Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Mystery Binge Continues

I've been continuing my mystery binge, but I thought I had nothing to say about the recent titles until I realized today that the last three books I've read had something odd in common. All feature mystery-solving women who are not police officers, private investigators, lawyers, or pathologists but are married to lawmen. Jan Burke's Irene Kelly (Disturbance) is a reporter; her husband is a police detective. Earlene Fowler's Benni Ortiz (Spider Web) is a museum curator; her husband is the chief of police. Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles (Mourning Gloria) owns an herb store (although she is a retired lawyer); her husband is a PI and college professor teaching criminal justice. All of the women do things that might be described as, well, stupid, putting themselves in danger before solving the crime at hand (although in this particular title in Fowler's series, Benni is more concerned with a personal mystery than the sniper case plaguing her husband's department--but she unwittingly solves the case anyway).

I can see why a mystery author gives her protagonist a career that is not traditional for sleuths (although I guess an argument could be made for a journalist being a crime-solver)--making China the owner of an herb store, for example, allows Albert to share a lot of information about herbs, in which she is clearly very interested. But why do they give their characters husbands in law enforcement? Is it just to provide a source of conflict? Or is there a more insidious underlying message--an untrained woman is a better crime-solver than a top-notch male investigator? Or are they trying to write an updated "damsel-in-distress" tale? I'm looking for answers!

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