As far as female detectives go, Saga Noren, the Swedish detective in the Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge (currently on BBC4), is intellectually capable but emotionally stunted. Her attitude and demeanour are extremely reliable, but not always professional, as she doles out the same short, direct replies to victims’ families, witnesses and suspects alike. This is surprisingly convicting of the audience, as she in some ways is the embodiment of the law (at times she spurts out regulations like a Dragnet detective). The ‘human touch’ is provided by her male counterpart, the Danish detective Martin Rohde, who is Watson to her Holmes. But it is the reversal of gender stereotypes that is most striking. Whereas Marcia Muller’s female detective Sharon McCone was one of the first to operate in a post-feminist egalitarian society, where the female detective could be as tough as her male counterparts, The Bridge’s Saga and Martin draw attention to gender. Martin expresses emotion freely, even to his detriment: he loses his cool in the interrogation room, he is sympathetic and paternal (which leads him to a regrettable one-night stand), he is tied to his family and takes an active part in their home life and he is so honest with his wife that he can’t lie about cheating on her. Significantly, when Martin first appears he has just had a vasectomy, and, in one instance, he goes into a building unarmed with Saga brandishing a gun (this has to do with Swedish/Danish jurisdiction). The Bridge has its flaws, but I would recommend it to those interested in Crime Fiction and the female detective.
I will be teaching a course on the Female Detective– The Female Dick: Women in Crime Fiction– in January (2013) at The University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education.