Antonia Fraser Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Lady Antonia Fraser has followed the tradition of such British mystery writers as Dorothy L. Sayers, Emma Lathen, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, and Patricia Highsmith. Using her knowledge of the British aristocracy, history, Parliament, royalty, entertainment and literary circles, television, and contemporary affairs, she has introduced various issues along with a rich blend of characters. As a heroine, Jemima Shore is a mixture of the traditional and contemporary woman caught up in often extraordinary circumstances. Some of these adventures are handled with black humor; all are dramatic and suspenseful. Developing a mystery series after writing several successful historical biographies has helped Fraser provide richness of characters and settings. The drama of real life has been successfully transferred to the mystery setting, and readers will perceive the changes in contemporary Great Britain much more easily after reading this series, which has captured the sense and complexity of that modern society.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Craig, Patricia, and Mary Cadogan. “A Curious Career for a Woman?” In The Lady Investigates: Women Detectives and Spies in Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981. A somewhat dated but still informative article, written at a time when women writing in the detective genre tended toward gentility.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Discusses more than one hundred women writing in the mystery genre, including Fraser.

Knight, Stephen. Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Devotes a chapter to gender in detective fiction. Knight contrasts “designer-style” Jemima Shore with her more hard-boiled rivals, such as Val McDermid’s Kate Brannigan.

Mann, Jessica. Deadlier than the Male: Why Are So Many Respectable English Women So Good at Murder? New York: Macmillan, 1981. The author, herself a well-known member of the cohort she examines, probes the lives of Christie, Sayers, Marsh, and others of a remarkably similar background. Fraser unquestionably belongs in this unlikely club.

Rowland, Susan. From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2001. While this study does not discuss Fraser at length, it does provide context and relevant exploration of gender and colonialism.