Maud West ran her detective agency in London for more than thirty years, having started sleuthing on behalf of society’s finest in 1905. Her exploits grabbed headlines throughout the world but, beneath the public persona, she was forced to hide vital aspects of her own identity in order to thrive in a class-obsessed and male-dominated world. And – as Susannah Stapleton reveals – she was a most unreliable witness to her own life.
Who was Maud? And what was the reality of being a female private detective in the Golden Age of Crime?
Interweaving tales from Maud West’s own ‘casebook’ with social history and extensive original research, Stapleton investigates the stories Maud West told about herself in a quest to uncover the truth.
With walk-on parts by Dr Crippen and Dorothy L. Sayers, Parisian gangsters and Continental blackmailers, The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective is both a portrait of a woman ahead of her time and a deliciously salacious glimpse into the underbelly of ‘good society’ during the first half of the twentieth century.
If you are inclined to regard the “Golden Age” detective stories as obviously a fantasy form – and never more fantastic than when the sleuth is a woman, Susannah Stapleton’s book will astound you. “Maud West” was a real woman detective, but her story blurs the margin between possible truth and impossible invention till your head spins. If you are susceptible to Miss Marple and Harriet Vane you must read The Adventures of Maud West. You will never know the difference between fact and fiction again.
Jill Paton Walsh, author of the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries
I rocketed through this terrific book. A brilliant literary sleuth (author Susannah Stapleton) tracks down a real one, uncovering a flabbergasting hidden life along the way. And if you thought that detective novels exaggerate the amount of inter-war crime, you are wrong.
Lissa Evans, author of Old Baggage and Crooked Heart
A deliciously entertaining, meticulous and affectionate investigation into one of the great unsung heroines of British detection, our very own real life, female Sherlock Holmes. Criminally good. It's impossible not to love this book.
Mel McGrath, author of Give Me the Child and The Guilty Party