For November's "Femme Fatale of Yesteryear" I'm going to talk about one who masqueraded under a masculine pseudonym. Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973) wrote as Anne Meredith and J. Kilmeny Keith, but she is best remembered as Anthony Gilbert. As Gilbert, her first detective-story hero was Scott Egerton, a rising young politician who appears in ten novels.
In 1936 she introduced shady Cockney lawyer Arthur Crook in Murder by Experts, and the die was cast. A rather unpleasant character in his debut, Crook became more appealing over time and appeared in fifty further novels. Known variously as "The Criminals' Hope" and "The Judges' Despair," Crook comes in to save the day when things look their bleakest. He is not the point-of-view character in the books but he is the one who sorts things out and sees that justice is done. Given to wearing off-the-rack brown suits and inhabiting a chaotic office in a disreputable part of town, Crook is extremely capable. His appearance and demeanor work in his favor because snobs who don't know any better tend to dismiss him -- to their eventual cost.
Anthony Gilbert was a founding member of the prestigious Detection Club which listed among its members such luminaries as Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Agatha Christie. The stories are deftly plotted, and Gilbert infuses her books with a wry wit that I find greatly appealing. Among the ones I've read, perhaps the funniest is Tenant for the Tomb (1971), with a delightfully dotty spinster character.
Some of the novels are inverted murders (i.e., like the television show "Columbo"), and she handles these as adroitly as she does the detective-story plots. She is a vastly entertaining writer who deserves (like the other writers in this series) to be much better known today.