Aging Baby Boomer here. And maybe because I am so old, I’m noticing a trend to take commercial/literary advantage of “women of a certain age” like me. And I’m all for it. I have been reading more books with older protagonists lately and enjoying them.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not discriminating against Nancy Drew, although I was a Judy Bolton girl. Youth may be wasted on the young, but they have rights, too. However, I am definitely in my Miss Marple phase. Give me the pearls and twinsets and sensible shoes.
Numerous actors have portrayed Jane Marple on the big and little screens, the radio, and there is even a Japanese anime series featuring her and Poirot. Would Agatha approve? Probably. I think she liked to keep current. And make money.
There are 32 Miss Silver books by Patricia Wentworth, written from 1928 to 1961. Miss Silver, a retired governess-turned-detective, gives Miss Marple a run for her reputation. Both are elderly, physically unprepossessing spinsters who are easily underestimated until they catch the crooks. I have not read all 32 and probably won’t, but they are fine examples of Golden Age mysteries.
I have raved here before about Richard Osman’s three Thursday Murder Club books, set in a posh retirement village in the UK. Four very diverse residents have banded together (on Thursdays) to look at cold cases, and some very hot cases as well. The supporting characters are equally compelling, and I look forward to the fourth book coming in September.
A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall bands three retired teachers together to investigate the death of a former colleague over their weekly coffee date. Elly Griffiths’ The Postscript Murders has a dead 90-year-old and her somewhat younger neighbors who help solve her murder. One of the heroines in Robert Thorogood’s The Marlow Murder Club is a mysterious Crossword clue-setting septuagenarian who swims in the Thames daily (shudder). Deanna Raybourn’s recent Killers of a Certain Age features four sixty-somethings who try to quit the spy business, but their agency has other—deadly—plans. None of these characters are in any way doddering, which I appreciate. (Even if I’m a bit doddering on occasion.)
I am on Season 10 (out of 12) of Vera on BritBox. At the beginning of the series in 2011, Vera was a close-to-retirement Detective Chief Inspector with a newly diagnosed heart condition. In real life, star Brenda Blethyn is now 77, and I’m wondering if a Season 13 is planned for the future. It’s probably time for Vera (and Brenda) to throw away her awful hat, retire, and go to Spain for a holiday like any proper British pensioner. Blethyn is wonderful in the role, though, and has cute young detective sergeants to do the jumping over fences to chase the criminals.
In my own new cozy mystery series (yet to be published), the heroine May (my tribute to Auntie Mame with a dash of Miss Marple) would never admit to her age, and the hero Charles is a ready-to-rusticate Scotland Yard detective. In the words of May’s niece: One has merely to catch a glimpse of Aunt May to know one is in the presence of an Original. It’s not just that she is well-preserved for a woman her age (whatever that may be—she has struck the exact year out of the family Bible with an “accidental” thumb smudge), but her personality is, to put it mildly, forceful.
Sometimes I think she is far more modern than I am. She has plucked her distinctive eyebrows and shingled her currently auburn hair. From a distance, at twilight, she could pass for one of the Bright Young People who motor down from London to drink themselves blind at the week-end in one of the converted weavers’ cottages.
The Bible-fudging is a nod to my own red-headed great-aunts, a few of whom somehow blotted out the years they were born in my great-grandmother Mary Hester Hardwick Miller’s Bible. They were known collectively as “the beautiful Miller sisters.” I don’t know about their beauty, but their waists look impossibly small.
My grandmother Ruth, second from left, and some of her sisters
Ruth Hardwick Miller Lanman
Does age matter? Do you have a favorite geezer-series?
For more information on Maggie and her books, please visit www.maggierobinson.net