Lady Cops, Femme Fatales, Henpecking Wives, and Hottie Badasses: Female Stereotypes in the Crime Novel

On a tip from my mom (hi, mom!), I recently checked out an article by Chris “My Mom’s Name is Anne” Rice, entitled “Why Crime Novelists Don’t Get Women.” In his piece, Rice selects several recurrent female stereotypes that he thinks the genre could stand to lose: The Cop’s Wife Who Doesn’t Get It, The Babe Assassin, The Ice Queen Bureaucrat, and the Token Lesbian Cop. It’s pretty amusing, and I’d say, rather right on (we’re talking to you, Lisbeth), although Rice is mainly talking about mainstream thrillers and TV show police procedurals. It’s an enjoyable piece, though, so take a look.

Also, you may want to listen to the related interview that Rice did on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” He gives a shout-out to Ross McDonald, which I appreciated, and there are actually some interesting points made by callers, which if you listen to call-in radio shows, is maybe not always the case.

Since we’re here, I thought I’d mention a pair of recent examples of females in more traditional roles in the genre which, I think, have been admirably handled. For one, P.D. James’ Cordelia Gray is fantastic. She’s a former secretary who inherits her former boss’ PI Business after he kills himself. I really loved her first book An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

Another secretary-cum-detective I enjoyed recently was Lydia Richard’s Kitty Pangborn, who I am familiar with from the novel Death Was in the Picture.

There are certainly more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Thoughts, anyone?

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