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Bower, M. (1988). The case of the feminist detective. Free Associations, 1O(14):124-135.
(1988). Free Associations, 1O(14):124-135
The case of the feminist detective
Death by Analysis, by Gillian Slovo, Women's Press, 1986, 155 pages, £3.95
Detectives and psychoanalysts have a lot in common: the accumulation of evidence, the unravelling of clues, the mixture of logic and intuition which, it is to be hoped, leads to the truth. In fiction at least, there is an increasing emphasis on the in-depth understanding of suspects, rather than the scraps of cloth and dust so dear to Sherlock Holmes. Despite this there have been surprisingly few novels which link psychoanalysis and detection.
In Death by Analysis Gillian Slovo more than makes up for past omissions. The murder victim is a pseudo-psychoanalyst, the suspects are his patients, and the detective-heroine has been hired by her old psychotherapist to investigate the crime.
As an enthusiastic reader of detective novels and a patient in analysis, I seized on this book with interest. To my surprise I found it extremely dull and lacking in tension.1 I speculated on whether this was due to the rather wooden quality of the writing, but realized that high-quality writing has never been essential for a gripping detective novel.
In fact the whole question of the requirements of the traditional crime fiction genre is very topical at the moment, as it has become fashionable among feminist writers, of whom Slovo is one, to appropriate or reclaim the genre in their own image.
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