Review: My Double Life by Mary Sullivan

Out of print for 25 years, and originally written in 1935 by the New York Police Department’s first female Homicide Squad detective, My Double Life is a rare treasure.

While the pulp novels of the age would call each of her investigations “adventures,” Detective Sullivan christened them “melodramas.” This should give you a bit of insight into the book’s tone. I won’t retell the stories because it would be best if you found a copy and allowed the good detective the pleasure.

I’m more interested in defending the work, since it was criticized in this biographical sketch that I believe was written by Richard L. Meehan of Stanford University. Meehan’s bias comes across strong: any viewpoint that does not concur with the collective viewpoint of today’s enlightened society is stupid.

Detective Sullivan prejudges gypsies. She groups homosexuals and pedophiles together, as degenerates. Even though Detective Sullivan is as politically incorrect as they come (except, of course, she’s a bit of a feminist), Meehan disrespects her perspective as being an “insistence on the absolute correctness” and blames her Catholic faith.

And he has every right to do so, and to denounce her beliefs. But the collective police perspective of the time is what makes the book so interesting and such a precious item. Those of us who favor historical accuracy over sentiments that would have rendered a piece of literature anachronistic will thoroughly enjoy the story.

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