Saturday, March 04, 2017

Guest Post: Cynthia Kuhn

It’s my pleasure to welcome Cynthia Kuhn to Type M. We met at Bouchercon when it was in L.A. a few years ago and instantly hit it off. Not too long after that she was awarded a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. Her book was almost instantly snapped up by Henery Press. That book, The Semester of Our Discontent, is up for an Agatha Award at this year’s Malice for Best First. Her second book, The Art of Vanishing, came out Feb. 28th. Take it away Cynthia...

Styling the Mystery

by Cynthia Kuhn

My first two book projects were focused on dress and fashion in literature, so I can’t help but pay attention to elements of style when reading/viewing sleuths in action. (Noir seems to have its own fashion system, so we’ll set that aside for now.) Happily, memorable items abound.

It’s difficult to imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes without his deerstalker cap. It’s a perfect accessory because it draws attention to the workings of his marvelous brain. Interesting fact: Doyle never specified a deerstalker, which was added by an illustrator of one of the stories. But it’s unquestionably iconic—to the extent that the current BBC series has Watson remind him at one point: “You’re Sherlock Holmes. Wear the damn hat.”

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot sports a Homburg hat over his “little grey cells”—coupled with a fastidious moustache. He is often attired in elegant garb, like Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher. In fact, her ensembles in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are so gorgeous that I often find my mind drifting away from the storyline to wonder if I too could find, say, a deliciously fringe-y vintage wrap. And nobody rocks a bob and pearl-handled pistol like she does.

While Nancy Drew’s fashions change with the times, homage was paid to her cloche hat in a recent episode of Scream Queens, when sorority president Chanel Oberlin attempts to unite the sisters through a ceremonial presentation of gifts, saying, “We are gonna use these Nancy-Drew-looking sleuthing caps and enormous magnifying glasses and catch the killer as a team.” (There’s a little wink here, by the way, since Emma Roberts plays Chanel on TV and Nancy in film.)

Although generally clothed in no-nonsense outfits, perfect for her investigative work, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone does own one dress she pulls out whenever she has to attend something formal. Every time she mentions it, I long to know where I can buy one too. I mean, a non-wrinkling, all-purpose little black dress? Is that not the holy grail of travel clothes?

The Parasol Protectorate series is not traditional mystery—it’s something like a paranormal steampunk romance adventure comedy of manners—but Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti has the sleuthing accessory to end all sleuthing accessories: a parasol kitted out with all manner of useful gadgetry that would make even James Bond jealous. How very useful!

**What are your favorite sleuthing outfits or accessories on page or screen?**

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. Originally from upstate New York, Cynthia currently teaches English at MSU Denver. In addition, she serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado and blogs with Chicks on the Case. For more information, please visit


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for letting me visit, Type M!

Ann Perramond said...

Fun post, Cynthia! I too envy Phryne Fisher's sleek bob and fabulous outfits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ann! And agree--she's got SO much style!