Sunday, July 29, 2018

Meet a few of my Favorite Female Authors


Truly, there are too many to name, so I’ve narrowed the list to favorite female authors of mysteries set in Great Britain—my favorite genre and locale. Interestingly, several of these authors aren’t Brits. As you consider reading some of these mysteries, I strongly recommend you start with the first in a series to enjoy the character development.

I think of P.D. James as the British matriarch of this group. Best known for her fourteen novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh, New Scotland Yard commander and poet, James also wrote non-fiction, short stories, and stand-alone novels before her death at age 94. First was “Cover Her Face” in 1962. As much character studies as they are mysteries, I enjoy her novels not only for the whodunit aspect but also for the personalities of the main characters.  Critics list “A Certain Justice,  “Devices and Desires,” and “A Taste for Death” as her best works.

Equally enjoyable are the novels of Elizabeth George, an American who lives in Washington State. Her twenty novel series began with “A Great Deliverance” in 1988.  The main character Thomas Lynley, a New Scotland Yard Inspector, is a nobleman uncomfortable with his title. As does P.D. James, George reveals more and more about her protagonist and his colleagues as the series progresses. I only recently finished her 19th Lynley mystery. The fact that it runs 576 pages may give you an idea of the complexity of her writing.

I stumbled across a Deborah Crombie book years ago in a used bookstore. Author of the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James series,  Crombie is a Texan, though she did spend some time in Great Britain. Since 1993, she’s written seventeen in this series. Not quite as complex as the James and George mysteries, her books are still far from light reading. “A Share in Death,” written in 1993 was her debut and won the Macavity award for Best First Novel.

I found my first Sally Spencer book at a library sale and was immediately hooked.  The twenty DCI Woodend mysteries take place in the 60’s. Until I did a bit of research,  I had no idea that Spencer was a pen name for Alan Rustage. Technically then, the Spencer series doesn’t qualify for my list of favorite female authors, but I’ve made the executive decision to include him.  He too is a Brit.

Though his/her books are typically shorter than those by the previous three authors, the plots and the characters will pull you in. The third book “Death of a Cave Dweller” is my favorite because it takes place in Liverpool music clubs during the time the Beatles would have been there. Monica Paniatowski, one of Woodend’s proteges, goes on to have her own ten book series, but I haven’t yet gotten around to reading those.

I’ve written about Jacqueline Winspear before, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her again.  Winspear is a British transplant who now lives in California. Her first book “Maisie Dobbs” covers the years immediately before and after WWI, and the thirteen subsequent Maisie Dobbs books run up to the 1940’s just after Great Britain has declared war. I credit her series with teaching me about the extended impact of WWI on Great Britain. The anguish of the survivors and those who lost loved ones in the first war is vivid and all the more poignant as WWII looms.

My first-ever trip to England is fast approaching, and I’ve already loaded my Kindle with novels set in London, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and Devon. Suggestions are welcome!

Find my latest book “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” and my collection of columns, “The InkPenn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” on Amazon. Contact me at inkpenn119@gmail.com.