objects to as long as she's manipulating women and not men. Since Mary is the narrator, we hardly ever see Lady Molly investigate anything, and the solutions to the mysteries never quite make sense.  . . .
. . . The best story is probably "The End," since we do get to see a lot of Lady Molly in action, and find out some interesting back story about her. But even in "The End," Lady Molly's investigation is suspect, and the conclusion to the mystery doesn't completely make sense.  . . . — Tasha Brandstatter, THE PROJECT GUTENBERG PROJECT (August 20, 2012)
- Mike Grost's article HERE about Orczy is on his megasite, A GUIDE TO CLASSIC MYSTERY AND DETECTION.
- A Wikipedia article is HERE and the GAD Wiki entry is HERE.
- "The Woman in the Big Hat" was filmed for TV as part of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes series (1971); see HERE. Her Old Man in the Corner story, "The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway," was also presented on the same series in 1973 but without the Old Man (see HERE).

Category: Detective fiction

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