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Contemporary Feminist Historical Crime Fiction [Hardcover]

Rosemary Erickson Johnsen

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Book Description

Aug. 3 2006
This book is the first scholarly study to focus exclusively on the growing subgenre of historical crime fiction. By examining the feminist interventions of contemporary women writers working in this subgenre, Johnsen advances the existing critical discussion of women's crime fiction. The writers studied here bring research expertise to bear on their chosen historical settings, creating a powerful but widely accessible statement about women in history. Seven history-mystery series provide the main focus; their settings range from twelfth century France to twentieth century Ireland, but all of them feature female investigators, well-constructed mystery plots, and intriguing historical detail.  This study demonstrates how these writers change readers' thinking about women in past and present times through their sophisticated textual practices.

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"This is an engaging book that is the first substantial study of historical crime fiction and persuasively advances feminist theory. Johnsen demonstrates how representative works within the genre employ feminist historiography to link women's writing with political awareness. She primarily focuses on the series of seven historical crime writers because they are well-researched, employ effective narrative strategies, contain well-constructed crime plots, and invite the reader to treat them as a launching pad for further exploration of the moments in women's history that these works have explored in a fictional mode."--Martha Reineke, University of Northern Iowa
"Spoiler alert! Johnsen reveals endings and reads beyond them in this serious look at popular series. Selecting fictions which from the early l990s placed female sleuths in historical settings, she judges their effect in the world by a feminist measure: do they exploit the power of fiction to enable change? Sociable mystery readers will be delighted to engage this provocative study at the same time theorists of historical fiction will discover a sturdy intersection with feminist analysis."--Jo Ellyn Clarey, The Drood Review
"In settings that range from twelfth century France to late twentieth century Ireland, Johnsen takes us on a fascinating tour through feminist historical crime fiction. She has done all the work of locating the true gems in this intriguing recent genre of feminist writing, and she will send you out in search of some of these wonderful books you will want to read right now. Johnsen succeeds in persuading this historian of "true-crime" narratives that historical crime fiction has much to teach us, not only about women's history, and about what she calls the "gender content of traditional structures in fiction," but about the power of the historically grounded imagination to inspire present and future feminist action. Quite an achievement!"--Mary S. Hartman, Director, Institute for Women's Leadership, Rutgers University, co-founder of the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women and author of Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes 

About the Author

Rosemary Erickson Johnsen is Assistant Professor of English at Governors State University.

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