~ by Jenny C.
For all of you reading along in the Mystery Challenge, this week we focus on the valiant, perceptive, amateur sleuth. Now, many heroes and heroines of the mystery genre qualify as amateurs, especially those from points in history before official certifications, but I wanted to highlight some of the most winning personalities among these amiable snoops.
The classic amateur investigator has to be Dorothy Sayers’ beloved Lord Peter Wimsey. Aristocrat and gad-about, forever dependent on his alarmingly efficient manservant, Bunter, Lord Peter swans around the countryside with an endearingly foppish attitude. When push comes to shove, however, his harmless façade drops to expose a ferocious intelligence. Set against the backdrop of the World Wars, Lord Peter’s adventures are not to be missed! Start with Whose Body? and discover why Sayers is one of the greats.
For the adventures of a parasol-wielding, vociferously vocal, Victorian Egyptologist, consider picking up the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is one of the great free spirits of her generation, traveling the world in order to better investigate any available pyramid, at least when she isn’t confounded by another inconvenient dead body. Meet the extraordinary Amelia and her soon to be long-suffering spouse in The Crocodile on the Sandbank.
If you’re in the mood for a more literary flavor, many famous authors have been reimagined as crime solving geniuses. Consider Jane Austen in Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. We know that she was an intelligent and perceptive woman from her work, and she makes a wonderful detective. Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Brontë, Josephine Tey, Kit Marlowe and even Oscar Wilde and Beatrix Potter live again as investigators!
Some of my favorite protagonists are in the amateur category by reason of their age. Flavia de Luce, chemistry prodigy and poison aficionado is one of the best of these. Flavia, who hails from a decrepit manor in 1950s Britain is forever nosing her way into murder mysteries with the help of her trusty bicycle, Gladys. Her incredibly engaging adventures begin in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
On the other side of the pond, we have the hilarious and plucky Mo Lebeau of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo has spent most of her short life pondering the mystery of her parentage, as she washed into town in the middle of a hurricane as a baby. So she feels eminently qualified to open Desperado Detectives with her best friend Dale. They drop their pet investigations when a real murder comes to town in Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, and prove that tenacity and smarts are not limited to adults.
And here’s a real challenge for you: I was looking for amateurs (where detective or investigator is not their official job) who are not British or American, and failed to find them. Can you think of any? I’d love to branch out!
Download and print out the checklist here and read along with our winter mystery series!