Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dupe: Liza Cody

This is the first book in the Anna Lee Mystery series by Liza Cody, published in 1980. It won the CWA's John Creasey award for best first novel and was an Edgar nominee for Best Novel. There are five more books in this series; Cody's next crime fiction series was about a female wrestler, Eva Wylie.

Description at goodreads...
Anna quit the London police force because it was a dead end for women, but her job with Brierly Security isn’t a whole lot livelier. Her boss doesn’t much approve of female investigators, and her assignments tend toward the frustratingly genteel. The Jackson case doesn’t look like a big improvement. Ambitious, unpleasant young Deirdre Jackson has died, the apparent victim of a car accident on a lonely stretch of highway, and her parents want to know what their black-sheep daughter was up to in her last few months. Anna’s job, she knows, is to ask a few questions, write a report, and collect the Jacksons’ check. But the more questions she asks about Dee’s life, the more questions arise about her death.
Unlike other female private investigators who were introduced in the early 1980's (by Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and Sara Paretsky), Anna Lee works for a security company and is not her own boss. She is the only female investigator in the office, and doesn't get the best assignments.

Some modern readers complain that the story is dated. That is what I like about reading a story written at this time, so no complaints from me in that area. The story centers around a group that produces black market films and Anna works undercover briefly as a projectionist, which I found interesting. Also, I worked in those times, and I know how women were treated in the workplace (not in all circumstances of course).

This is not an action-packed story although Anna was beaten up and loses a few teeth because she won't give up looking into the case. That is one of her best characteristics... she is obstinate in pursuing a case, although realistic. If her boss won't keep the case open, she knows she cannot continue on her own.

I enjoyed this book, and have ordered the 2nd one in the series. Long out of print, affordable copies are now available at

The female authors I mentioned above have had very nice things to say about Liza Cody. In a list at Pan Macmillan, Sue Grafton names Anna Lee as one of her top five fictional detectives (the other four are men). In a Guardian article, Sara Paretsky names Liza Cody as her favorite living author in her field. Marcia Muller wrote a very complimentary review of Dupe in 1001 Midnights, edited by Muller and Bill Pronzini.

In Martin Edward's review of Dupe:
This was one of those books I read in the eighties, and from which I sought a bit of inspiration, when I was thinking about what it took to write a fresh new mystery series. I liked Cody’s crisp, economical style of writing, the plausible way in which Anna and her colleagues were depicted, and the evocative way in which she depicted Anna Lee’s London.
I like how Liza Cody explains the process of writing this novel (at her website)...
At the very beginning all I wanted to do was to avoid my freezing, uninsulated studio, and look busy by the fire. 
I hadn't read a lot of detective fiction - just Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross McDonald - but I'd enjoyed the pace and the writing. I did, however, have very serious doubts about their views of women. On top of that part of the attraction was the US itself, which seemed like an exotic location where gunplay and casual violence were plausible; not at all like England which breeds a different kind of nastiness altogether. 
It made me wonder what would happen to an ordinary, competent English woman who happened to be a detective; someone who went unarmed, used the Yellow Pages a lot and got hurt when she was hit.
So I started small: I fitted an ex-police woman, Anna Lee, into a small detective agency on Kensington High Street and gave her an unimportant case. Then, sort of like a reader, I waited to see what happened. 
I'm a feminist and I tend to believe that ordinary, competent women can change the world if they want to. But back in the late '70s, early '80s it was as if they had to wait for male permission. 
Anna was a woman who was somewhat damaged by living and working in a man's world; she probably wouldn't have called herself a feminist - she would've just worked twice as hard and tried to be twice as good as the guys in order to be thought of as not quite equal.  
So the book, Dupe, as it developed, was never intended as a polemic. But it was intended to be a feminist story: to show the slights, insults and restrictions that ordinary, competent, intelligent women faced every day, especially those who worked in what at the time was seen as a man's world - a detective agency.


Publisher:   Bantam Crime Line, 1992 (orig. publ. 1980)
Length:       235 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Anna Lee, #1
Setting:      London
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book, in November 2005.


Anonymous said...

I need to try this series, Tracy. I always appreciate it when a book is really reflective of its times. And it's interesting to get a perspective on life as a PI in a security firm. It's different to life as a 'lone wolf.' I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I really enjoy books set in this time period: recent enough to seem 'modern' to me, and yet before cell phones and Google.

Thanks for the tip.

TracyK said...

I did like this book, Margot, and I hope you do try one of the series some time.

TracyK said...

I agree with you, Debbie. I like to read about earlier decades and especially like to get away from the use of computers and cell phones in mysteries.

Todd Mason said...

I've only read non-series short stories by Cody, and belatedly need to catch up with these...thanks.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Never heard of this series, Tracy. In fact, I hadn't even heard of the author until now. Anna Lee sounds like a really brave and determined investigator.

Anonymous said...

I like the sound of this one so will look it up. Her line of work as the lone female investigator should be interesting giving the times -Keishon

Mathew Paust said...

Intriguing, Tracy. Very much so, in fact. I do hope there's a Kindle version!

TracyK said...

I also just bought a copy of Lucky Dip, which is short stories by Cody, Todd. So I will be trying out her short stories also.

TracyK said...

She is still writing and publishing books, Prashant, and I plan to try some of her more recent books too.

TracyK said...

It was very interesting, Keishon. It reminded me of working for a government contractor in the late 70's -- the guys I worked with were nice (and mostly older like her co-workers) but there was still the element of sexism, especially in management.

TracyK said...

There is a Kindle version, Mathew. Glad you thought it could be interesting.

Clothes In Books said...

Interesting. I know just what you mean about wanting the details of the time, that's much of the joy. I have read something by her, but not this one I think.

TracyK said...

It is good to discover another author I want to read more of, Moira, but I just have too many to read. Very frustrating.