Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Last year, I did my end-of-year favorites around the New Year, but in fact this was just because I hadn't managed to get my act together enough to do it as a holiday season post. This year (is it possible?), I have actually managed to do it a bit earlier, before the luxurious 10-day holiday break Andy and I will be taking from our jobs.

As I did last year, I've selected my twelve favorites of the books I read during the year. A top ten is just too hard, and a dozen allows a bit of latitude for including most of the titles I really, really loved this year. Actually, though, I have to admit that even narrowing my favorites down to a dozen was a challenge. There were several more classic mysteries that I very much enjoyed (Patricia Moyes' Many Deadly Returns, Gladys Mitchell's St. Peter's Finger, Harriet Rutland's Knock, Murderer, Knock!, and Maureen Sarsfield's Green December Fills the Graveyard, to name the ones I just couldn't resist squeezing into this post even if they didn't make the list), and even a couple of really wonderful modern "cozy" mysteries, including the final (no! say it ain't so!) Mrs. Mallory mystery from Hazel Holt (who, as many of you must already know, very sadly passed away just a few weeks ago, but remains my absolute favorite of modern cozy authors) and all four of Jill Paton Walsh's Imogen Quy mysteries. But ultimately I had to make the tough decisions.

Amazingly, I find that I actually managed to blog about all of my favorite titles of the year, so I've linked to the original posts below.

Without further ado:

Elizabeth Fair

Since Fair ranks as my very favorite newly-discovered author of the year, I couldn't place her anywhere but at No. 1. It was tough to choose only one of her charming, funny, Thirkell-esque village comedies, but ultimately I found A Winter Away the most polished and readable of her six novels. Oh, that there were more than six! I did finally break down a couple of months back and read the last of her novels, The Mingham Air, which I also quite enjoyed, but I was suitably bereft to have finished all of Fair's oeuvre. If you haven't checked her out yet, this one is a great place to start.

I know I'm not alone in loving this one, though it's downright criminal it's not in print and available to a larger audience. Ashton is high on my list of authors to explore further in 2016, but in the meantime I can heartily recommend the lush domestic and architectural details of this charming tale of a single day in and around the country estate of the once-prosperous Hornbeam family. And for once, copies are fairly readily available—due to its having been a Book-of-the-Month Club selection or alternate, there are quite a few copies floating around.

No one would expect one of my lists to lack at least one WWII home front novel, so here it is. I managed to come across this one even before Greyladies reprinted it earlier this year, and it fits one of my favorite (admittedly self-invented) genres—the "uncozy," a term I use to describe a novel that is basically cheerful and comforting, but has some deeper and darker meanings there for the pondering if one wants to ponder them. This seems to have been one of Crompton's strengths, and she too is certainly an author to explore further in 2016—particularly now that many of her adult novels have been released as e-books by Bello Books.

For whatever reason, Mabel Esther Allan was probably my single most-read author of 2015, so it would hardly be fair not to list one of her titles here. The trouble was deciding which one. I was especially tempted by her lovely combination holiday/coming-of-age story Swiss Holiday (which I also discussed here), but finally I had to go with this early title (though not published until the 1990s and not made readily available until it was released by Girls Gone By a few years ago). It's one of my two favorite school stories—and the other one just happens to be No. 5 on this list!

A worthy companion-piece to my favorite grownup school story, Mary Bell's Summer's Day, Darch's tale is certainly written for girls, but has an unusually mature perspective on school life drawn from Darch's own experience as a teacher. New School goes for realism rather than far-fetched adventure, and is all the stronger for that. Since blogging about New School and another Darch title, Alison Temple—Prefect, I've read one more of Darch's titles, her first, Chris and Some Others (1920), and loved it as well. I have one more on my TBR shelves…

One of my all-time favorite memoirs, and a lucky book sale find, I know this one is also a favorite with many of you. Not only a vivid portrayal of Victorian life through the eyes of a child, but one of the funniest books you'll ever read, I can't recommend it enough—and the final quote I used in my post about it still makes me laugh whenever I think of it.

From Bruce's Colmskirk series, this was one of the most thoroughly amusing and entertaining books I read all year. It has much more the feel of a charming, cozy novel for adults than most of the other titles in the series, and even readers not usually interested in "children's" fiction are likely to find it a rollicking good time.

Another of my favorite "cozy" reads this year. Channon, like Bruce, is known for her school stories, but this was her final novel for adults and has loads of charm and humor and glimpses of ideal village life. Who doesn't love a tale of a curmudgeon whose hard heart is gradually softened by likeable children and an irresistible woman?

My favorite mystery discovery of the year is also rather frustrating, since Pullein-Thompson was apparently discouraged by her publisher from continuing to write mysteries after she'd published only three. It's really a toss-up for me which of those three—Gin and Murder, They Died in the Spring (1960), and Murder Strikes Pink (1963)—is my favorite, but this one is the first and makes an excellent introduction to her immensely likeable Holmes/Watson team, DCI Flecker and Detective-Sergeant Browning, so I'll make it my recommendation.

Funny, charming, and surprisingly edgy for its time, Sharp takes as her heroine a smart, funny, oversexed heroine who makes an irresistible companion for a weekend's reading. There are lots of writers I love who are completely or mostly out-of-print, but Sharp is the most bewildering oversight on the part of publishers. Sourcebooks or Bloomsbury or Bello or another savvy publisher needs to get to work reprinting Sharp's entire body of work.

Whipple is one of Persephone's most popular rediscoveries and one of my favorites of their authors, but this late work, "compiled from note-books and journals kept from 1925 onwards" and covering tantalizing glimpses of Whipple's life during World War II, as well as delightful insight into her always-humble reactions to her literary success, has yet to be reprinted. It provides more evidence, if any were needed, as to why Whipple is one of the authors I would most love to have as a next-door neighbor.

And finally, my second favorite mystery discovery of the year (though, technically I "discovered" her years ago, but just hadn't got round to reading her until this year. This, her debut novel, is my favorite so far, with a loveable amateur sleuth, a gardening-related crime, and an irresistibly Thirkell-esque setting in an Irish village in wartime.

And that's it! What were your favorite books of the year?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

MAUREEN SARSFIELD, Green December Fills the Graveyard (1945)

I have to start out with a note about this book's title, which is one of my all-time favorites for a mystery novel. It's taken from a bit of folk wisdom used by several of the characters:

If only it would freeze, or snow, instead of the eternal fog and damp that turned the fields an unnatural green. Old Harry had been wagging his head and saying a green December filled the graveyards. Mr. Fewsey wagged his head and said the same thing. So did old Mrs. Vale, as if it was a matter for rejoicing. There wasn't much more room in the Shotshall churchyard to fill.

It's a clever title, and a completely appropriately morbid thought for a murder mystery.

Alas, I wish I could say that the copy I read with such pleasure over a lazy weekend was one of the original editions that actually bore this title. Sadly, though, those early editions are pricey, and the only readily available, affordable copy of the book was the reprint version by Rue Morgue Press. Even more sadly—and very disappointingly in a reprint publisher—Rue Morgue saw fit to rename the book when they reprinted it. They even refer, in their introduction, to the "dull titles" Sarsfield selected for this and her one later mystery, A Dinner for None (1948)—a puzzling critique from a publisher who chose to replace these interesting and evocative titles with the mind-numbingly dull (and this is the only time I'll refer to these hideous titles in this review, so make a note if you'd like to acquire them inexpensively) Murder at Shots Hall and Murder at Beechlands. Ugh. They're like those generic, white label products that people bought in grocery stores for a while in the Eighties, with no brand names and only the simplest labels, like "Dishwashing Soap" and "Corn Flakes." Apart from my being offended that a reprint publisher would decide that they know better what a book should be called than its author did, it's genuinely bewildering for me that anyone could find those achingly boring titles an improvement on Sarsfield's.

Ahem. Okay, I feel better for having got that off my chest. (And despite my growling, I am of course grateful to Rue Morgue for having made these books more readily available and for drawing readers' attention to them.)

At any rate, the Rue Morgue introduction also notes that, at least as of the date of the reprints, they had been unable to find information about Sarsfield, and I was happy, in my recent update that added fleshed-out information on numerous authors on my Overwhelming List, to be able to add some details of her life. Among other things, it was hitherto assumed that she had published only her two mysteries and a single mainstream novel, Gloriana (1946), which Rue Morgue describes as "very British ... a look at the bickering inhabitants of a neighborhood in London awaiting the arrival of the young woman title character." Which frankly sounds irresistible to me, but sadly the book seems to be nonexistent in the U.S.—no copies for sale on Abe Books and not a single American library has a copy (another for the Hopeless Wish List).

Back cover of Rue Morgue edition

However, it turns out that during and shortly after World War II, Sarsfield also published four books of children's fiction under her married name, Maureen Pretyman—They Knew Too Much (1943), Dreaming Mountain: A Fairy Story of County Kerry (1944), Queen Victoria Lost Her Crown (1946), and Stars in Danger (1946). What's more, I had speculatively wondered if perhaps her sudden disappearance from the publishing world after her second mystery appeared in 1948 might have indicated that she died soon after, but that's not the case either, as in fact she lived for another 13 years, dying in Cork in 1961. So her reasons for not writing any additional novels may remain as mysterious as those of many other authors on my list (though perhaps both the beginning of her writing career and its end have something to do with World War II, during which she may have found time weighing heavy on her hands?). And by the way, John Herrington also discovered that, at the time she was writing her novels, Sarsfield was living in Hastings, which immediately evoked Foyle's War for me (though it probably should have more quickly evoked something a bit more historically significant?).

The mystery takes place at Shots Hall, a partly bombed out manor house in Sussex, and in the surrounding village of Shotshall. The house is humorously described in the opening pages:

Mercifully, more than two-thirds of Shots Hall had been burned down by a glut of incendiaries during an air raid. The gutted walls, aided by gales of wind and rain sweeping in from the sea, had fallen in, and the ancient Harry had turned the tumulus-like mound of rubble into a monstrous rock garden, from which burst forth, in due course, not only flowers but a mass of strange and alien weeds. Harry called them fireflowers. They were very odd. No one attempted to weed the rock garden, so, in time, it crawled with pallid convolvulus, which strangled everything in turn, except the hardiest of the fireflowers, in a kind of gloating satisfaction that was almost cannibalistic.

Early on, the family's old housekeeper, Molly, is found poisoned in her cottage not far from the house, shortly after local artist Flikka Ashley—who lives with her Aunt Bee at the manor and has a reputation of being not, shall we say, as pure as driven snow—pays her her nightly visit on the way to her studio in a nearby outbuilding, where she's sculpting her masterpiecre. The sleazy local policeman, Sergeant Arnoldson, resentful at having his advances spurned by Flikka, immediately assumes her guilt, and when the bodies start to pile up fast (and the graveyard looks like overflowing), and the fact emerges that Flikka was present before each murder and had plenty of opportunity, things begin to look suspicious indeed.

But Inspector Lane Parry of Scotland Yard, who happens to be staying with the local Deputy Chief Constable Mahew, is not so sure of her guilt, though his objective thinking on the matter may be compromised by his own attraction to the dynamic local artist. And then there's misanthropic police surgeon, Dr. Abbot, who also finds Flikka irresistible…

Among the more amusing complications for Inspector Parry is the immense predictability of the villagers' behavior, which suggests that practically anyone could have seized their opportunity to put an unwanted neighbor out of commission:

There was, indeed, an almost awful regularity in the habits of the village. Willard, the boss of the garage, got drunk and stayed drunk for four days every six weeks. Not every month, not every seven weeks, but exactly six weeks to the dot. And he was never drunk for more or for less than four days. Once a month by the calendar, the Ambroses had a family row. Once every five weeks they threw a party. Every night at six o'clock Mr. Fewsey from the butcher's shop banged on the closed door of the pub and shouted the same remark, "Tom, yer clock's slow, open up, can't yer?" Mr. Fewsey never went to the pub at five minutes past six so that he wouldn't have to wait on the doorstep. Every night unless she was out to dine, Flikka Ashley knocked on Molly's door at half past eight. And so on.

(If my math is correct, surely every so often the Ambrose family row must take place at their party…)

I've mentioned here many times before that when I read a mystery novel, I care little about the puzzle involved. A really clever puzzle will certainly give me pleasure, but I don't particularly mind if the puzzle is no great shakes, as long as the characters and their relationships are interesting, there is some humor along the way, and it's deftly plotted enough to keep me wanting to know what happens next. I make virtually no effort at all to imagine who the murderer is in a given novel, and the explication of exactly how the a crime was committed is usually the most tedious part of a mystery for me.

Certainly not everyone reads mysteries this way, so I always feel I should make this disclaimer. And I feel it's even more necessary here, since in the current case I not only thought I knew about halfway through who the murderer was (99% of the time I'm wrong when I have that feeling), but it turned out I actually did know who it was (and, furthermore, why, which I don’t think has ever happened before). So, if any of you are the kind of reader who prioritizes the puzzle over all else in a mystery, this one might not be your cup of tea.

As much as I hate Rue Morgue's generic retitling,
I have to admit it's a charming cover

On the other hand, for all the reasons I myself read mysteries, this one is unquestionably a charmer. The humor is enjoyable and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny, though it's also not so ever-present that it takes away from the story or its believability. The characters are charming and entertaining. The police officers and inspector are amusing and distinctly characterized, and their interactions are entertaining (a rare thing, in my experience). And the setting, in its bombed out manor house in the very last days of World War II, is right up my alley.

The Rue Morgue introduction suggests that Flikka threatens to run away with the novel, but actually, although she is likeable enough, I think the real thief of hearts here is Sergeant Congreve, a junior officer in the local police, whose "awww shucks" charm and quick wit make him so irresistible that Inspector Parry tries to win him from Chief Constable Mahew in a game of rummy. He only appears on a few occasions, but when he does he makes an impression, as here when the investigators have discovered yet another possible suspect:

"Well, well, well," Parry sighed as they tramped back along the lane. "What a community. So soon as we eliminate one lot, someone else crops up. Ambroses out, Camilla in."

"This is like driving a car along the road and every corner another passenger 'ops on board," Congreve decided cheerfully.

"All I can say is," Parry grunted, "that I hope the springs don't give way from the strain."

But the best of the novel's comic relief comes from two characters, the dizzy neighbor woman, Miss Merridew, who is forever sewing new curtains for her house. I've always wondered about the varied names people in novels give to rooms in their home, and her Miss Merridew gives Inspector Parry a bit of an explication of them:

Thus disarmed, Miss Merridew let him in, bobbing round him like a little, friendly poodle.

"Oh, dear, yes! Do come in-poor man, such a horrid night. So muddy and damp and horrid, isn't it? Now, if only I hadn't finished my supper! I wonder if I could find you anything? I eat so little, really, that there never is. Now, when my dear father, was alive, there always was—do come in. In here. This is my drawing room. Really it's a living room. When there isn't a dining room, then it's a living room, isn't it? Not a drawing room, as there's nothing to withdraw from but the kitchen."

Holy Moses, thought Parry, shall I ever get any sense out of her?

And finally, there's the fire-breathing Dr. Abbot, whose violent imprecations about the hardships of being a village doctor bely what certainly seems like a good heart underneath. His mutterings when he is dragged from bed after the first murder are classic:

"A pox on you," Abbot said to the telephone. "A thousand maledictions on policemen who ring me up at night when I'm trying to get some sleep." He lived alone, but for a housekeeper, and so was in the habit of sometimes talking out loud to himself.

As he dressed, he talked. The words that flowed from his mouth called on devils and saints to witness to the revolting life of doctors in general and himself in particular. Why, in the name of sin and shame, couldn't people die and be born at decent times of the day? Why always at night, or in the middle of breakfast, lunch or dinner? "A thousand revolting diseases on them," he told his shoes, jerking at the laces. "The Ten Commandments go sour in their stomachs, and may Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spit in their eyes." Then, ruefully, he began to laugh. His private blasphemies, both biblical and medical, gave him a sort of bitter satisfaction and amusement. For to his patients, his female ones at any rate, he was a model of decorum. Inwardly, however, he was not in the least mild.

It's all very great fun, and I have a feeling many of you who share my taste in mysteries would enjoy it a lot. And this one (in the Rue Morgue edition with the hideous title I noted above) is pretty readily available if you check for used copies on Abe Books or Amazon. I already have a copy of Sarsfield's other mystery, A Dinner for None, and am now very much looking forward to seeing how she evolved with her second effort.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Update to the Grownup School Story List

One of my own happiest discoveries in doing
this list; I've now enjoyed all four of Walsh's
charming Imogen Quy mysteries

At long last, I have managed, based on many wonderful suggestions from readers, to update my Grownup School Story List. I've discovered a few new titles on my own, but most of the changes come from the comments and emails I received from all of you.

A new addition courtesy of
an anonymous commenter

A couple of people who commented with suggestions chose to remain anonymous, so thank you to those Anons (one of whom also recommended the Paul Bailey biography, Three Queer Lives, which I have since very much enjoyed). In addition, warm thanks to Frances, Brian Busby, Barbara from Call Me Madam, Jerri, Gina in Alabama, Foose, Sue in Suffolk, Cassandra Lin, and Jenefer. (And thanks to anyone else I've failed to keep track of but who also made suggestions.) I also, thanks to a heads-up from Jerri, removed a Clara Benson title based on the newly-revealed fact that the author, whoever it might be, is in fact contemporary, not from the 1930s at all. Regardless of the quality of the novels (I have not and will not be sampling them), fraud leaves rather a bad taste in my mouth, so I have chosen not to keep her (if it is even a woman) in the section for more recent titles of interest, and I will also be removing Benson from my main list and my Mystery List.

A new addition to the list courtesy of Brian Busby
(and, truth be told, an image stolen from his blog)

Should any of you (or anyone else) come across additional titles that fit the list, please do let me know.

The updated list is below (the original list is still here). I hope it leads you to additional reading pleasure!


RUTH ADAM, I'm Not Complaining (1938)

Depression-era grammar school.

MABEL ESTHER ALLAN, Here We Go Round (1954)

Grammar school. Recently reprinted by Girls Gone By.

VERILY ANDERSON, Daughters of Divinity (1960)

Memoir. University (?).


New Zealand. Grammar school.

MARY BELL, Summer's Day (1951)

Girls' boarding school.

FRANCES BELLERBY, Shadowy Bricks (1932)

Progressive school.

WINIFRED BLAZEY, Grace Before Meat (1942)

Village school.

EDWARD CANDY, Parents' Day (1967)

Coed boarding school.

HESTER W. CHAPMAN, Long Division (1943)

Boys' prep school.

HESTER W. CHAPMAN, Ever Thine (1951)

Boys' prep school.

IVY COMPTON-BURNETT, More Women than Men (1933)

Girls' boarding school.

ELIZABETH COXHEAD, A Play Toward (1952)

Village grammar school.

CLEMENCE DANE, Regiment of Women (1917)

Girls' boarding school.

ANNA DE BARY, Letters of a Schoolma'am (1913)

Possibly non-fiction? Uncertain of type of school.

VERA G. DWYER, A War of Girls (1915)

Australian. Uncertain of type of school.

MENNA GALLIE, Man's Desiring (1960)

University. "Comedy of contrasts about a Welsh man and an English woman at a Midlands university."

RUTH M. GOLDRING, Ann's Year (1933)

University. "[A] story combining school and business life in its period."

RUTH M. GOLDRING, Educating Joanna (1935)


HELEN HAMILTON, The Iconoclast (1917)

About a schoolteacher's romance. Uncertain of type of school.

MARGARET HASSETT, Educating Elizabeth (1937)

Girls' boarding school.

MARGARET HASSETT, Beezer's End (1949)

Girls' boarding school. Sequel to Educating Elizabeth.

RENÉE HAYNES, Neapolitan Ice (1932)


ROSE MARIE HODGSON, Rosy-Fingered Dawn (1934)

University. Described by Anna Bogen as an "experimental university novel."

PRISCILLA JOHNSTON, The Narrow World (1930)

Girls' boarding school.


Girls' boarding school. Sequel to The Narrow World (?).

BEL KAUFMAN, Up the Down Staircase (1965)

American. Inner city high school.

ELIZABETH LAKE, The First Rebellion (1952)

Girls' convent boarding school.

MADELEINE L'ENGLE, A Small Rain (1945)

American. First section set in Swiss boarding school.

JOAN LINDSAY, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967)

Australia. Women's college.

CHRISTINE LONGFORD, Making Conversation (1931)

Part girls' boarding school, part Oxford.

LILIAN VAUX MACKINNON, Miriam of Queen's (1921)

Canada. University. Set around the turn of the century at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. See Brian Busby's review here.

ROSEMARY MANNING, The Chinese Garden (1962)

Girls' boarding school.

MARGARET MASTERMAN, Gentleman's Daughters (1931)

Girls' school.

MARY NICHOLSON, Itself to Please (1953)

University. Set at Oxford in the 1930s.

KATE O'BRIEN, The Land of Spices (1941)

Girls' convent boarding school.

FRANCES GRAY PATTON, Good Morning, Miss Dove (1954)

American. Small town grammar school.

WINIFRED PECK, Winding Ways (1951)

Girls' boarding school.

SUSAN PLEYDELL, Summer Term (1959)

Boys' boarding school.

SUSAN PLEYDELL, A Young Man's Fancy (1962)

Boys' boarding school. Sequel to Summer Term.

HENRY HANDEL RICHARDSON, The Getting of Wisdom (1910)

Australian. Girls' boarding school.

DORA SAINT (aka MISS READ), Village School (1955)

Village grammar school.

ELEANOR SCOTT, War Among Ladies (1928)

Girls' high school.

BARBARA SILVER, Our Young Barbarians, or, Letters from Oxford (1935)

University. Review describes "faithful chronicling of a fairly ordinary routine."

MAY SMITH, These Wonderful Rumours!: A Young Schoolteacher's Wartime Diaries 1939-1945 (2012)

Diary. Elementary school.

MURIEL SPARK, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Girls' boarding school.

D. E. STEVENSON, Summerhills (1956)

In part about setting up a boys' school.

DOROTHY STRACHEY (aka OLIVIA), Olivia (1949)

Girls' boarding school in France.

MARY STURT, Be Gentle to the Young (1937)


NETTA SYRETT, A School Year (1902)




ANGELA THIRKELL, Summer Half (1937)

Boys' boarding school.

ANNE TRENEER, A Stranger in the Midlands (1952)

Memoir. Girls' high school in Birmingham.

ROSALIND WADE, Children Be Happy (1931)


ANTONIA WHITE, Frost in May (1933)

Girls' convent school.

MARY WILKES, The Only Door Out (1945)


D[OROTHY]. WYNNE WILLSON, Early Closing (1931)

Boys' boarding school.


LOIS AUSTEN-LEIGH, The Incredible Crime (1931)

University. "[A] witty take on academic life in Cambridge." (Soon to be reprinted by British Library Crime Classics.)

JOSEPHINE BELL, The Summer School Mystery

Summer school for music students.

JOSEPHINE BELL, Death at Half Term (1939)

Boys' boarding school.

DOROTHY BOWERS, Fear and Miss Betony (1941)

Wartime girls' boarding school.

JANET CAIRD, Murder Scholastic (1967)

Scottish secondary school.

AGATHA CHRISTIE, Cat Among the Pigeons (1959)

Girls' boarding school.

EILEEN HELEN CLEMENTS, Cherry Harvest (1943)

Wartime girls' boarding school evacuated to a country manor house.

AMANDA CROSS, The Theban Mysteries (1971)

American girls' school.

ANTONIA FRASER, Quiet as a Nun (1977)

Girls' convent school.

MAVIS DORIEL HAY, Death on the Cherwell (1935)


P. D. JAMES, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972)

Cambridge. Only somewhat college-related.

ELIZABETH LEMARCHAND, Death of an Old Girl (1967)

Girls' boarding school.

ELIZABETH LEMARCHAND, The Affacombe Affair (1968)

Girls' prep school.

HELEN MCCLOY, Through a Glass Darkly (1949)

American. Girls' boarding school.

GLADYS MITCHELL, Death at the Opera (1934)

Coed day school.

GLADYS MITCHELL, St. Peter's Finger (1938)

Girls' convent boarding school.

GLADYS MITCHELL, Laurels Are Poison (1942)

Girls' training college.

GLADYS MITCHELL, Tom Brown’s Body (1949)

Boys' boarding school.

GLADYS MITCHELL, Convent on Styx (1975)

Girls' convent boarding school.

DOROTHY L. SAYERS, Gaudy Night (1935)


NANCY SPAIN, Poison for Teacher (1949)

Girls' boarding school.

JOSEPHINE TEY, Miss Pym Disposes (1946)

Girls' physical training college.

ETHEL LINA WHITE, The Third Eye (1937)

First part set in girls' boarding school.

MARGARET YORKE, series featuring Patrick Grant (1980s)



NICHOLAS BLAKE, A Question of Proof (1935)

Boys' boarding school.

LEO BRUCE, Carolus Deene series

Boys' boarding school.

W. J. BURLEY, A Taste of Power (1967)

Grammar school.

MILES BURTON, Murder in the Coalhole (1940)

Grammar school (but no students appear).

MILES BURTON, Murder Out of School (1951)

Boys' prep school.

CHRISTOPHER BUSH, The Case of the Dead Shepherd (1934)

Coed high school.

V. C. CLINTON-BADDELEY, Dr. Davie series


EDMUND CRISPIN, Gervase Fen series


GLYNN DANIEL, The Cambridge Murders (1945)

Cambridge (obviously).

S. F. X. DEAN, Professor Kelly series

University. New England college.

D. DEVINE, His Own Appointed Day (1965)

Scottish high school.

MICHAEL GILBERT, The Night of the Twelfth (1976)

Boys' school.

D. DEVINE, His Own Appointed Day (1965)

Scottish high school.

MICHAEL GILBERT, The Night of the Twelfth (1976)

Boys' school.

REGINALD HILL, An Advancement of Learning (1971)


JAMES HILTON, Murder at School (1931)

Boys' boarding school. (Author of Lost Horizon.)

JOHN LE CARRÉ, A Murder of Quality (1962)

Boys' boarding school.

NORMAN LONGMATE, A Head for Death (1958)

Boys' school? Coed?

J. C. MASTERMAN, An Oxford Tragedy (1933)


KENNETH MILLAR (aka ROSS MACDONALD), The Dark Tunnel (1944)

American. University. See Brian Busby's review here.

SIMON OKE, The Hippopotamus Takes Wing (1952)

Convent school.

STUART PALMER, Hildegarde Withers series

Withers is a schoolteacher, but books feature few scenes in school

Q PATRICK, Death Goes to School (1936)

Boys' school.

IVAN ROSS, Teacher's Blood (1964)

American high school.

ERIC SHEPHERD, Murder in a Nunnery (1940)

Convent school.

ERIC SHEPHERD, More Murder in a Nunnery (1954)

Convent school.


EVE BUNTING, Spying on Miss Muller (1995)

General fiction/thriller. Belfast girls' boarding school during WWII.

SARAH CAUDWELL, Hilary Tamar series (1980s)

Mystery. Law school

PAMELA DEAN, Tam Lin (1991)

Fantasy. University. Combines a young woman's life at college with a retelling of the traditional Scottish fairy ballad "Tam Lin".

RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS, Matricide at St. Martha's (1994)

Mystery. Cambridge. One of Edwards' Robert Amiss mysteries, this time in a university setting.

BETH GUTCHEON, The New Girls (1979)

General fiction. American girls' prep school in the 1960s.

JOANNE HARRIS, Gentlemen and Players (2005)

Mystery. Boys' boarding school.

HAZEL HOLT, The Cruellest Month (1991)

Mystery. Oxford.

HAZEL HOLT, Murder on Campus (1994, aka Mrs. Malory: Detective in Residence)

Mystery. American university.

RONA JAFFE, Class Reunion

General fiction. University. Brain candy partly set at Radcliffe in the 1950s.

ANGELA LAMBERT, No Talking After Lights (1990)

Girls' boarding school. Semi-autobiographical novel based on Lambert's own unhappy school days.

ARTHUR MARSHALL, Girls Will Be Girls (1974)

Perhaps not strictly fitting this list, but definitely of interest. This is a compilation of Marshall's humorous writings about school stories.

CLARE MORRALL, After the Bombing (2014)

General fiction. Girls' school. Set partly in 1942 and partly in 1963. Reviewed by Call Me Madam here.

ROBIN STEVENS, Wells & Wong mysteries (2013-present)

Mystery series set in a 1930s girls' boarding school, featuring two schoolgirl detectives.

DONNA TARTT, The Secret History (1992)

Bestselling thriller set at a posh Vermont college.

JILL PATON WALSH, Lapsing (1986)

Early non-mystery by Walsh, about a young undergraduate at Oxford in the 1950s, whose romantic travails lead her into a crisis of faith.

JILL PATON WALSH, Imogen Quy mysteries (1993-2007)

Series of four smart, cozy, Mrs. Malory-esque mysteries whose main character is a nurse at a Cambridge college.

JILL PATON WALSH, The Late Scholar (2013)

One of Walsh's new mysteries featuring Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey; this one takes place primarily at Oxford

JACQUELINE WINSPEAR, A Lesson in Secrets (2011)

Mystery. Cambridge. One of Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries.

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