Amanda Cross Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Amanda Cross set out, with the invention of Kate Fansler, to reanimate a venerable but then neglected tradition within detective fiction: that of elegant armchair detection. Learning her lessons from the masters of the old school— Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, and Agatha Christie—Cross infused her whodunits with a healthy moral awareness. She chose the academic milieu, particularly well suited for the testing of ethical positions and social responsibilities, a place where personal and political rivalries can be intense but where murder itself is still a shock. Here, too, the detective can be appreciated as an individual of exceptional sensibility and imaginative power; in this world, in fact, the detective can be a woman.

Through Cross’s creation of Kate Fansler, a professor-sleuth, the art of literate conversation at last gained credence in the American detective novel. Through her, too, Cross worked out a dynamic balance between irony and earnestness, between romance and realism, and strove to create out of the detective-story conventions something more.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Boken, Julia G. Carolyn G. Heilbrun. New York: Twayne, 1996. Focuses on Heilbrun’s mysteries written as Amanda Cross, with secondary attention paid to her academic work written under her own name.

Coale, Samuel Chase. The Mystery of Mysteries: Cultural Differences and Designs. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 2000. A study of the mysteries of Amanda Cross, Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, and Walter Mosely, showing how these writers use the mystery genre to introduce the concerns of minorities into fiction.

“Cross, Amanda.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1998.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay examining the life and works of Cross.

Kress, Susan. Carolyn G. Heilbrun: Feminist in a Tenured Position. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997. One of the few studies that looks comprehensively at Heilbrun’s oeuvre, as both feminist literary scholar and mystery writer.

Lindsay, Elizabeth Blakesley, ed. “Amanda Cross.” In Great Women Mystery Writers. 2d ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Contains biographical information and analysis of the author’s works.

Malmgren, Carl D. Anatomy of Murder: Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2001. Malmgren discusses Cross’s A Trap for Fools alongside many other entries in the mystery and detective genre. Bibliographic references and index.

Reynolds, Moira Davison. Women Authors of Detective Series: Twenty-One American and British Authors, 1900-2000. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. Examines the life and work of major female mystery writers, including Cross.

Weigman, Robyn. “What Ails Feminist Criticism? A Second Opinion.” Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2 (1999): 362-379. Uses the Amanda Cross story “Murder Without a Text” (1991) as a case study in the tensions between two generations of feminists.