Sherlock Holmes was the most famous detective of the 1890s and early 1900s, but he wasn’t the only one. His fictional contemporaries included Dr. Thorndyke (by R. Austin Freeman), Martin Hewitt (by Martin Morrison), Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah, and several others. It was a rich age for detectives who solved crimes with their deductive ability.
Another Sherlock Holmes contemporary was Loveday Brooke, the “Lady Detective” created by Catherine Louisa Pirkis. Pirkis was a novelist and short story writer who published the Loveday Brooke detective stories in Ludgate Magazine in 1894. Brooke is a former wealthy society woman who had lost her financial security and must work. And she’s employed by a London detective agency. The seven stories had been republished as Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective by Midwest Classic Press (they are also available on Amazon, but you can get the collection for free at the Midwest Classic link).
|Catherine Louisa Pirkis|
In “The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep,” Loveday Brooke investigates the theft of a large quanity of jewelry. In “The Murder at Troyte’s Hill,” she’s investigating the murder of a lodge keeper at a large estate. “The Redhill Sisterhood” concerns a nun-like group of women who may (or may not) be the front for a burglary gang. “A Princess’s Vengeance” concerns what happens when love is almost thwarted, and a young girl goes missing.
“Drawn Daggers” is ostensibly about a missing necklace but soons becomes a case of substituted identities. A blank check is stolen in “The Ghost of Fountain Lane.” And a young girl goes missing in “Missing!,” and the answer for why will be found in the distant past.
Brooke uses her powers of observance and her experience with human nature to see what others miss. Her insights are less spectacular than those of Sherlock Holmes but they are no less effective.
Loveday Brooke is a window into the historical past of the mystery genre, a window framed by an unusual and unexpected “lady detective.”