The Mysterious Bookshop


Little Old Ladies Solving Crimes Part Two

Ah, but there’s more little old ladies solving crimes than Marple, Fletcher, or Withers! Heron Carvic (pen name/stage name, born Geoffrey Rupert William Harris) created Miss Seeton as a gentle parody of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in a series of five novels from 1968 to 1975.  He was also an accomplished actor, appearing in Doctor Who, The Hobbit,  and The Avengers, among others.  He also ran away from Eton, for which he may or may not deserve kudos.  I wonder how many deserters they’ve had over the nearly six hundred years the school has been in operation?

Miss Seeton, a retired art teacher, works with (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say ‘works at’) Inspector Delphick and Bob Ranger once the proper and somewhat befuddled woman finds herself entangled in the seamier side of life, usually after a murder has taken place.  A lady of late middle age and an unconventional spinster (and good riddance to that term), she’s got a can-do spirit and has thwarted more than one would-be murderer with her trusty umbrella.  A kind of modern cozy, these tales are well past the Golden Age and so have an edgier feel to them, but certainly some of the characters are somewhat harsher than those found in older cozies.  Miss Seeton, as an art teacher, has an undeniable facility for drawing suspects and crime scenes, this sure comes in handy!  She’s nosy, somewhat naive, and a bit chauvinistic in a way that only the British can be, which qualities lend themselves well to the humorous aspects of the series.


Dorothy Gilman wrote fourteen novels featuring Mrs. Pollifax, a widow in her sixties.  When her husband dies, she unravels into a depression and, lacking a purpose in life other than her gardening club, offers herself up to the CIA as perhaps the Agency’s unlikeliest spy.  Their reaction is, shall we say, skeptical, but she’s accidentally recruited and with her common sense and moxie eventually gets the job done and is off on her missions. By and large the stories are adventurous travelogues which send the dowager spy off to various far-flung locales.


Miss Maud Silver is a retired governess. (Can governesses ever retire?)  She looks like any other harmless little old lady, but she’s really a tough investigator often involved in implausible plots who works closely with Scotland Yard. Some readers feel that she’s an early feminist model while some aver that she is not a credible character and that no elderly person could do what she does.  Don’t listen to them, judge for yourself!   Patricia Wentworth (pen name of Dora Amy Elles) wrote thirty-two adventures to choose from and they have a wide range to them, covering as they do the 1920s into the 1960s.


Most every fictitious woman sleuth over the age for forty or so is inevitably compared to Miss Marple, but no two detectives are created equal, so check out a few; the characters we’ve covered here just scratch the surface of some of the overlooked little old ladies of crime fiction!

The fourth of the five Miss Seeton tales that series creator Heron Carvic wrote, wherein the Bank of England and the Home Office find themselves in a spot of bother.


Questions/Comments/An ever-present brolly?

Written by Ian Kern — October 27, 2017

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

Located at 58 Warren St in New York City, we are open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm. 212.587.1011

Sign up for our newsletter! Click on the tab at the top of the site to learn more!