Gillian Slovo Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Eprile, Tony. “Settling Scores.” Review of Red Dust, by Gillian Slovo. The New York Times, April 28, 2002. Finds the novel gripping though at times one-dimensional.

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

Munt, Sally R. Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel. London: Routledge, 1994. Discusses feminism and socialism in various female crime writers, including Slovo. Focuses on racial issues, including the role of Carmen in the early books in the Kate Baeier series. Indexed.

Shiach, Morag. “Domesticating the Detective.” In Women Voice Men: Gender in European Culture, edited by Maya Slater. Exeter, England: Intellect, 1997. Discusses the home life of female detectives in fiction, including Kate Baeier’s relationship with her boyfriend.

Slovo, Gillian. Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997. Slovo describes growing up in a family where her parents were committed to a greater cause. Provides clues to the ambivalence present in her mysteries and other writings.

Winston, Robert P. “Gillian Slovo.” In Great Women Mystery Writers, Classic to Contemporary, edited by Kathleen Gregory Klein. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Compares Slovo to Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton. Discusses the political aspects of her early novels. Provides biographical information.