Rex Stout is best known for his iconic Nero Wolfe character, but he also created the female detective Theodolinda "Dol" Bonner, who came to being in the standalone novel "The Hand in the Glove" in 1937, one of the very first female private eyes.
Although Stout only gave Bonner one solo outing, she also guest-starred in some of the Nero Wolfe stories, one of the few women Wolfe tolerated perhaps because she herself claimed to have been "inoculated against" men, even her suitor, the newspaperman Len Chisholm. Although The Hand in the Glove is a contemporary of the Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin titles, it was written in the third person narrative, not Archie's sarcastic first-person. Even so, it still has some of the hallmark wit that graces the Wolfe/Goodwin novels.
In the book, a religious charlatan has charmed the wife of wealthy industrialist, P.L. Storrs, who decides he needs a private investigator to look into the man and hires Bonner, even though he doesn't approve of female detectives. But when she arrives at Storrs' country estate, she instead finds the body of her client and a garden party filled with a bouquet of suspects.
Bonner isn't quite the fully realized, tough-as-nails P.I. of the 21st century, sending out mixed messages about her ability to do the job as a woman, perhaps mirroring the changing-but-still-traditional views of women in Stout's day. Bonner begins the novel as part of a two-woman firm, Bonner and Raffray, although the Raffray half soon dissolves, Bonner being disgusted about Raffray's submissiveness to her fiancée.
Yet, Bonner concedes she herself decided to be a detective on flimsy grounds, adding, "I made a long list of all the activities I might undertake on my own. They all seemed monotonous or distasteful except two or three, and I flipped a coin to decide between detective and landscape design." Although she's a smart cookie and solves the crimes where the male detectives in the case don't, she's also squeamish about seeing corpses and faints after she shoots a criminal.