And then, last week, I was indulging my usual habit of typing out-of-print authors into the Kobo website (because they have a habit of acquiring ebook-selling rights to many otherwise unavailable gems o' the past). And lo! Barbara Paul is suddenly listed! (and I know she wasn't a couple of months ago). Not just the Marian Larch books, this looks like it might be ALL her mystery output! Priorities though, I grabbed my long-wished-for four Larches first and am now halfway through the second and loving 'em just as much as the first time around. And remembering all kinds of details about why I wanted to be able to read them again ... one of the main being Marian Larch herself. Not young or glamorous or even mildly pretty (she's actually considered "potato faced" by one character in the first book), not a clothes horse or tiresome label/brand name dropper, just an ordinary person who works at being a good cop despite bureaucracy and having to deal with laziness, obnoxiousness and sexism on the job (though she has good co-workers as well). She's realistic and interesting, with a variety of intriguing friends and relationships that evolve in a believable way. The cases/mysteries are good too. But they're made excellent by the characters.
And while I won't claim Barbara Paul is Arturo Pérez-Reverte, she does have a way with words. Marian's thoughts in "The Renewable Virgin" (volume one):
Catching a murderer isn't the cause for celebration you might think. There's no good feeling to it. It's a depressing scene, and the main feeling is one of shame. Shame that we should be like this; you look at a killer and you see a piece of humanity that's failed in its essential nature, that of being humane. The last thing in the world you want to do is go out and hoist a few and congratulate yourself for being so clever. Catching killers is just something that has to be done, like carrying out the garbage. They're both disease preventatives.
Edited to add: Because that original post only included links to the descriptions of the three books actually in my possession at the time I'm going to relist the series with descriptive links to all the titles here:
1 The renewable virgin
2 He huffed and he puffed
3 Good King Sauerkraut
4 You have the right to remain silent
5 The apostrophe thief
6 Fare play
7 Full frontal murder