The first ever female detective in British fiction will appear on book shelves once again

  • To be published 10 October 2012

‘Criminals are both masculine and feminine – indeed, my experience tells me that when a woman becomes a criminal she is far worse than the average of her male companions, and therefore it follows that the necessary detectives should be of both sexes.’

- Miss Gladden, The Female Detective

Next week the British Library will publish Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective, the first novel to feature a professional female detective in British fiction. This new publication will be the first trade edition of the novel since its original publication in 1864.

Typical of detective fiction at the time, Forrester’s book features various cases narrated by the ‘original lady detective’, ‘Miss Gladden’, where she applies her considerable energy and intelligence to solve crimes. ‘G’, as she is often referred to, enters crime scenes incognito, tracking down killers while trying to conceal her own tracks and her identity from others. For all the intrigue and interest of the stories, little is ever revealed about Gladden herself, and her personal circumstances remain a mystery throughout.

The book is well ahead of its time in the history of detective fiction since and there were no other novels featuring female detectives until the turn of the century. Miss Gladden’s character itself is pioneering – when The Female Detective was first published there were no official female detectives in Britain and no women police officers either.

Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, wrote the foreword for the book: “This book has a claim to be the beginning of a rich and continuing tradition in crime literature of the female detective,” he writes. “At the time at which The Female Detective was written, of course, things were very different. The relegation of women to a subservient position within society meant that it was a novel thing for women in the investigation of crime… Society may be becoming more androgynous, but the niche occupied by the female detective will continue to be a rich source of literary pleasure.”

Andrew Forrester is the pseudonym of James Redding Ware (1832– c.1909). During his early career he wrote a number of detective stories. Others included Secret Service, or, Recollections of a City Detective (1864), The Private Detective and Revelations of the Private Detective (both c.1868). He also wrote a story called A Child Found Dead: Murder or No Murder, which features in The Female Detective, and is an analysis of the Constance Kent murder case described in the best-selling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (Kate Summerscale, 2010).

Notes to Editors

The Female Detective is published on 10 October 2012.

Price £8.99 / 328 pages / ISBN 9780712358781

The book will be available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: and online at

The Female Detective is also available as a Kindle ebook for £2.99.

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For more information:

Elsie King
The British Library
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Alice Carter
The British Library
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