#NonFicNov Review: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton


Title: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets & Lies in the Golden Age of Crime

Author: Susannah Stapleton

Published: June 13th 2019, Picador

Status: Read November 2019


My Thoughts:

I have Cleopatra Loves Books to thank for putting this fascinating title on my radar.

While reading a novel set in the ‘Golden Age of Crime Fiction’ featuring a female sleuth, Susannah Stapleton, a former bookseller, archeologist, and historical researcher, began to wonder if there really were lady detectives working during the early 20th century. An online search eventually revealed the name of one, Maud West.

Maud West, Stapleton was to learn, was a lady detective in London who established her agency in about 1905. She claimed in advertisements published in 1909 to be the principal of a high-class firm with both male and female staff, offering services to those in need of private enquiries into delicate matters. A little more research yielded several articles not only in the British press but also in international newspapers from countries as far afield as America, Australia and India, which provided further details about Maud, and her sensational career. Intrigued by the stories, Stapleton continued to dig deeper, however she soon found that Maud West was an astonishingly complex woman, and the truth about her perhaps more elusive than the most slippery private detective’s quarry.

Between chapters that illustrate Stapleton’s painstaking research process and her incredible findings, the author includes reprints of articles written by Maud West for a tabloid broadsheet detailing her supposed exploits as a lady detective. It is a rather unconventional narrative, but it results in an entertaining and easy read. The book is further enhanced by the inclusion of photographs and newspaper excerpts, and Stapleton also provides some social history for context.

I really enjoyed The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective. The woman herself is a fascinating figure, and Stapleton’s pursuit of her life story makes for compelling reading.


Read an Excerpt

Available from Pan Macmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whatsnonfiction
    Nov 19, 2019 @ 20:04:59

    This one does sound fascinating! I like that she just got curious while reading and ended up being able to write a book about what she researched.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Aj @ Read All The Things!
    Nov 20, 2019 @ 01:43:41

    I’ve heard good things about this book. I think one of the BookTubers I follow is currently reading it? I’ve always been interested in true crime, so I should probably add this one to the TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person


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