Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Five female mystery authors who left us too soon.

Dorothy Bowers. This Oxford graduate and Detection Club member penned four mystery novels featuring Chief Inspector Dan Pardoe (Postscript to Poison, Shadows Before, Deed without a Name,  and Fear and Miss Betony [called the best mystery of 1941 by the Times]. In 1948, Bowers died of tuberculosis at age 46.

Sarah Caudwell. When she died of cancer in 2000 at age 60, this former barrister and Anthony winner left behind a slim but witty oeuvre for fans devoted to the legal cohorts of the gender-neutral professor Hilary Tamar (Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, The Sibyl in Her Grave, "Rosemary and Rumor" in Malice Domestic 6). Steven Heyman of Chicago-Kent Law School related in Mystery Scene how he used Caudwell's work in his law courses. She was a member of a colorfully leftist family (her father was Evelyn Waugh cousin Claud Cockburn, and her nieces include actress Olivia Wilde and journalist Laura Flanders).

Kate Ross. This lawyer by day, author by night published four novels and two short stories with Regency-era dandy Julian Kestrel (Cut to the Quick, A Broken Vessel, Whom the Gods Love, the Agatha-winning Devil in Music, "The Lullaby Cheat" in Crime through Time, and "The Unkindest Cut" in Past Poisons). Judges complained about Ross's legal briefs because of her skill as a writer—they were "too interesting." Ross died of cancer in 1998 at age 41.

Rebecca Rothenberg. This Agatha and Anthony nominee for The Bulrush Murders was a musician and epidemiologist, in addition to writing her series featuring microbiologist Claire Sharples (other books in the series include The Dandelion Murders, The Shy Tulip Murders, and The Tumbleweed Murders—the latter finished by Taffy Cannon). Rothenberg died in 1998 of a brain tumor at age 50.

• Barbara Burnett Smith. This Agatha nominee for Writers of the Purple Sage and Sisters in Crime past president followed her first novel with aspiring writer Jolie Wyatt with four others: Dust Devils of the Purple Sage, Celebration in Purple Sage, Mistletoe in Purple Sage, and Skeletons in Purple Sage. She also wrote the standalone Mauve & Murder and Bead on Trouble, which featured a sleuthing jewelry designer. She died in 2005 after she was hit by a car in San Antonio; she was 57.


Alyssa from John Grisham Novels said...

Kate Ross' demise was very unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

I adore Kate Ross' books, and I had no idea she did any short stories. Thanks for the heads up.


Martin Edwards said...

Good post. I am a big fan of Bowers and Caudwell in particular.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Thanks for all the comments. As the feedback on this post was very positive, I'll put some thought into crafting similar posts.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

I haven't read any of these authors. How can that be? Thank you for whetting my appetite. Sigh. The to be read pile just got a little larger.