The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana
by Jess Nevins
"Oscar the Detective; or Dudie Dunne or the Exquisite Detective (1895)
copyright © Jess Nevins 2022
“Oscar the Detective; or Dudie Dunne or the Exquisite Detective” was written by “Old Sleuth” and first appeared in Old Sleuth’s Own no. 29 (June 30, 1895). Its sequel, “Cad Metti, the Female Detective Strategist; or Dudie Dunne Again in the Field,” appeared in Old Sleuth’s Own no. 37 (October 30, 1895).“Old Sleuth” was the pseudonym of Harlan P. Halsey (1837-1898), a prolific and popular dime novelist and publisher of dime novels.
Although both “Oscar the Detective” and “Cad Metti” feature Dudie Dunne, a male police detective, as the protagonist of the stories, the modern reader’s attention is more likely to be caught by the presence of his female sidekick, Cad Metti, one of the few dime novel female detectives who is neither killed at story’s end nor subjected to the marriage plot (see: “The Lady Detective”). Metti begins as a girl of the streets who sells newspapers to support herself. But she is observant, and in “Oscar the Detective” she saves Dunne from a criminal’s trap. Dunne does not trust her, however, and asks an associate of his, a former prison matron, to watch over her until he captures the criminals. After that he accepts Metti’s help, and by the time of “Cad Metti, the Female Detective Strategist,” they act as equal partners, although the chief of the “secret police” compliments Dunne and promotes him without any acknowledgment of Metti’s assistance.
Dunne describes Metti as his “detective aid,” and the government agent who hires the pair of them in “Cad Metti” calls her “one of the bravest and brightest women that ever entered the profession.”1 Although Dunne acts in an over-protective way (that often crosses over into patronizing), ordering her away from situations which might become dangerous, it is always clear that she is much more capable than he assumes. She is a genius at disguise and at following criminals without being detected. She is stronger than most men, has “the force of a Goliath,” and is better than many hardened criminals at hand-to-hand fighting. “When it comes to quickness, nerve, cunning and courage she cannot be excelled.”2 However, she is in love with Dunne and often defers to him, even refusing to offer suggestions.
The ending of “Cad Metti” promised further adventures of the Dunne-Metti pair, but none were published. It is likely that in third or fourth installment the marriage plot would have descended and Metti would have been married to Dunne and retired from detecting. However, such a story never appeared, leaving Metti as one of the rare dime novel female detectives to retain her autonomy, in however limited a fashion, at the end of her last appearance.
Print: Old Sleuth, Cad Metti, the Female Detective Strategist; or Dudie Dunne Again in the Field. Gloucester, UK: Dodo Press, 2007.
1 Old Sleuth, “Cad Metti, the Female Detective Strategist; or Dudie Dunne Again in the Field,” Project Gutenberg, accessed Dec. 14, 2018, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19929/19929-h/19929-h.htm
2 Old Sleuth, “Cad Metti.”