British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis (1841-1910) wrote many short stories and some 14 novels between 1877 and 1894, before she essentially gave up writing in favor of marriage and animal charity work (she and her husband helped found the National Canine Defence League). She is best known for her stories featuring female detective Loveday Brooke, with the first such tale published in Ludgate Monthly magazine in 1893. The Loveday Brooke stories were compiled into the volume The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective in 1894, which was to be the author's last published book.
Loveday Brooke was one of the more popular female detectives among the explosion of mystery stories that followed the success of Sherlock Holmes, and the character is said to be the first female detective penned by a female author. Unlike other female detectives of the day (mostly those created by men), Loveday is a professional business woman, around thirty years of age, who is "not tall, she was not short, she was not dark, she was not fair; she was neither handsome nor ugly. Her features were altogether nondescript." Her main weapon is her intellect and capacity for using logic and observation a la Holmes, which helps her solve cases that have stumped the male police forces. She works for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency in Lynch Court, off London's Fleet Street, but he isn't involved in her cases and simply dispatches her to do her own thing.
Loveday's cases are mostly robberies and burglaries, which might sound on the surface like the author was avoiding more violent crimes that would be too much for a woman's "delicate constitution." However, Pirkus embued her detective with a feminist (for the day) viewpoint, with the female characters often struggling to escape patriarchal tyranny. There is a religious underpinning to the stories, although it is minimized in favor of the puzzles, which, as Mike Grost of MysteryFile notes, often have three stages: stage one, the establishment of the mystery; stage three, the resolution; and the middle stage, an often elaborate and complex scheme whereby Loveday meddles in the lives of the culprits to trick them into their ultimate capture.
Loveday is notable for her role in blazing a trail for the modern female fictional detective, but Pirkis's writing isn't as pathbreaking. There is a dependence on dialogue, a wealth of coincidences, a lack of clues, and many instances of the lack of "fair play." Some Loveday stories were later dramatized as BBC radio plays, including "The Redhill Sisterhood," where Loveday Brooke takes on the role of an undercover agent as she investigates nuns who appear to have forsaken their vows and taken to burglary.