Loveday Brooke is a genuine Victorian lady detective. By that, I mean that she was created in the Victorian period by Catherine Louisa Pirkis. Many of the different adventures (The Black Bag Left On a Doorstep; The Murder at Troyte’s Hill; The Redhill Sisterhood; A Princess’s Vengeance; Drawn Daggers and The Ghost of Fountain Lane) were first published in the Ludgate Monthly in 1893. In 1894, these stories and Missing were put together to produce the book, The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective which was Pirkis’s fourteenth and last book.
The stories have been criticized because there is no character development with Loveday but it is important to take into consideration that atmosphere and plot or solving the puzzle are what make these stories work and, for me, the fact that that we know little about Loveday makes the stories all the more intriguing.
So what do we know about Loveday? She dresses in black and is “almost Quaker like”in her attire. She is of average height, medium colouring and nondescript looking. We know that when she is concentrating she droops her eyelids over her eyes until she seems to be peering out through slits. In essence, Loveday is perfect for going undercover and not being noticed. We also know that poverty was beckoning to her like the grim reaper but she did not meekly follow it, no, she laughed in the face of Victorian society and re-invented herself by finding work in a Fleet Street agency. There have been criticisms that we do not know why Loveday suddenly faced poverty. Again, I feel that as I read the stories, this makes her more mysterious, like the later Albert Campion by Margery Allingham. In effect, Loveday Brooke is somewhat an enigma and that is one of the reasons why the stories the stories work.
Another winning factor for me with Loveday is that she uses logic to solve the crimes instead of relying on feminine wiles as women often have to do in fiction for some strange reason. In The Murder at Troyte’s Hill, Griffiths of the Newcastle Constabulary is asking Loveday to explain one or two things about the case to him.
“Put your questions to me in categorical order,” said Loveday.
For women and men the world over who wince at the stereotypical dotty female portrayed in fiction; this has to be a triumph and it was actually written in the Victorian era which makes it all the more delicious.
For anyone who loves the atmosphere of the Victorian era and the female detective, I would suggest that you lose yourselves in the atmosphere of The Murder at Troyte’s Hill ( by following this link) in which Loveday goes to work undercover in the country house.
What do you think – does Loveday Brooke work for you as a Victorian lady detective?