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One of the most popular female detectives of all time is Miss Jane Marple, known as Miss Marple. She was created by Agatha Christie in the 1920's, and made her first appearance in a short story which was featured in "The Sketch" magazine. She made her debut in a full-length novel in 1930 with "The Murder in the Vicarage". Miss Marple's character has been based on Christie's step-grandmother, Margaret West, whose social circle of gossiping old ladies greatly influenced the other characters in the novel. Miss Marple herself is described as a deceptively harmless little old lady who uses gentle humor and her keen observational skills to solve murders which baffle the police. Miss Marple’s onscreen character in various television series has been portrayed by actresses such as Margaret Rutherford and Geraldine McEwen.
A detective who has been hailed as a cultural icon by the likes of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, Nancy Drew was created in 1930 by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who employed a series of ghost writers to write the series of detective novels under the collective pseudonym, "Carolyn Keene". The character of Nancy Drew changes with time, that is to say, she evolves from an initially strong, steel-willed young woman into a somewhat flawed and confused person. It is noted that the nature of Nancy Drew books have undergone great changes over the decades, catering to both feminist and anti-feminist sentiments. The Nancy Drew fan club lives on and video games and films in her name continue to sell worldwide.
Possibly the most beloved tomboy in a children's series, Georgina "George" Kirrin, from Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" series, is an outspoken and intelligent 11-year-old. She solves mysteries with her cousins, Julian, Dick, and Anne, and is devoted to her dog, Timmy, whom she is fiercely protective of. George first appears in "Famous Five on
Treasure Island", which was published in 1942 and is the first of the
21 books in the series. George prefers being called "Master George" rather than "Miss Georgina". She has most recently been portrayed in a more feminine light
in 2008's "Famous Five on the Case", where she is said to be married to an
Indian mechanic, the tomboyish streak persists as symbolized by the purple streak in her hair.
Kay Scarpetta, the Chief Medical Examiner for Richmond, Virginia, made her first appearance in 1990, with the novel, "Postmortem" by crime novelist, Patricia Cornwell, and has since, gone on to feature in over 15 books. She is described as a beautiful, intelligent blonde who is "a sharp dresser, but professional", a lover of home made Italian food, vintage wine and classic architecture. Her character is based on the life of a real-life Chief Medical Examiner by the name of Marcella Fierro, MD. With her matter-of-fact manner which offends those not accustomed to no-nonsense behavior, Scarpetta consistently ruffles the feathers of the administration, and is even targeted by serial killers who are afraid of her.
Created by Kathy Reichs in 1997, Temperance "Bones" Brennan makes her first appearance in the novel, "Deja Dead", where she is introduced as a brilliant forensic anthropologist, much like her creator. Known for her [similar to Kay Scarpetta] no-nonsense attitude and professionalism, "
Tempe" examines the bones of murder, and her assessments pertaining to their bone
structure and size allows forensic teams to identify them. One of only fifty
certified forensic anthropologists in the world; she belongs to a
highly-specialized field. In the television series, "Bones", she is portrayed
in the light of her creator and not the character from the book series. Actress
Emily DeChanel plays the role to perfection, and the television series is as
successful as the 15-book franchise.
Female detectives in both book and television series are mostly strong and intelligent, an embodiment of the modern women. In context with the characters from the pre-women's rights era, characters like Miss Marple and George Kirrin all represent rebels from their respective eras. From a little old lady who does the unexpected without imbibing an ounce of malice or negativity in her nature, to a tomboy who embodies male characteristics not expected of a young girl, the ladies are fictional superheroes. Characters like Scarpetta and Brennan do their bit to deglamourize [to an extent], the stereotypical representation of women as intellectually inferior, and hold their own against their male counterparts.
These women are not only entertaining to watch and read, but also serve as inspirations to their female readers, who knows, some might even take on the roles of crusaders for justice in real life!