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Detective Fiction: A Suitable Job for a Woman

Erella Daor reports on a lecture by Rivka Bar Yosef: Detective stories—a genre only about 200 years old—hinge on a murder, investigation, pursuit and the solving of the crime; on a disturbance of the social order and the desire on the part of the hero/detective, to restore order. The question of whether sleuthing is a suitable job for a woman comes from the perception that mysteries can only be solved by unflagging pursuit of logic.

Feminist critics can observe trends in English-language detective literature written by women from the early Baroness D’Orczy to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers to contemporaries such as Carolyn Heilbrun, Sara Paretsky, Patricia Cornwall and Karen Kijewski. Their female detectives have a female sensitivity to social wrongs; they identify and empathize with victims; they don’t hesitate to connect emotionally, to express their feelings, to cry or admit their fears. At the same time, these detectives are not successful in long-term partner relationships: Those that were married are divorced, as though the modern male is still not a supportive and equal partner to the modern woman.

The two best known female Israeli mystery writers are Bayta Gur and Shulamit Lapid. Bar Yosef suggests the genre in Israel is young; we will have to wait to see if the distinctive trends in gender roles apply here as well.