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  • Elizabeth Carolyn Miller (a1)

C. L. (CATHERINE LOUISA) PIRKIS'S “The Murder at Troyte's Hill,” second in her series of stories about Detective Loveday Brooke, begins with Brooke's boss debriefing her on a case: “Griffiths, of the Newcastle Constabulary, has the case in hand…. Those Newcastle men are keen-witted, shrewd fellows, and very jealous of outside interference. They only sent to me under protest, as it were, because they wanted your sharp wits at work inside the house” (528). This is a typical beginning for one of Brooke's adventures, which were published in the London magazine Ludgate Monthly in 1893 and 1894. As one of the earliest professional female detectives in English literary history, Brooke's career was marked by conflicts with territorial male officers and the ever-present pressure to keep her detective work “inside the house.” Emerging at a historical moment when understandings of women, criminality, and law enforcement were rapidly changing in Britain, Pirkis's stories offer an interpretation of these intersecting cultural shifts that is surprisingly different from her contemporaries. In a decade rife with scientific interrogation into the nature of criminality, such as in the work of Havelock Ellis and Francis Galton, detective fiction of the 1890s tended to mimic scientific discourse in its representations of criminals. The Brooke stories, however, challenge such conceptions of deviance and reveal the poverty of their underlying understandings of crime as well as gender.

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ArataStephen. 1996. Fictions of Loss in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. Cambridge: Cambridge UP

BrakeLaurel. 1994. Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. London: Macmillan

Irons,Glenwood, ed. 1995. Feminism in Women's Detective Fiction. Toronto: U of Toronto P

LawGraham. 2000 Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press. New York: Palgrave

LombrosoCesare and WilliamFerrero. 1895. The Female Offender. London: T. Fisher Unwin

PooveyMary. 1988. Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: U of Chicago P

WalkowitzJudith. 1992. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London. Chicago: U of Chicago P

WalkowitzJudith. 1980. Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge UP

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Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
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