Ann Waldron admits to being inspired by the detective novels of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. Like Christie’s amateur detective Miss Marple, Waldron’s McLeod Dulaney has an advantage over professional detectives and police officers in that she can simply follow her intuitions and curiosity. The crimes committed in her community interest her precisely because they touch on her relationships with friends and colleagues. Dulaney differs from Miss Marple in that she is a trained journalist with a tough hide who does not mind being rebuffed by those she wants to interview. Like Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Dulaney works best in conversation with others, especially George Bridges, assistant to the president of Princeton, and Lieutenant Nick Perry, both of whom challenge her surmises and also build on her understanding of the cases she is determined to solve.
Dulaney may be an amateur sleuth situated in the comfortable—indeed self-congratulatory—ambiance of an Ivy League institution, but her southern take on her surroundings and years of experience at the Tallahassee Star make her a highly alert and shrewd observer of the criminal behavior lurking under the genteel veneer of university life. In other words, she does not take her environment for granted.