In the 1980’s, Gillian Slovo became one of a growing number of female mystery novelists writing about young female detectives. However, her detective, Kate Baeier, is rare among these characters because she is not only a feminist but also a socialist. The result is a detective series in which, at least initially, politics comes to the fore and the characters earnestly discuss such things as the relation between the personal and the political. As the series progresses, the politics tend to fade away and even to be renounced at times, creating a somewhat disorienting effect, but what remains constant is the portrayal of Kate as a loner in a hostile universe.
Slovo’s most successful crime novel, Red Dust (2000), goes beyond the Kate Baeier series by successfully merging political and personal themes. In it Slovo moves away from hard-edged politics to explore the subtleties of South African society. Red Dust retains the crime novel form and carries readers along through the deft plotting Slovo learned while producing the Kate Baeier novels, but it aims at deeper things than plot and is more successful than the series novels in attaining them.