The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective
Maud West ran her detective agency in London for more than thirty years, having started sleuthing on behalf of society’s finest in 1905. Her exploits grabbed headlines throughout the world but, beneath the public persona, she was forced to hide vital aspects of her own identity in order to thrive in a class-obsessed and male-dominated world. And – as Susannah Stapleton reveals – she was a most unreliable witness to her own life.
Who was Maud? And what was the reality of being a female private detective in the Golden Age of Crime?
Interweaving tales from Maud West’s own ‘casebook’ with social history and extensive original research, Stapleton investigates the stories Maud West told about herself in a quest to uncover the truth.
With walk-on parts by Dr Crippen and Dorothy L. Sayers, Parisian gangsters and Continental blackmailers, The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective is both a portrait of a woman ahead of her time and a deliciously salacious glimpse into the underbelly of ‘good society’ during the first half of the twentieth century.
In the media
A deliciously entertaining, meticulous and affectionate investigation into one of the great unsung heroines of British detection, our very own real life, female Sherlock Holmes. Criminally good. It's impossible not to love this book.
Susannah Stapleton’s debut is a powerhouse of a book, both a biography of one of the first women detectives, and a portrait of the Jazz Age, that society perched uncomfortably between Victoria and modernism. But her more profound achievement is in encouraging her readers to follow along as she goes about the business of the historian and biographer, permitting us to watch history being uncovered in real time. The Adventures of Maud West is, as one suspects Maud herself was, sweet, and wonderful company, and absolutely determined to discover the truth.
Susannah Stapleton’s dogged sleuthing of Maud’s own complicated, messy, spunky life reveals the wider story of a little-explored sliver of life between the wars: female detection with all its risks, boredoms, tawdry deceptions, disguises and necessary seductions. I loved it.
I rocketed through this terrific book. A brilliant literary sleuth (author Susanna Stapleton) tracks down a real one, uncovering a flabbergasting hidden life along the way. And if you thought that detective novels exaggerate the amount of inter-war crime, you are wrong
Lissa Evans, author of Old Baggage and Crooked Heart