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TROUBLE WITH SHE-DICKS: PRIVATE EYES AND PUBLIC WOMEN IN THE ADVENTURES OF LOVEDAY BROOKE, LADY DETECTIVE

  • Elizabeth Carolyn Miller (a1)
Extract

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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Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
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