Hoch’s Ladies

January 2, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, writers, writing.

Throughout Edward Hoch’s long and prolific writing career as a mystery short story writer, he developed many recurring main characters, as we noted in last week’s newsletter. Most of these characters were male.

A few, however – three to be exact – were female, and they are worth noting in and of themselves.

In fact, there is a collection of the stories by Hoke that feature these three women. It is titled Hoch’s Ladies, and for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, it is a free downloadable volume.

Hoch’s Ladies is a collection of stories that feature

Annie Sears, a homicide detective in San Diego;

Libby Knowles, a former police officer who quit the force to become a private bodyguard;

Susan Holt, a merchandising executive for an international department store.

Each of these ladies is attractive, independent, and competent, and each of them gets into what we might say is typically Hochian plots and situations. Almost all of them involve solving some kind of murder.

As usual with Hoch’s stories, they are plot-heavy and character-light. 

The stories themselves can be fascinating, and they bear all of the hallmarks of the master himself.  One involves a prisoner on death row who is murdered in his cell just three hours before his execution–a locked room mystery with a twist. Another is about a man who is murdered in his house without the Intruder ever entering the structure. 

Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for the Washington Post, has written the introduction to Hoch’s Ladies, in which he says

While Hoch’s stories are inevitably clever, often, culminating in a double-whammy ending, they draw considerable energy and inspiration from unusual backgrounds, places, and occupations. For example, the plots and Hoch’s Ladies turn on weather prediction, race track construction, deerstalker caps, elite security systems, a Southwestern town’s cactus festival, Iceland’s use of steam heat, Christmas decorations in Japan, and an inexplicable stabbing death in a shower.

That’s the kind of thing you get from Edward Hoch. it’s never dull. 

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