A Woman's Eye Summary

A Woman’s Eye

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A WOMAN’S EYE is a collection of twenty-one new stories by women mystery writers. In all of these stories it is women who perform the highly rational task of detecting, a task which until recently was assigned to male characters.

As Paretsky points out in her introduction, traditionally the few fictitious detectives who were women, such as Dorothy Sayers’ Harriet Vane or Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, either were dependent on men or presented their deductions through men. They were not the assertive women created by present-day writers and represented in this collection. These women expect to be respected. It is not unusual that in Paretsky’s “Settled Score,” a police sergeant seeks the aid of V. I. Warshawsky, or that in “Looking for Thelma,” a huge ex-convict depends on Kate Baeier to sort out his life.

While the sleuths in A WOMAN’S EYE do represent a new type of protagonist, there are more differences than similarities between the other women characters in this collection. Some stories emphasize the vulnerability of women, for example, “Lucky Dip,” the first-person narrative of a homeless girl, and “Getting to Know You,” in which an investigator is threatened with rape. However, in others, as in “Looking for Thelma” and “A Man’s Home,” it is men who are the victims of women.

It is hardly surprising that stories from writers like Amanda Cross, Antonia Fraser, Faye Kellerman, and Carolyn G. Hart are skillfully constructed, with realistic settings and believable characters. However, Paretsky’s collection should also be praised for its intellectual honesty. Like their protagonists, the writers of these stories have rejected the temptation to prejudge either men or women; instead, like all good detectives, they have concentrated on the truth.