Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gumshoe Moms by Evelyn David

Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.

Marian, who lives in New York, is delighted to be attending her third Malice.

Rhonda, who lives in Oklahoma, attends vicariously. They are the authors of the Sullivan Investigations series.

Murder Off the Books was published in 2007.

Murder Takes the Cake made its debut at Malice on May 1, 2009. Please visit their website at

Gumshoe Moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, we thought we’d pay tribute to those fictional amateur sleuths who are Moms. We’d send each a virtual breakfast in bed, some roses, maybe a hand-made card or two from their offspring.

But as the two halves of Evelyn David went through the list of popular female protagonists, it became abundantly clear that parenthood and sleuthing don’t mix. Yes, our own protagonist, Rachel Brenner, has Sam, a freshman in college.

But sad to say, Sam’s not a particularly attentive son, so we wouldn’t bet on him calling 1-800-Flowers anytime soon.

But then we got stuck trying to find Moms who are detectives. Miss Marple, the darling, was most decidedly childless. So too are Jessica Fletcher, Pam North, Nora Charles, Stephanie Plum, Kinsey Millhone, and Annie Darling. The list goes on and on. These women may have significant others, perhaps share home and hearth with dogs and cats, but no kids.

To be fair, it’s not that there are many detective Dads either.

Playing detective means following the clues – whenever and wherever they lead.

But if you have to worry about finding a sitter before you can confront a suspect or track down what turns out to be a red herring – then the story may go off into different directions. We’ve yet to hear a detective on a stakeout agonize over getting two dozen cupcakes ready for the PTA bake sale (although word to the wise: Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins are a perfectly fine substitute for homemade goodies).

And yet, motherhood is probably the best training for being a detective short of going to the FBI Training Academy at Quantico. Think about it. A good mother is:

(1) A master at noticing details.

a. Personal grooming defects: She knows exactly the number of hours since last tooth brushing and whether or not a shirt was worn one day or three.

b. Odd odors: The super sniffer can detect a soiled diaper and 10-day-old leftover pizza under the bed without entering the room.

c. Identifying physical characteristics and clothing: She can accurately estimate the height, to the quarter inch, of the subject, as well as the exact color, style, and price of the criminals' outfits.

(2) Great at detecting lies and interrogating suspects.

a. Moms can find the inconsistencies in a subject's retelling of events with laser-like accuracy.

b. With a well-practiced stare and guilt-infusing declarations, experienced mothers can elicit confessions ranging from minor transgressions to multiple counts of murder.

c. Mothers have a wide-ranging social network with lots of "snitches" from which they can obtain rebuttal evidence.

(3) Appreciative of long, quiet, hours spent alone on stakeouts.

a. After creating Halloween costumes for multiple kids, most moms have plenty of outfits for disguises.

b. After years of staying up with sick babies, mothers have enough patience to maintain a 24-hour surveillance without getting bored or nodding off.

c. After filling day planners with detailed school events, music lesson schedules, and overlapping medical appointments for the brood, keeping good, legible stakeout notes with timelines on one suspect is a breeze.

Happy Mother's Day to all the fictional and real mothers out there. Maybe next year you'll be wearing gumshoes and a dark trenchcoat in a whodunit of your own.


Carol Murdock said...

Great post Kaye! I never thought about the Mom/Detective role!


Lesa said...

Very nice! Mom's should be perfect detectives. Sara Rosett's Ellie Avery, an air force wife and mother, fits this role perfectly. It's one of the aspects of those mysteries that I like. Ellie doesn't neglect her children in order to investigate.


Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post! Not something I'd thought about before.

I'm currently reading Deborah Crombie's series in which BOTH protags are police officers and juggling the needs of their two boys is a major and humanizing element in the story.

Life is definitely easier for the sleuth with few responsibilities.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

A big ol' welcome to my friend(s) Evelyn David!

And Whiskey. Is that the most ADORABLE doggie ever?! And being a fan of hats, I must say - Whiskey wears them well. Harley bit me the one and only time I tried to get him to wear a hat.

The Stiletto Gang said...

Thanks so much for hosting "Evelyn David" today. Meanderings and Muses is a wonderful place to visit. Whiskey thanks you for noticing her new red hat. She likes a variety.

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Anonymous said...

Great blog, and good luck with the new book!

A special hello to Rhonda, a fellow Oklahoman!

Pat Browning
Krill Press 2008

Bo Parker said...

Amateur sleuth who is also a mom? I’ve got to put in a plug for my neighbor, Maria Hudgins, who was seen hanging out with Hank Ryan at Malice. Maria is the creator of the Dotsy Lamb Mystery Series from Five Star.
Her amateur sleuth, Dotsy Lamb, passes the mom test with flying colors. Doty has the experience of raising three or four kids. I don’t remember the exact number. And her position as a college history professor keeps her smelling-out-a-rat skills honed to perfection.
And when Dotsy wants to go off on a 24-hour stakeout, there’s no need for a baby-sitter or an explanation to anyone. The kids are grown and out of the house and Dotsy is recently divorced.
Bo Parker

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I enjoyed your post, and realized I've been living the life you've described. I've been working on a true crime memoir for seven years, while raising my children, and surviving breast cancer along the way. I retired from the police department so I could spend more time with my children and work on my book, which centers around a half-century old unsolved murder that my grandmother told me about when I was a child. I reviewed the case as a police officer, but after realizing that no one had the case, I worked on it "off duty" and continued after retiring. My kids have been growing up watching me follow leads, interview witnesses, and they've even gone on trips to the cemetery to find the victim's final resting place (my husband took a photo of me standing next to his gravestone, and you can see the kids in the pick up truck behind me; they're playing their Game Boys).
It has been strange to go from a PTA meeting to track down eyewitnesses, conduct research, write, do laundry, explore clues, cook, clean, help with homework, interview retired cops -- juggling life itself. It's been a labor of love.
Happy Mother's Day to all!

The Stiletto Gang said...

Wow, Kathleen, I can't wait to read your book. I think your experience as both a police officer and a Mom gives you an edge in solving crimes.

Thanks to Kaye for hosting Evelyn David -- and for your support and encouragement of our writing!

I'm just back from Malice. Exhausted with a ton of laundry, but absolutely delighted with the weekend. You've got to put it on your calendar - it's such a warm, fun event. For a group that loves murder and mayhem, they also love to laugh :-)

Marian the Northern half of Evelyn David

Peggy Ehrhart said...

This is a great post! Yes, moms do a lot of sleuthing. My son is almost 30 and, being a guy, not very communicative with his mom. I have to confess I've searched out his Myspace page just to see what he's up to lately.

I had a great time hanging out with you at the Literacy Banquet and Malice Domestic, Marian (Evelyn). See you again soon!


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I too never thought of Moms being detectives. I was never a Mom but I think I would made a good detective.