I’ve recently been reading some Australian crime novels! The standout authors for me have been Katherine Howell and Kathryn Fox. I sometimes refer to them as the two katherines because I get them mixed up, I’m sorry my friends.
Crimes happen, ladies get attacked and sometimes murdered. We’re talking about crime novels, of course ladies get attacked (Not that I approve of this! And neither does my friend Fi, you can read her opinion on this in Women in Boxes). But unlike most crime novels, ladies are saved, misogyny is discussed, we don’t have to read about the assaults in detail, and excellent women do some excellent work.
The feminism in these books is explicit. In Deserving Death (by Katherine Howell), Detective Ella is talking to the ex-housemate of a murder victim. He was asked to leave the house because he kept asking his housemate to date him. Sulkily, he says: “In movies, the guy who’s determined always wins in the end. But it’s not true.”
“That’s because it only works in movies, Ella thought. In real life it’s called stalking.”
I shrieked when I read this line. It’s so unusual to have creepy, horrible behaviour called out in crime novels.
Kathryn Fox’s protagonist, forensic physician Anya, is so woman- and victim-centric it’s a pleasure to read her stories. In Death Mask, Anya explicitly looks at, researches and talks about pack behaviour in male-dominated team sports, what that means at a greater societal level, and how that reflects on treatment towards women. She talks in depth about the burden placed on the victim in assault cases, emotionally and physically, and although going into it I thought I understood, I appreciated this look at it.
Anya also goes in depth into the science behind forensics, and gathering evidence for assault cases, and it’s excellent to not only have this lady-centric science and scientists, but to use science as a way of deflecting the horror of constant lady attacks. I appreciate it.
Katherine Howell spent 15 years as a paramedic; Kathryn Fox was a medical doctor. It shows, and I love it.
I rarely read crime novels, and I started off reading these for work; but I’m genuinely enjoying them and bought a Kathryn Fox novel to give to someone as a Christmas present. If only all crime novels could be this respectful to women and science; I’d probably read them more.
ETA: Liz talks about the whiteness of the Katherine Howell books at her other blog.