My copy of Dupe came as a battered, yellowing paperback through Bookmooch: completely unassuming, a bit like main character Anna Lee, an ex-policewoman turned detective in the late 1970s London.
She’s not your glamorous, dabbling genius-cum-detective à la Sherlock Holmes, not your professional wise-ass gumshoe à la Dashiell Hammett, not your exotic, stylish detective with OCD à la Hercule Poirot or your amateur countryside old maid à la Miss Marple, not at all…
Rather a banal employee of Brierly Security, a discreet office in Kensington High Street. She sits for hours following people and gets a cold out of it. She finds her information in yellow pages. And if a baddie wants to stop her, she first thinks of running rather than fighting, and if she can’t, she gets badly hurt. It’s a very realistic detective story set in the British movie world, that comes out quite unglamorous.
Anna Lee also has the disadvantage of being a woman in a “man’s world”, so that her boss only gives her uninteresting cases to work on. I found it quite telling that Anna Lee resigned from the London police because as a woman it was a dead-end job, “especially as [she] could type”, because male colleagues would always come to her for secretarial jobs and nothing more. Even in her new detective job, she has to fight to prove herself and nobody expects her to do a good job. I guess there’s more suspense in the feminist theme of the book than in the plot itself, which is too realistic to move forward in sudden revelations but rather follows a methodical line of deduction.
Anna Lee is a character you can easily relate to as a professional woman (of course, things have luckily got better). She’s the British sister of Sarah Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and equally enjoyable. I’m looking forward to her next adventures.