Watching the fat detectives

When we talked about a guest blog, Laurie suggested that I might say a few words about sleuths of size, as I created one in my Josephine Fuller series and I have a list on my web page —including old time fun mysteries like Rex Stout’s fat, genius orchid-growing gourmet sleuth, Nero Wolfe, and Earl Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Cool, a hardboiled, plus sized private investigator with a heart of gold.

I couldn’t find any new entries in the past few years in the plus-sized sleuth department. But there is one fat activist sleuth out there–Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Odelia Grey. Sue Ann has managed a major accomplishment—she began by self publishing her books, and now they are being series reissued by a large publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide’s new Midnight Ink imprint. There’s also a television option for her series. Very exciting and encouraging! Susan Jaffarian

Some of the usual suspects—fat sleuths whose series started five to ten years ago—have new books coming out this year: Selma Eichler’s queen-sized Desiree Shapiro is still solving mysteries and living large in New York City; G.A. Mckevett’s Savannah Reid, an ex-cop fired for obesity, runs her own detective agency; and Denise Swanson’s heroine, Skye Denison, is a plus-sized, small-town school psychologist Skye Denison. Meanwhile in England, “Fat Andy” Dalziel in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series is still solving crimes in mid-Yorkshire.

Two African-American sleuths and one African private investigator, show very positive attitudes toward their plus-sized bodies:

Eleanor Taylor Bland, introduces her heroine in Dead Time: The First Marti MacAlister Mystery, as Marti, a plainclothes detective, walks confidently into a hostile crime scene, “At five ten and a hundred sixty pounds she was what her mother had called healthy. Her size pleased her and most people tended to move out of her way.”
An interesting interview of the author is at

Barbara Neely’s heroine, Blanche White, is described as “size 16” and quite content with her body, and her profession—working as a maid, and solving mysteries along the way. Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No. Ladies Detective Agency, is “traditionally built” and admired by all.

If anyone knows of more recent mysteries featuring sleuths of size, please speak up, because I want to read the books and review them!

<br /> Lynne Murray<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Nero Wolfe</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Odelia Grey</a><br /> <a href=" " rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Desiree Shapiro</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Savannah Reid</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Skye Denison</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Odelia Grey</a><br /> <a href=" " rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Marti MacAliste</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Blanche White</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Precious Ramotswe</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">mystery</a><br /> fat<br /> feminism<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Body Impolitic</a><br />

2 thoughts on “Watching the fat detectives

  1. Much as I adore Marti MacAlister, she just ain’t fat. I wish, wish, wish that authors would *stop* putting in specific numbers, because what they do instead is highlight for me how fat-phobic and size-unaware they are.

    “At five ten and a hundred sixty pounds she was what her mother had called healthy. Her size pleased her and most people tended to move out of her way.”

    5’10” & 160 pounds is a BMI of 23. Smack in the middle of “normal” weight. (Ignoring for now the whole stupidity of BMI, etc.)

    I’m 5’2″. I weigh 165-ish pounds. I am technically (BMI, again) obese. That makes me half a foot shorter than Marti, and 5 pounds heavier. And most people just don’t see me as fat. I do *not* buy that anyone sees Marti as fat, on the basis of the numbers provided by the author.

    This would be the point at which I pitch the book across the room and grumble to myself about fatphobia and realism and and and… *flail*

  2. You make an interesting point about stating weights. Sometimes, as an author that’s the way you choose to introduce the character. My own book-at-the-wall-throwing experience was reading mystery where the sleuth hesitated to get in the elevator with a woman who weighed “over 200 pounds”–like it would break the elevator cable right? Being well over that magical line in sand this irritated the hell out of me. So I started Larger Than Death by saying, “My name is Josephine Fuller and I’ve never weighed less than 200 pounds in my adult life–not counting the chip on my shoulder.” That became a mantra for me, and some audience at signings have been shocked to hear it.

    Other writers, notably Denise Swanson, write about fat heroines with more discretion. Swanson says “Skye is not a size 6.” Consequently, I never heard of her heroine being large till recently–ironically from a reader who was comparing her work favorably to novels (like mine) that have “an agenda.”

    My views are part of myself and my work, just as, I’m sure Swanson’s reticence is part of hers.

    I agree that the two African American authors I mentioned don’t seem to be aiming at size acceptance–that’s just one small fish in their fish fry. But their heroines accept their above-average bodies in a way that I liked.

    When I was younger, desperately trying to diet down to 160 pounds, and my body flatly refused (at 5’5″ I come from stocky peasant stock and I’m sure my body was thinking as someone said in a zine once, “we got through the famine of the winter of 1099 when all we had to eat was horse dung, we can do this”). That was a time when I would have appreciated hearing a woman of 160 pounds accept her size and enjoy the fact that people got out of her way. What I heard instead was, “You’ve lost weight–you need to lose more.” When I realized that weight loss obsession was a bottomless pit, I began to realize I had to climb out.

    And YES! I do want to people with bodies of all sizes to value themselves physically.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *