Long before Kinsey Millhone, long before V. I. Warshawski, long before all of today's top-rated - and top-read - female P.I.s, there was Miriam Lea.
Miriam Lea, one of the very first woman detectives in fiction. In the Victorian era, when a female detective was pretty well unheard of, Miriam Lea applied for, and accepted, a job with a Mr. Bazalgette, the proprietor of a London-based private detective agency. Her story is told in Mr. Bazalgette's Agent, an 1888 book by Leonard Merrick, and that book is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
1888 was just one year after Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in print, so we are going back quite far in the history of the detective story. Mr. Bazalgette's Agent tells the story of Miriam Lea, a young woman looking for some way to earn a living without having to become, say, a shopkeeper's assistant. She answers an advertisement placed by Mr. Bazalgette, whose detective agency is seeking a woman to act as a private investigator. She is sent out in search of a young man who seems to have absconded with a good deal of the bank's money. Mr. Bazalgette's Agent is the story of her search for that man, a search which takes her first through Europe and, eventually, all the way to South Africa in pursuit of her man. There are a fair number of surprises along the way. It is, I must say, a fairly gentle mystery - no violence, really, and a certain Victorian sensibility. But it is a very enjoyable story, quite worth reading. The British Library has republished this rarity, and they provided a review copy to me.
I am submitting this review as another entry in the My Reader's Block blog Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge, filling another square on my Golden bingo card that calls for "a book by an author you've never read before."