Seasoned-Citizen Sleuths

I was delighted to moderate a panel discussion at the Malice Domestic 35 conference held in Bethesda, Maryland last week. Our topic was entitled: Not Her First Crime Scene: Older Characters and Classic Tropes.

Left to right: Sally Handley, Nancy G. West, Libby Klein, Gabrielle St. George, Judy Murray

The distinguished panel included four award-winning authors whose sleuths are all women of a certain age who’ve experienced their share of life’s ups and downs:
Nancy G. West, whose Aggie Mundeen, is pushing forty,
Libby Klein, whose Poppy Blossom McAllister is caught in a 40-year old funk,
Gabrielle St. George whose Gina Malone is nearly 50, and
Judy Murray whose Helen Morrisey is in her fifties.

While many mystery lovers got our start reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, at some point, we moved on from those teen-age heroines to become fans of Jane Marple and older, more mature sleuths right on up to the beloved Jessica Fletcher.

In spite of those more mature heroine sleuths, our panel discussed how few series feature older female sleuths. Each of the panelists expressed a desire to show that mature women remain vibrant and have a lot to offer the worlds they inhabit.

The panelists also challenged the negative connotations associated with the word ‘trope’. We concluded that the infinitely imaginative and creative approaches writers bring to common mystery tropes are exactly what make the mystery genre so loved by readers.

In conclusion, I quoted Christina Romeril, author of the Killer Chocolate Mysteries, who says, “Mature sleuths such as Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher have been cozy mystery staples for many generations, and there’s a reason for this. They are likeable and invoke a feeling of connection and community within their cozy settings.”

I was especially pleased to moderate this panel since my sleuths, the Donnelly sisters, are 55 and 53 when we meet them in Second Bloom, the first book in the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. And I’m very happy to report that with 40% of the cozy and traditional mystery readership consisting of women 40 and older, it certainly appears that the seasoned citizen sleuth is here to stay!

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