As any one who has read my own work might guess, I enjoy historical mysteries with a strong female protagonist who is working. And, therefore, it is no surprise how delighted I was when I found M. Ruth Myer’s mystery series featuring Maggie Sullivan, a sassy female detective.
I initially gave the first book in Myer’s series, No Game for a Dame, a try because I am a fan of the hard-boiled detective mysteries of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett that are set in the 1930s and 1940s. And boy, am I glad I did. What fun it was to see the classic themes of this genre played out with a female private eye, in a book that stayed absolutely faithful to the historical time and place, late 1930’s Dayton, Ohio.
In No Game for a Dame Myers did a lovely job of developing the classic uneasy relationship between a private detective (in this case Maggie Sullivan) and the local police. But she has woven in the added element of paternalism on the part of those older Irish cops in their treatment of the daughter of one of their former colleagues. Myers also carried through this gendered take on the genre by having Maggie use women, who were scrabbling for a way to make a living in the depths of the Great Depression, as her major sources of information in pursuing her investigation into a string of robberies.
The mystery in No Game for a Dame was compelling, the secondary characters fully developed, and the possible romance between Maggie and one of those Irish cops was just enough to make me want more.
Which is why I was delighted when the next book in the series, Tough Cookie came out. In this sequel, Maggie Sullivan starts out with a missing person case that turns quickly to murder, and I was again swept away to the late 1930s mean streets of Dayton, Ohio.
Tough Cookie (which can be read as a stand alone) has all the elements you look for in a hard-boiled mystery: good old-fashioned detective footwork, a wealthy client, a ditzy dame, loyal servants, smooth-talking lotharios, hard liquor bottles in the desk drawer, fast cars, and gun-play. I couldn’t put the book down, and while I guessed “who done it,” I didn’t care, because I was having so much fun, right down to the end that totally surprised me. Needless to say I am looking forward to the next book in the series.