by Charlene D’Avanzo
The list of famous female crime writers is long and storied – Agatha Christie, Ann Cleeve, Elly Griffiths, Margaret Atwood, Margery Allingham, Donna Andrews, Janet Evanovich, Elizabeth George, Sue Grafton, P.D. James, Donna Leon, Dorothy Sayers – I could go on but you get the idea.
Why is this? Some say, and I agree, that reading crime fiction by women is a powerful feminist act – it has been called agency and control in action. This is not to say that men don’t write terrific stories that feature female sleuths – of course they do. The poiint is that for some of us there’s a special power in women’s writing and reading their own stories.
Crime fiction written by women tends to celebrate female resilience – stories in which we make decisions, put the wrongs right, and sometimes make mistakes and act badly in the process. As a female reader I do identify with a female sleuth. She’s working hard to make the world a better place but she’s also juggling her own realities – figuring out what’s for dinner or whether her teenager is smoking pot. At the same time, she’s often the one who speaks for the victim.
This is certainly the case in my own mysteries. In Secrets Haunt the Lobster’s Sea, for example, protagonist Mara Tusconi’s cousin Gordy is the number one suspect in a lobsterman’s murder. To prove Gordy’s innocence Mara jumps into the rought-and-tumble world of Maine’s signature fishery when she visits Macomek Island where lobstermen practice their own rule of law – and where they certainly don’t welcome outsiders.
And in Glass Eels, Shattered Sea, Mara, along with Gordy, confront the very lucrative but also very deadly world of international eel trafficking. In all this Mara pushes through her fear because what she’s doing is right.