Wednesday, July 16, 2014


A-D          E-M          N-Z

British women mystery writers 1910-1960

Fulfilling my goal of beginning each section of the list with a
Hitchcock reference...the poster from Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes,
based on Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins

At long last, the third and final part of the Mystery List.  There were so many lovely covers to peruse and choose between, it took me a bit of extra time to finalize it. 

A cheesy cover for one of my favorite mysteries

There are three or four of the very biggest names in mystery writing in this section, from Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters) to Dorothy L. Sayers to Josephine Tey to Patricia Wentworth.

And a rather nice cover for another of my faves

And there are some intriguing lesser-known authors as well.  I only recently learned that Winifred Peck—best known now for the Persephone reprint of her World War II novel House-Bound—also published at least one or two mysteries.  Happily, one of them is in my hot little hands as I write this (well, not literally, I do only have two hands after all, but you know what I mean), so I'll be able to report on it soon.

I also have my eye on Edith Caroline Rivett, who published most of her novels as ECR Lorac or as Carol Carnac, on HARRIET RUTLAND, whose small output nevertheless sounds intriguing, and on SHELLEY SMITH, whose attention to changing social conditions piques my interest.

And there are three less obscure writers that I've always meant to get around to but never have.  Two of them, SHEILA PIM and MAUREEN SARSFIELD, were revived a few years back by Rue Morgue Press (though I've never quite forgiven Rue Morgue for dropping the latter's wonderfully memorable title Green December Fills the Graveyard in favor of the instantly forgettable Murder at Shots Hall).  The third is ETHEL LINA WHITE, whose name may not be widely known but whose novel The Wheel Spins was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The Lady Vanishes, which has the added bonus of allowing me to fulfill my goal of starting all three sections of my list with a Hitchcock reference!

My vote for the very worst cover in this bunch!

I'll be updating these posts with links back and forth for easy navigation, and will be linking to the list from the left side of the blog for ease of access.  I hope you enjoy!

(née Hocking, aka William Penmare)
Daughter of novelist Joseph Hocking and sister of Anne Hocking and Joan Carew Shill (see above and below for their listings), Nisot published at least 10 mystery novels of the 1920s and 1930s.  Her first three books appeared under the Penmare pseudonym—The Black Swan (1928), The Man Who Could Stop War (1929), and The Scorpion (1929).  Under her own name she published Alixe Derring (1933), Shortly Before Midnight (1934), Twelve to Dine (1935), Hazardous Holiday (1936), Extenuating Circumstances (1937), False Witness (1938), and Unnatural Deeds (1939).

NANCY OAKLEY (1894-????)
(née Rainford)
Author of two mystery novels with her husband, John Oakley—The Clevedon Case (1923) and The Lint House Mystery (1925).  Little information is available, but the latter apparently deals with a mystery writer who investigates the disappearance of his young ward's father.

G. T. OCKLEY (1874-1955)
(pseudonym of Grace Thompson, née Milligan)
Sculptor and author of three crime novels—The Man Under the Window (1935), The Tempestuous Wooer (1936), and The Devil on Board (1937)—about which little information seems to be available.

(aka Ellis Peters, aka Peter Benedict, aka Jolyon Carr, aka John Redfern)
Starting as a rather serious mainstream novelist, with such novels as The City Lies Four-Square (1938), Ordinary People (1941, aka People of My Own), She Goes to War (1942)—making use of her own experiences in the WRNS during WWII, By Firelight (1948), Lost Children (1951), as well as two notable historical trilogies, Pargeter didn't create her alter-ego crime novelist persona, Ellis Peters, until 1959.  She is best known for the tremendously successful Brother Cadfael mysteries, featuring a medieval monk as detective, which were memorably adapted for television.  But some fans prefer her other major series, featuring George Felse and, later, his son Dominic.  Pargeter is less well-known for a handful of early mysteries she wrote using the pseudonym Jolyon Carr—including Murder in the Dispensary (1938), Freedom for Two (1939), Masters of the Parachute Mail (1940), and Death Comes by Post (1940).  Her one novel using the John Redfern pseudonym, The Victim Needs a Nurse (1940), certainly sounds like a mystery as well, though I'm not so sure about her one title writing as Peter Benedict, Day Star (1937).  As to her more famous mysteries, the Felse series begins with Fallen Into the Pit (1951) and includes Flight of a Witch (1964), A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965), Black Is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart (1966), and many more.  The Brother Cadfael series began with A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977) and includes One Corpse Too Many (1979), The Virgin in the Ice (1982), The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983), and more.  There's a thorough discussion of the Brother Cadfael mysteries here, and here is a nice discussion of Pargeter's mysteries in general.

WINIFRED PECK (1882-1962)
(née Knox)
Primarily a mainstream novelist, now best known for House-Bound (1942), about a woman surviving without servants in wartime Edinburgh, which was reprinted by Persephone.  I've only recently discovered that Peck also wrote at least two mysteries—The Warrielaw Jewel (1933), set in Edwardian Scotland among an eccentric and increasingly impoverished upper-crust family, which I enthusiastically reviewed a while back, and Arrest the Bishop? (1949), about the murder of a blackmailing clergyman at the Bishop's palace on the eve of an ordination, and a sometimes chaotic cast of church figures and family members. Both are delightful. Other non-mystery titles include The Skirts of Time (1935), Bewildering Cares: A Week in the Life of a Clergyman's Wife (1940), A Garden Enclosed (1941), Tranquillity (1944), There Is a Fortress (1945), Veiled Destinies (1948), and Unseen Array (1951).  Late in life, Peck also published two memoirs, A Little Learning: A Victorian Childhood (1952) and Home for the Holidays (1955)

(aka Glint Green, married name Fisher)
Prolific author of exotic melodrama and crime novels from the 1910s-1930s.  Her series detective was Inspector Weild.  Titles include Blind Eyes (1914), Butterfly Wings (1916), Fate and the Watcher (1917), The Death Drum (1919), Moon Mountains (1920), Pamela and Her Lion Man (1926), and Guilty, My Lord (1928).

SHEILA PIM (1909-1995)
Also a popular writer on gardening, Pim is best known for her four mystery novels, in particular Common or Garden Crime (1945), which vividly portrays wartime life in an Irish village; Creeping Venom (1950) begins in the final days of the war and continues into the first days of peace; the others are A Brush With Death (1950) and A Hive of Suspects (1952).

(aka Josephine Mann)
Daughter of Joanna Cannan, and author, like her sisters Christine and Diana, of children's horse stories—including Six Ponies (1946), I Had Two Ponies (1947), Prince Among Ponies (1952), The Trick Jumpers (1958), and Ride To The Rescue (1979). She also tried her hand at mysteries, with three detective novels featuring Scotland Yard D.C.I. James Flecker—Gin and Murder (1959), They Died in the Spring (1960), and Murder Strikes Pink (1963). She also published one pseudonymous gothic novel, A Place with Two Faces (1972).

M[ONA]. A[UGUSTA]. RADFORD (1894-1990)
(née Mangan, aka M. A. Radford)
Author, with her husband Edwin, of more than 30 mystery novels, many featuring series characters Dr. Manson and Inspector Holroyd; titles include Murder Jigsaw (1944), Heel of Achilles (1950), Look in at Murder (1956), The Six Men (1958), Death of a Frightened Editor (1959), Death's Inheritance (1961), Murder of Three Ghosts (1963), The Middleford Murders (1967), Trunk Call to Murder (1968), and Death of an Ancient Saxon (1969).  The pair also collaborated on an Encyclopaedia of Superstitions (1948), which is still in print.

M. C. RAMSAY (dates unknown)
Author of one girls' school story, Betty Bruce, Beverley Scholar (1926) (sensational but great fun, according to Sims & Clare), as well as several adult novels, including James Ogilvy's Experiment (1907), Stephen Martin, MD (1908), The Doctor's Angel (1914), and what certainly sounds like a mystery novel, Was She Guilty? (1920).

RONA RANDALL (1911-2008)
(pseudonym of Rona Shambrook, née Green, aka Virginia Standage)
Although primarily known as a prolific author of hospital romance, gothic fiction, and historical romance from the 1940s-1980s, but several online sources include this quote about her career: "she started publishing mainly contemporary doctor nurse romances, before writing also gothic romances, and when the market for gothic novels softened, she wrote historical mystery romances."  I haven't been able to find much about these mystery romances, but they may include such titles as Walk Into My Parlour (1962), Seven Days from Midnight (1965), Mountain of Fear (1972), or The Drayton Legacy (1985).  If anyone reading this is a Randall fan, please share your knowledge and I'll update this entry.

(née Williams, later married name Percy, aka Mrs. Fred Reynolds)
Author of mystery and romance novels from the 1880s to 1930s; titles include As Flows the River (1911), The Woman Flinches (1913), Miss Anne Tankerton (1926), The Loram Picture (1930), and Green Stockings (1933).

KATHLYN RHODES (1877-1962)
Sister of Hylda Ball; author of children's fiction—including several school stories—and more than fifty romances, often set in exotic locales, including The Lure of the Desert (1916), Desert Lovers (1922), Desert Nocturne (1939), and It Happened in Cairo (1944).  According to the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, she also published crime novels.  As information about her work is sparse, it's unclear which titles might be mysteries, but Crime on a Cruise (1935) and In Search of Stephanie (1941) seem like good candidates.

(aka John Knipe)
Author of three pseudonymous novels which may be thrillers—The Watch-Dog of the Crown (1920), The Hour Before the Dawn (1921), and Whited Sepulchres (1924)—and a later historical novel under her own name, Men Loved Darkness (1935), as well as a well-regarded history, Espionage: The Story of the Secret Service of the English Crown (1934).

(née Moore, earlier married name Ackland, aka Mrs. Victor Rickard)
Prolific writer who began with light romantic tales, such as A Reckless Puritan (1920) and A Fool's Errand (1921), and somewhat more serious novels dealing with World War I, such as The Light Above the Cross Roads (1916) and The Fire of Green Boughs (1918), by the late 1920s Rickard began publishing mysteries and thrillers.  Information about these (most published as Mrs. Victor Rickard) is sparse, but they seem to include Not Sufficient Evidence (1926), The Empty Villa (1929), The Dark Stranger (1930), Murder by Night (1936), and The Guilty Party (1940).

(aka ECR Lorac, aka Carol Carnac, aka Carol Rivett)
Prolific mystery novelist whose works mostly fall into two series—one, using her E.C.R. Lorac pseudonym, featuring Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald of the London Metropolitan Police, the other, written under the name Carol Carnac, featuring Inspector Julian Rivers.  Among the former are Triple Death (1936), Murder at Mornington (1937), The Striped Suitcase (1946), It's Her Own Funeral (1951), The Burning Question (1957), and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).  The latter series includes The Murder on the Burrows (1931), Death on the Oxford Road (1933), Murder in Chelsea (1934), Bats in the Belfry (1937), Tryst for a Tragedy (1940), Murder by Matchlight (1945), Accident by Design (1950), Shroud of Darkness (1954), and Death in Triplicate (1958).

KAY ROCHE (1911-1997)
(full name Kathleen Margaret Roche)
Author of two novels which may be mysteries or otherwise crime-oriented; The Shuttered House (1950) appears to be set in Tangier, while The Game and the Candle (1951) takes place in Spain.

(pseudonym of Rose Elizabeth Knox Ward)
Wife of thriller writer Sax Rohmer and the author of a single mystery of her own, Bianca in Black (1958), about a model who believes herself to be cursed; she later collaborated with Rohmer's former assistant on Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer (1972).

(née Courlander, aka Elizabeth Anthony)
Apparently the sister of mystery writer Shelley Smith; author of a single novel under her own name, The Cup and the Song (1947), about which I've found no details, and two mysteries under her pseudonym—Dramatic Murder (1948) and Made for Murder (1950).

Author of only six novels which display impressive versatility.  Information about her first two books—The Blazing Star (1914) and The Straight Furrow (1920)—is hard to come by, but The Lily Field (1933) is a historical novel set during the Hundred Years War, The Forgotten Terror (1938) is an acclaimed mystery, Double Entry (1939) is about time travel and the seduction of the past, and The Door Without a Key (1948) is a psychological spy story.  Whew!  The Forgotten Terror, a tale of a young girl traumatized by having witnessed a crime at the age of three, was named by Alexander Woollcott on a list of the best mysteries, and the Adelaide Advertiser praised it warmly.  Described as "a skillful combination of romance, crime, and adventure," The Door Without a Key, meanwhile, "tells how an enemy agent of 1941 fell five years later into a trap of his own setting, all through the schizophrenic tendencies of the victim of his plot."  Both of these sound intriguing and well worth tracking down, but I have to confess I'm even more seduced by Double Entry.  Although panned by the Melbourne Argus, another description I found—"Uncommon fiction about a girl living in a French Chateau who finds herself able to transport herself back to the 14th Century. As she is made to travel back more & more by he Archaeologist husband (for his own ends) she finds herself more & more apart from the modern World"—rather evokes Marghanita Laski's The Victorian Chaise-Longue.  Hmmm.

(pseudonym of Olive Maude Shinwell, née Seers)
Mystery writer who published only three novels, though all three were positively reviewed at the time and are characterized by a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Knock, Murder, Knock! (1938) is set at a mundane watering spa, in which the elderly guests enjoy spiteful gossip about the younger, especially when murder takes the stage.  Bleeding Hooks (1940, aka The Poison Fly Murder) is set among a group of fly fishers staying at a Welsh lodge. It was positively reviewed by John at Pretty Sinister back in 2011. And Blue Murder (1942) in set during World War II, among an unsavory family whose members find themselves the targets of a killer.  All three have now been reprinted in both e-book and physical formats by Dean Street Press.

(full name Victoria Mary Sackville-West, married name Nicolson)
Poet, travel writer, novelist, and the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf's Orlando; known for The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931), both adapted for television, and for her travel writing and bestselling poetry (when was the last time you heard those two words together?).  She might seem like an odd presence on this list, but in fact she also experimented with sci-fi in Grand Canyon (1941) and with mystery in Devil at Westease (1947).  Although there's lots of information about Sackville-West's better-known work, I could find no details about this one—have any of you brilliant readers come across it?

MAX SALTMARSH (1893-1975)
(pseudonym of Marian Winifred Saltmarsh, née Maxwell)
Author of at least four thrillers of the 1930s—Highly Unsafe (1936), Highly Inflammable (1936), The Clouded Moon (1937), and Indigo Death (1938).  Kirkus summed up Highly Inflammable as follows: "International intrigue—a deep-laid plot to foil the disrupting oil markets and stabilize the home market. The chief actors become deeply involved in counter-plots dealing with the drug traffic. Good melodrama."  The Clouded Moon seems to have been serialized in periodicals before it appeared in book form.

(née Nicholl)
Author of a single mystery/thriller called Long Shadows in 1935, about which information is sparse indeed.

(pseudonym of Maureen Kate Heard, married name Pretyman, aka Maureen Pretyman)
Author of two humorous mysteries reprinted by Rue Morgue Press, Green December Fills the Graveyard (1945, aka Murder at Shots Hall) and A Dinner for None (1948, aka A Party for Lawty, aka Murder at Beechlands).  Peggy Ann wrote about the latter in 2012.  Sadly, Sarsfield wrote no other mysteries—only one long-forgotten mainstream novel, Gloriana (1946), and several children's books including They Knew Too Much (1943) and Queen Victoria Lost Her Crown (1946).

(married name Fleming)
Scholar and mystery writer known for her Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels.  Although the early mysteries, such as Whose Body? (1923), Clouds of Witness (1926), and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), are fairly straightforward—if very well done—mysteries, later works like The Nine Tailors (1934), Gaudy Night (1935), and Busman's Honeymoon (1937) could, as ODNB put it, "stand on their own against more manifestly serious fiction of their day."  Gaudy Night, in which Harriet Vane returns to her Oxford alma mater and uncovers mystery and moral dilemma, is widely considered Sayers' best and is discussed in some depth by Nicola Humble, though The Nine Tailors, with its meticulous focus on a group of bell-ringers in a snowbound English village and its meditations on mortality and time, is my personal favorite.  Her other mystery novels are Unnatural Death (1927), The Documents in the Case (1930, written with Robert Eustace), Five Red Herrings (1931), and Have His Carcase (1932).  Sayers published several collections of short stories, including Lord Peter Views the Body (1928), Hangman's Holiday (1933), and In the Teeth of the Evidence (1939), as well as collaborating on several novels with the Detection Club, in which each member contributed a chapter.  After the 1930s, Sayers wrote no more mysteries, focusing instead on philosophical and theological writings and on her acclaimed translation of Dante.  There is a Dorothy L. Sayers Society and a Sayers discussion list on Yahoo.

KAY SEATON (1915-1999)
(pseudonym of Denice Jeanette Bradley Ryan, married name Medhurst, aka several as yet unknown pseudonyms?)
Daughter of thriller writer R. R. Ryan and author of four novels that also appear to fit that genre; titles are Tyranny Within (1946), Pawns of Destiny (1947), Phantom Fear (1948), and Dark Sanctuary (1948). There has been some speculation that she may have written some or all of her father's novels as well (see here and here). She may also have had other pseudonyms not yet associated with her.

JOAN CAREW SHILL (1908-1978)
(née Hocking)
From a family of novelists—daughter of Joseph Hocking and sister of Anne Hocking and Elizabeth Nisot—Shill was the underachiever of the family, publishing only a single novel, Murder in Paradise (1946), a mystery written (and perhaps set?) in Mauritius where her husband was a government minister.  Details are sparse, because the book seems to have virtually ceased to exist—it doesn't even appear to be held by the British Library.

FIONA SINCLAIR (1919-1963)
(pseudonym of Fiona Peters, née Blaines)
Author of only five mystery novels in the early 1960s (just barely fitting my time frame here), most of them published after her tragic suicide.  Some of the works feature Inspector Paul Grainger, a deceptively frumpy-looking, Oxford-educated detective who sounds rather intriguing.  Sinclair's novels are Scandalize My Name (1960), Dead of a Physician (1961), Meddle with the Mafia (1963), Three Slips to a Noose (1964), and Most Unnatural Murder (1965).

ESSEX SMITH (1880-1964)
(pseudonym of Frances Essex Theodora Smith, married name Hope)
Author of seven novels 1912-1929; Shepherdless Sheep (1914) is about "a charismatic preacher who despite his lack of belief and acknowledged hypocrisy manages to inspire a growing band of followers"; others are Wind on the Heath (1912), The Revolving Fates (1922), If Ye Break Faith (1923), In All Time of Our Wealth (1924), The Wind's in the South (1926), and The Wye Valley Mystery (1929). The last is presumably a mystery, but information is scarce.

SHELLEY SMITH (1912-1998)
(pseudonym of Nancy Hermione Bodington, née Courlander)
Starting out with relatively traditional whodunits, Smith moved on to more psychological novels about crime and criminals.  She seems to have had a particular interest in characters who are isolated from society, and the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers intriguingly notes that: "A great many of these mysteries are set at the end of World War II, when the age of the extended family was over forever and the new society of casual living conditions and transient renters started to take over many communities."  Smith's titles include Background for Murder (1942), Death Stalks a Lady (1945), Come and Be Killed! (1946), He Died of Murder! (1947), Man Alone (1952, aka The Crooked Man), The Party at No. 5 (1954), The Lord Have Mercy (1956, aka The Shrew Is Dead), and A Grave Affair (1971). Smith's sister, Barbara Rubien, also wrote two mystery novels under the name Elizabeth Anthony.

Author of two crime novels before her tragic early death at age 21; the books are Crooks in Cabaret (1935), set in London and France, and The Four Dead Men (1936), a noir-ish thriller about four legally dead men who, having been falsely accused of crimes, set out for vengeance against ne'er-do-wells. I wrote about Spencer Simpson's tragic death at 21 here.

MARY STEWART (1916-2014)
(née Rainbow)
Best known for many years for her series of novels of Arthurian fantasy, centered around Merlin the magician, which were enormous bestsellers, in recent years renewed interest has been paid to Stewart's earlier novels of romantic suspense.  Often dealing with beautiful young heroines in peril in exotic locales, these novels were reprinted in 2011 in charming new paperback editions by Hodder & Stoughton.  They include Madam Will You Talk (1954), Wildfire at Midnight (1956), Thunder on the Right (1957), Nine Coaches Waiting (1958), My Brother Michael (1959), The Ivy Tree (1961), The Moon-Spinners (1962), This Rough Magic (1964), and Airs Above the Ground (1965).  Some of Stewart's late novels, like Thornyhold (1988) and Rose Cottage (1997) seem to feature gentler, cozier elements of fantasy and suspense.  You can find more detailed information about Stewart and her books here.

(married name Stanley, aka Melita Noose)
Author of around 50 novels 1924-1970, mostly set in Kenya where she lived for many years; According to Jill (1926) may have some crime content; other titles include Latticed Windows (1924), Her Serenity (1931), Miss Wiston Goes Gay (1938), The Sunflower Scarf (1951), and The Quiet Girl (1967); under her pseudonym, she wrote Blondes Prefer Gentlemen (1926), a parody of Anita Loos' bestseller.

JOAN SUTER (1908-????)
(married names Mackenzie-Kerr and Walker, aka Leonie Mason)
More research needed; author of two novels—East of Temple Bar (1946), described as being about Fleet Street, and the pseudonymous Murder by Accident (1947), presumably a mystery.

JOSEPHINE TEY (1897-1952)
(pseudonym of Elizabeth MacKintosh, aka Gordon Daviot)
Novelist, playwright, and mystery writer, known for one of the most famous of all Golden Age mystery novels, The Daughter of Time (1951), in which her frequent series detective, Inspector Alan Grant, while bedridden with an injury, "solves" the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.  Although the nature of the mystery means there is no action or suspense in the usual sense, it's nevertheless a riveting read and a fan favorite.  Another favorite is Miss Pym Disposes (1946), a humorous mystery set at a girls' physical education school, in which a former teacher who has written a bestseller about psychology must track a murderer.  Alan Grant first appears in The Man in the Queue (1929) and recurs in A Shilling for Candles (1936), adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into the film Young and Innocent, The Franchise Affair (1948), To Love and Be Wise (1950), and The Singing Sands (1952).  Tey's other novels are Kif: An Unvarnished History (1929), The Expensive Halo (1931), Brat Farrar (1949), and The Privateer (1952).  For some lovely photos, information, book covers, and other tidbits about Tey, don't miss this site.

Author of six mystery novels 1928-1933, including The Red Dwarf (1928), The Murder on the "Enriqueta" (1929), The Case of Sir Adam Braid (1930), The Crime at the "Noah's Ark" (1931), Murder in the Dentist's Chair (1932), and He Dies and Makes No Sign (1933), as well as one earlier novel, The Uncertain Glory (1914). For readers in the U.S. at least, Murder in the Dentist's Chair (a rather horrifying title for those of us who are none too fond of dentists) is available for free downloading at the Hathi Trust.

ANNIE O[LIVE]. TIBBITS (1871-1935)
(née Brazier)
Author of sixpenny novels, some of which appear to be mysteries or thrillers, including Marquess Splendid (1910), Love Without Pity (1915), Broken Fetters: A Thrilling Story of Factory and Stage Life (!!) (1917), The Grey Castle Mystery (1919), Paid in Full (1920), and Under Suspicion (1921).

URSULA TORDAY (1912–1997)
(aka Paula Allardyce, aka Charity Blackstock, aka Lee Blackstock, and aka Charlotte Keepel)
After three early novels under her own name—The Ballad-Maker of Paris (1935), No Peace for the Wicked (1937), and The Mirror of the Sun (1938)—Torday stopped writing until well after World War II, during which time her activities included social work with Jewish children who survived Nazi concentration camps, experiences she later detailed in Wednesday's Children (1966, aka The Children).  When she returned to publishing, her focus was primarily on historical romance and gothic novels, but among her early works under her Charity Blackstock pseudonym (some published in the U.S.—for whatever unfathomable reason—under the name Lee Blackstock), Torday seems to have published some more or less straightforward mysteries.  Dewey Death (1956) was described by the Spectator as a "first-class first novel that gives new twist to old theme of corpse-in-the-library."  Miss Fenny (aka The Woman in the Woods), which appeared the following year, was reviewed recently by John at Pretty Sinister, who made it sound irresistible.  Other of Torday's early mysteries include The Shadow of Murder (1958, aka All Men Are Murderers) and The Foggy, Foggy Dew (1958).  Some of Torday's other novels also seem to belong on my TBR list.  The Briar Patch (1960), set in Paris shortly after World War II, features two teenagers, one of whom is a Jewish Holocaust survivor.  And based on reviews which note the intelligence and relative realism of Torday's work, I'm finding myself intrigued by some of her romances written as Paula Allardyce, especially the irresistibly titled Octavia; or, The Trials of a Romantic Novelist (1965).

Born in Scotland but emigrating to the U.S. in youth, Turnball was a successful screenwriter in both Hollywood and London, which formed the backdrop of some of her fiction; titles include Looking After Sandy (1914), The Close-Up (1918), Madam Judas (1926), The Left Lady (1926), A Monkey in Silk (1930), and The Coast Road Murder (1934). It's unclear whether any of her other titles might be crime-related, but The Coast Road Murder was described by Kirkus as follows: "American so-called society with a girl reporter acting detective. The setting is a roadhouse where a week end house party is disporting itself."

More research needed; author of at least three novels, possibly mysteries—The Lushington Mystery (1919), The Manaton Disaster (1920), and A Quest for a Fortune (1924).

Playwright, novelist, and author of girls' stories including Victoria's First Term (1925) and Miss Pike and Her Pupils (1928).  Tyrrell later wrote at least 18 novels, some of which seem to contain elements of mystery or crime novels, though online information is sketchy at best.  Titles include The Mushroom Field (1931), Monkey's Money (1934), The Forgotten Hills (1936), Pull the House Down (1938), The Street of Fortune (1939), That's Mark Avery (1942), The Secrets of Nicholas Culpeper (1945), The White Stream (1949), and Give Me a Torch (1951).

DEREK VANE (?1856-1939)
(pseudonym of Blanche Eaton Back)
Author of mysteries and romance novels from the 1890s to the 1930s.  According to the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, The Paradise of Fools (1913) is about "a woman [who] thinks her husband has died during a quarrel in which he hit his head."  Other titles include Lady Varley (1914), The Trump Card (1925), The Unguarded Hour (1929), and Dancer's End (1934).

CHERRY VEHEYNE (1886-1975)
(pseudonym of Ethel Williamson, aka Jane Cardinal)
Author of eight novels 1921-1935, including The Journal of Henry Bulver (1921), which won the Collins Open Novel Competition, Fay and Finance (1922), about the theatre, and The Living Idol (1933).  Those works, based on what little I've read about them, seem to veer rather toward the melodramatic.  But after an absence of nearly three decades (unless she was publishing under an unknown pseudonym during that time), she returned with Horror (1962), a thriller about Jack the Ripper in which the Ripper is "a frustrated clergyman encouraged by his Mum."

(pseudonym of Gertrude Isabel Price, married names Jones and Devot, aka G. De Vauriard)
Sister of Florence; prolific novelist of the 1890s to 1910s; some titles sound intriguing, such as The Wooing of a Fairy (1897), Merely Man (1909), The World, the Flesh and the Casino (1909), and Two Girls and a Saint (1915).  Although I haven’t found detailed information on her, one source says that after 1900 she specialized in mysteries, presumably including such titles as A Syndicate of Sinners (1901), The Stolen Pearl (1903), The Nut-Browne Mayd: A Riviera Mystery (1907), The Crime in the Alps (1908), The Severn Affair (1909), and Diana of Dartmoor (1913). As G. De Vauriard, she published four additional novels 1909-1914.

(married names Glauser and Donald)
Author of three novels published by Faber in the 1950s—The Locked Gates (1950), Intruder in the House (1951), and The Long Fidelity (1952)—which appear to be rather dark social dramas; The Locked Gates may also have a mystery element.

(pseudonym of Betty [or Bessie?] Eveline/Evelyn Davies)
Author of romantic fiction (and at least one mystery) from the 1930s to 1950s, including The Secret Year (1930), The Girdle of Venus (1931), Fairweather Ladies (1936), The Princess of Marmalade (1937), Madonna of the Thimble (1940), Death of a Sinner (1944), and The Preacher's Daughter (1953).

Author of more than a dozen novels 1932-1960, at least one of which—Laugh When You Can (1945)—was described as a murder mystery set in an English village.  Some of her other titles appear to be humorous and/or romantic in tone.  Titles include Ducks on a Pond (1932), What Shall We Do with Anne? (1937), Dangerous Secret (1939), Her Name Was Cornelia (1947), The Other Side of the Wall (1949), and Amberley Close (1950). Do You Remember? (1944) appears to be a memoir.

(née Stephens, aka Jermyn March, aka Christopher Reeve)
Author of mysteries and thrillers under two pseudonyms.  She was also on the staff of Cassells during the 1920s, and worked as a reader for other publishers after that.  She published four novels as Jermyn March, including Rust of Murder (1924), Dear Traitor (1925), The Man Behind the Face (1927), and a fourth which contains an offensive racial term.  As Christopher Reeve (not to be confused with Superman), she published The Ginger Cat (1929), The Toasted Blonde (1930), The Emerald Kiss (1932), Hunter's Way (1934), Murder Steps Out (1942), The House that Waited (1944), and Lady, Be Careful (1948).

(pseudonym of Dora Amy Elles, married names Dillon and Turnbull)
Novelist who published several historical romances before turning to her successful mystery series featuring Miss Maud Silver, a dowdy, middle-aged, perenially-knitting, former governess with a mind like a steel trap.  She would seem to owe much to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple except for the fact that the first Miss Silver novel predated the first Miss Marple by about two years.  Unlike Christie's novels, however, Wentworth's often feature prominent romantic subplots—young girls in peril who find their problems solved by the perfect man.  Prominent Miss Silver mysteries include Fool Errant (1929), The Case Is Closed (1937), The Chinese Shawl (1943), The Clock Strikes Twelve (1944), The Catherine Wheel (1949), and Vanishing Point (1953).  Early in her career and for some time after beginning the Miss Silver series, Wentworth also wrote numerous stand-alone mysteries, such as The Annam Jewel (1923), The Dower House Mystery (1925), Will-o'-the-Wisp (1928), Nothing Venture (1932), Hole and Corner (1936), and Mr. Zero (1938).

ETHEL LINA WHITE (1876-1944)
Successful author of well over a dozen mystery novels, described as being written in the "Gothic style."  By far, her best remembered work is The Wheel Spins (1936), the source for Alfred Hitchcock's film The Lady Vanishes (1938) (many reprints of Wheel make use of Hitchcock's title), which deals with the disappearance of a governess from a moving train.  Hitchcock, typically, seems to have adapted the novel freely, as in the novel Miss Froy is a young girl like the tale's heroine.  White's breakthrough had come a few years earlier with Some Must Watch (1933), which was also destined to be made into a famous film—Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase (1948, subsequent reprints also make use of this title), about a young woman spending the night in a remote Cornwall mansion, whose fellow guests include a serial strangler.  Two of White's less acclaimed novels are intriguing me: The Third Eye (1937) is a thriller about "the tribulations of a young games mistress at an all-girls school," and While She Sleeps (1940), about a woman "randomly picked to be the victim of a murder. … [A]s one irritation after another plagues her on the trip, she feels her luck has dried up. Unbeknownst to her, however, each of these annoyances actually save her from becoming the victim of foul play."  White's other titles are The Wish-Bone (1927), 'Twill Soon Be Dark (1929), The Eternal Journey (1930), Put Out the Light (1931), Fear Stalks the Village (1932), The First Time He Died (1935), Wax (1936), The Elephant Never Forgets (1937), Step in the Dark (1938), She Faded Into Air (1941), Midnight House (1942), The Man Who Loved Lions (1943), and They See in Darkness (1944).

A journalist and one of the first women MPs, Wilkinson's writing generally focused on politics and social concerns, including The Town that was Murdered (1939), about the 1936 Jarrow March to protest unemployment.  She published only two novels, and even the first of those, Clash (1928), though a romantic tale, is set during the 1926 General Strike.  Her one additional work of fiction, however, was a mystery, The Division Bell Mystery (1932), about the murder of a wealthy financier in the House of Commons.  You can read a review of it here.

Literary scholar, poet, and novelist; author of five novels Stolen Banns (1907), The Winged Lion (1908), The Scholar Vagabond (1909), and the later titles (possibly mysteries?) The Double Disappearance (1925) and The Face on the Stair (1927), she also wrote on Shakespeare, Shelley, and Tolstoy.

MOLLY WOOD (1909-1994)
(married names Phillips and Troke, aka Hester Bourne, aka Lyn Arnold)
More research needed; author of four early books as Lyn Arnold, including Joy as It Flies (1940) and Tea with Lemon and Flash of Joy (1943).  In the 1960s and 1970s, she published crime and romance novels as Hester Bourne, including The Spanish House (1962), In the Event of My Death (1964), Where Is Evie Alton? (1968), After the Island (1969), The Red Raincoat (1970), A Scent of Roses (1971), and The House Across the Water (1972).  Could she have used other pseudonyms in the years in between?

(aka Oliver Barton)
Author of numerous biographies of religious figures, as well as at least eight novels, including mysteries and adventures. Steve at Bear Alley discussed her a couple of years ago. He describes The Two Houses on the Cliff (1931) as a mystery with romantic elements, and quotes a review of Pauline's Lady (1931) that compares it to the earlier works of M. E. Braddon. Other titles include The Children of Danecourt Park (1924), The Eye of the Peacock (1928), The Secret of the Sapphire Ring (1930), The City of Death (1934), The Silver Mirror (1935), and The Ring of Fate (1939).

(married name Hale)
Intriguing but forgotten author of several highly-praised humorous romantic novels, including Public Affaires (1932), Nets to Catch the Wind (1935), A Feather in Her Cap (1936), and The Sly Hyena (1951).  Later, Worsley-Gough published two mysteries, Alibi Innings (1954, reprinted by Penguin), which takes place in the world of cricket, and Lantern Hill (1957), about which I could find little information except that it is in fact a mystery.

I. WRAY (1894-1969)
(pseudonym of Iris Elaine Bickford, married name Palliser)
Author of two mystery novels in the early 1930s; The Vye Murder (1930) was praised by The Spectator for its portrayal of women, and Murder—and Ariadne (1931), deals with a murder following a “rowdy house party” and was praised by the West Australian as “ingeniously constructed.”

(née Lockwood, earlier married name Lewis)
Not to be confused with American author Constance Choate Wright; author of one children’s book, Tales of Chinese Magic (1925), and one novel, The Chaste Mistress (1930), about the 1779 murder of Martha Ray (which has also been memorialized by Wordsworth and discussed by Elizabeth Jenkins.)

MAY WYNNE (1875-1949)
(pseudonym of Mabel Winifred Knowles, aka Lester Lurgan)
Enormously prolific writer of girls' school stories, historical adventures, romance, and religious stories.  According to some sources, her more than 200 titles also include mysteries, though I haven’t delved deeply enough into her work to know for sure which ones.  Likely suspects (so to speak) might be Plotted in Darkness (1927), The Unseen Witness (1932), The Unsuspected Witness (1945), and The Terror of the Moor (1943).

MARGARET YORKE (1924-2012)
(pseudonym of Margaret Beda Larminie, married name Nicholson)
Known for her crime fiction set in English villages, featuring ordinary people driven by circumstance to crime, Yorke began her career with family dramas such as Summer Flight (1957) and Deceiving Mirror (1960).  Five of her Yorke’s novels from the 1970s feature Oxford don Patrick Grant, but in most of her work—according to Contemporary Authors—“Yorke was best known as an author of the ‘whydunit,’ rather than the ‘whodunit.’ Few of her plots revolve around discovering the criminal. Instead the reader watches as the criminal wreaks havoc—or tries to—on the other characters in the story.”  Titles include No Fury (1967), The Small Hours of the Morning (1975), Death on Account (1979), Find Me a Villain (1983), Speak for the Dead (1988), and Cause for Concern (2001).  The five novels featuring Patrick Grant are Dead in the Morning (1970), Silent Witness (1973), Grave Matters (1973), Mortal Remains (1974), and Cast for Death (1976).


  1. More fascinating stuff! Lots here to add to my evergrowing Amazon wishlist and AbeBooks "save for later" list...

    I've read and enjoyed works of Shelley Smith and Ethel Lina White - while I didn't unreservedly love either of the novels I've read by them (Come and Be Killed! by Smith and Fear Stalks the Village by White), they were well-written and capable works, but perhaps missing some spark or charm that would have made me sit up and take notice. I do have a few more novels by both sitting on my shelves, though, so it may be time to revisit.

    Wentworth I want to like more than I actually do - I generally find her rather workmanlike. I know some critics have argued that she's a better writer than Christie (the comparison being invited by the Miss Silver/Miss Marple similarity, I guess) and perhaps on a technical level she is, but I find Christie so much more lively and interesting.

    I did attempt an E.C.R. Lorac recently, and that one was also perfectly serviceable but somehow not quite engaging - I didn't finish it, but I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading her works. And I do own one novel by the Radfords (Mask of Murder, from 1965), which I tried to read but was turned off by a baffling, probably anti-Semitic portrayal of a Jewish character. He's described as "an extremely old fashioned type of Jew [???], with a shiny bald head, and protruding eyeballs" and has the most bizarre accent (he addresses the main police fellow as "my tear sir").

    Between Radfords and the Gray fiasco, I've been thinking that much as I love finding forgotten and lesser-known authors from the past, it is often a risky game when it comes to unsavory attitudes and prejudices. Of course a lot of these beliefs were commonly held at the time the books were published, so perhaps they're forgivable, but I do personally find it difficult to love a writer whose work is racist or homophobic or whatnot. But then again there are degrees of it - for instance, Christie's portrayals of Jewish and non-white characters are definitely problematic (I gave a presentation to a Christie college class on that very subject once), but I do think she was mostly well-intentioned, whereas many of her contemporaries definitely were not. And everyone has their own tolerance levels for these attitudes, of course! It certainly hasn't discouraged me from hunting down lesser-known authors (as my wallet can attest!).

    1. Thanks for sharing your take on some of the writers I haven't read yet, Kacper. Your feelings about Wentworth are exactly like mine--I feel I should be a fan but I'm just not somehow. And it's always interesting trying to distinguish between an author portraying racist or homophobic feelings in her characters vs. one who clearly shares those feelings. Christie is a perfect case study. I usually think she's the former, but in a few cases it's a bit murkier.

  2. Strong Poison the worst cover in the posting? No, it's the worst cover in the history of mystery writing. Even the tagline reeks. Was her lover a suicide, or was she a bewitching murderess?

    Yup, that's our Harriet all right, the sultry blonde with the nipple outlined beneath the slinky dress with the plunging neckline. I'd recognise her anywhere.

    1. Really? That's not how you imagine Harriet? Next I suppose you'll be telling me Peter Wimsey doesn't look like Zac Efron!

    2. I'm so horrified by that cover that only a strong cup of tea will revive me!

    3. I hope you're recovered now, Lyn. You're right, it's a downright poisonous cover--there, a bad pun to go with the bad cover!

  3. Good work, Scott. I'm super impressed with your massive research, and I love the cover art. That copy of Miss Pym Disposes is one of several books (including Brat Farrar) which I know I own, and yet have vanished out of my house. Is a puzzlement.

    1. I didn't take them, honest! Though from what you say, a visit to your house might well awaken my inner kleptomaniac.

    2. Any time you're in or even near Toronto, Scott, you're more than welcome to drop by for a cuppa or a meal and a gabfest about books.

      I guess I'm warned, however, to have you searched before you leave. :^O

      (Is it too late for you to join us for DES Toronto 2014?)

    3. Not sure about too late, but we're busy planning our trip to Italy in October, so will have to save our pennies. But I'd love to make it to Toronto again at some point, and will certainly stop by when I do!

  4. Another amazing list Scott! Finding your blog was a very bad thing as far as my own blog writing goes!

    Here in the Czech Republic Edith Pargeter is known for something else as well - as an excellent translator of Czech classical literature, including the iconic Babička - the Grandmother. I am still hunting for a copy. All the more surprising when one learns that she taught herself Czech, with some 78 records, following a visit to post-war Czechoslovakia which she describes in her lovely book "The Coast of Bohemia".

    It's my guess that it wasn't just the country she fell in love with at that point.....However, history sadly tells us nothing of that. In 1968 she was awarded a Gold Medal for services to Czech literature.

    I see Dorothy L Sayers rolling madly in her grave at that book cover! Do the illustrators ever read the books I wonder?

    PS Where has the "notify me" button gone? I actually remembered I needed to click it and lo, it was not there!

    1. I think I do remember reading about Pargeter's translation work, Cestina. Amazing that she could learn well enough by listening to records. Maybe you could somehow uncover her secret love affair--in the movies, you would meet the lover's son or daughter, who would tell all about it...

  5. Replies
    1. Who knows what Blogger was up to? It likes to keep us on our toes!

  6. Patricia Wentworth may bein my top three fave authors! I love Miss Silver, and had never heard of the Fool Errant - many thanks! I can certainly recommend Pim's gardening novels! And am currently rereading Sayers - great cover! HA. Just getting into Tey - like what I've read a LOT! A great additions, thanks, Scott! Tom

    1. Thanks, Tom. I wish I could love Wentworth as much as I feel I should, but I'm glad you discovered one you didn't know about!

  7. Have you come across Nicola Upson's crime novels? She is writing now and so well outside your period, but her protagonist is Josephine Tey. The books are enjoyable.

    1. I think I may have heard of these, Grace, but wasn't sure whether they were worthwhile. Thanks for your recommendation--I'll keep them in mind now.

  8. I'm intrigued by Ethel Lina White's While She Sleeps now - sounds like a great plot-line. (And thank you for another wonderful list -- so much work in there, and very much appreciated!).

    1. It does sound like it could be great fun, doesn't it, Vicki? Of course, it could be poorly executed, you never know, but if I get around to it I'll certainly report on it here.

  9. Jerri had this very interesting and informative comment to leave, but Blogger is refusing to allowing her to post it, so I'm doing it for her (take that, Blogger!):

    Which came first, Miss Marple or Miss Silver is not as simple a question as it seems. Yes, Grey Mask, the first Miss Silver novel was published in 1928, while Murder at the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple novel wasn't published till 1930. BUT, the first Miss Marple short story (The Tuesday Night Club) was published in The Sketch magazine in 1926, I believe. With other Miss Marple short stories following. I can't seem to find the list of the first appearances of the Miss Marple short stories I had found at other times.

    And the 2nd Miss Silver novel (making her a series character) didn't appear till The Case is Closed in 1937, by which time Miss Marple was well established, although largely in short stories, as the 2nd Miss Marple NOVEL, Body in the Library, wasn't published till 1942, one of Christie's war time novels that ignored the war.

    One can add Miss Climpson, a more minor but delightful female spinster detective who appeared in the Sayers novel The Dawson Pedigree or Unnatural Death published in 1928. She also appears in Strong Poison (and that was a dreadful cover for Strong Poison!!)

    I think the time was right for that sort of character.

    1. Thanks so much for clarifying this, Jerri. I've read some of the Miss Marple stories, but hadn't paid enough attention to the dates to realize that in fact Miss Marple appeared before the first Miss Silver mystery. But I do think you're correct that the time was just right--in non-mystery fiction, spinsters were certainly already a thematic fascination--Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes and Edith Olivier's The Love-Child are two examples from the 20s. And then, in mystery fiction, there is Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley, who though clearly not a spinster, seems to have something in common with the spinster detectives. Her first appearance was also in the late 1920s.

      Thanks for sharing this, Jerri, despite Blogger's crankiness!

  10. I sort of tire of people who talk about mystery fiction as if Agatha Christie invented everything. [sigh] Spinster detectives were not a novelty in the 1920s, they had been existence for decades before in the US.

    Forgotten writer Jennette Lee, wife of Gerald Stanley Lee, created Millicent Newberry, a 40ish spinster who owned her own private detective agency. She first appeared in a series of short stories published in magazines between 1908 and 1916. They were then strung together to form a quasi-novel called THE GREEN JACKET (1917). The first true novel (though it still resembles a series of linked stories) was THE MYSTERIOUS OFFICE (1922). Her third and last book with Newberry as detective protagonist is DEAD RIGHT (1923). All of them predate the spinster detectives of Christie and Wentworth.

    Additionally, Anna Katharine Green created perhaps the very first spinster detective. Amelia Butterworth, an unmarried woman in late middle age, solved crimes or acted as an assistant alongside Ebenezer Gryce in four novels. She first appeared in 1897 (!) in THE AFFAIR NEXT DOOR.


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