Phyllis A. Whitney Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Phyllis A. Whitney was one of the few mystery writers to excel in both adult and juvenile mysteries. In the sixty years after her first book appeared, she published seventy-six novels, twenty of them young-adult mysteries and thirty-nine of them adult mysteries. There is no incongruity in the Virginia State Reading Association presenting its Young Readers Award for 1997 to Whitney’s adult novel Daughter of the Stars (1994), as her mysteries can be read by every member of the family. Neither the romance nor the crime is graphic, and her characters inhabit a moral universe. Often an unsolved murder turns out to be a crime of passion or an accidental death, not a premeditated murder or a killing in cold blood. Keeping secrets has upset the balance of the universe. Once those involved give up their secrets, remorse rights the balance between right and wrong.

Whitney holds her readers by telling a good story. She spins a plot full of action and unexpected developments while allowing her heroine to grow emotionally and psychologically. Whitney was known for using a location as if it were a character. Her thorough research of a location and its history provided not only a colorful background but also important clues to the solution of the mystery. Whitney’s novels were consistently ranked as best sellers throughout her career and have been published in twenty-four languages.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

DuBose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. These essays look at the lives and works of early writers such as Mary Robert Rinehart, Golden Age writers such as Agatha Christie, and modern writers such as Mary Higgins Clark. While Whitney is not covered, the biographies of women of her generation shed light on her work.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Women Times Three: Writers, Detectives, Readers. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1995. These essays on books about female detectives authored by women, while not discussing Phyllis Whitney directly, shed light on her fiction, as they cover both older and newer masters of the genre.

Whitney, Phyllis. Guide to Fiction Writing. Boston: The Writer, 1982. Whitney’s guide, intended to instruct would-be authors, reveals a great deal about her motivations for writing and her process.

Whitney, Phyllis. “Letter to a Young Writer.” Writer 120, no. 2 (February, 2007): 38-39. In her letter to a young writer, she urges the writer not to be too self-critical and to produce that first novel, whether great or not.

Whitney, Phyllis. Phyllis A. Whitney: The Official Web Site. The official Web site for Phyllis Whitney. Contains synopses of all of her books as well as information about the author.