The Alienist

S is for Sara Howard

For living and working in late 1800s New York City, Sara Howard is quite the modern woman. She starts out as the secretary for the Chief of Police but after getting involved in some mysterious murders she strikes out on her own and opens her own private detective agency, staffed entirely by women.

I love how genuine a character Sara feels. She is resourceful and stands up for herself, but she is always aware of how society may view someone like her. A young woman who investigates murders and other gruesome crimes, who is seen galivanting around town with an Alienist and a reporter – both unattached men – is not really someone that is seen to be suitable for high society. Sara does a good job of hiding how she feels when men belittle her intelligence or her standing but it’s clear she takes great delight in showing them up when she can work through a problem quicker than they can.

Sara is smart and resourceful and caring. The fact that she can talk to people makes her a good investigator as she can sympathise with them and get them to open up to her. She’s a good and kind boss who is fair and teaches the other women in her agency the tricks of the trade.

I love how resilient Sara is. She has to deal with a lot of sexist attitudes, both when she worked in the police department and just generally in life, as she takes it and uses it to her advantage when others underestimate her. The fact she’s pretty handy and comfortable with a gun helps too.