Josephine Bell (1897 – 1987)


95489Josephine Bell, pseudonym of Doris Bell Ball, née Collier, (born Dec. 8, 1897, Manchester, Eng.—died April 24, 1987), English physician and novelist best known for her numerous detective novels, in which poison and unusual methods of murder are prominent. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge (1916–19), and University College Hospital, London, and was a practicing physician from 1922 to 1954, first in Greenwich and London and then in Guildford, Surrey. She married a fellow physician, Norman Dyer Ball, in 1923 (he died in 1935). In 1937 her first novel, Murder in Hospital, was published, featuring David Wintringham, M.D., a fictional doctor-detective. Dozens of other mysteries followed. She also wrote many nondetective novels, short stories, radio plays, and some nonfiction pieces, such as Crime in Our Time (1962), all under her pseudonym.
Later works include the historical novel A Question of Loyalties (1974), A Pigeon Among the Cats (1974), and Such a Nice Client (1977; apa Stroke of Death). (Source: Britannica)

Bell’s work shows the influence of several kinds of British Realist School authors, especially H.C. Bailey and R. Austin Freeman, with a bit of Freeman Wills Crofts as well. She is not a director imitator of any of these writers, but their influence as a whole on her work is powerful. (Source: Mike Grost)

Bell had several series characters, amongst were Dr David Wintringham, Barrister Claud Warrington-Reeve, Dr Henry Frost, Inspector Steven Mitchell and Amy Tupper.

Overall she wrote more than 60 books, 45 of them in the detective fiction genre where, as well as medical backgrounds, she used such as archaeology in Bones in the Barrow (1953), music in The Summer School Mystery (1950) and even a wildlife sanctuary as background in Death on the Reserve (1966). (Source: Goodreads)

She also wrote on drug addicition and criminology and penned a great number of short stories. In addition she was involved in the foundation of the Crime Writers’ Association in 1953, an organisation in which she served as chair person in the 1959–60 season.

Bibliography: Murder in Hospital (1937); Death on the Borough Council (1937); Fall Over Cliff (1938); The Port of London Murders (1938); Death at Half Term (1939); From Natural Causes (1939); All is Vanity (1940); Trouble at Wrekin Farm (1942); Death at the Medical Board (1944); Death in Clairvoyance (1949); Summer School Mystery (1950); To Let Furnished (1952); Bones in the Barrow (1953); Fires at Fairlawn (1954); Death in Retirement (1956); The China Roundabout (1956); Double Doom (1957); The Seeing Eye (1958); House Above the River (1959); Easy Prey (1959); A Well Known Face (1960); New People at Hollies (1961); Adventure with Crime (1962); Flat Tyre in Fulham (1963); Hunter and the Trapped (1963); The Upfold Witch (1964); No Escape (1965); Death on the Reserve (1966); The Catalyst (1966); Death of a Con Man (1968); The Wilberforce Legacy (1969); The Fennister Affair (1969); A Hydra with Six Heads (1970); A Hole in the Ground (1971); Death of a Poison Tongue (1972); A Pigeon Among the Cats (1974); Victim (1975); Trouble in Hunter Ward (1976); Such a Nice Client (1977); A Swan Song Betrayed (1978) aka Treachery in Type; Wolf Wolf (1979); A Question of Inheritance (1980); The Innocent (1982).

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Longmans (UK), 1937)

Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp wrote:

Doris Bell Collier Ball was really quite an interesting and accomplished person.  The daughter of Joseph Collier, a distinguished doctor who died at the age of fifty when she was but eight years old, Doris Collier herself attended the Godolphin School (Dorothy L. Sayers was a classmate her first year), Newnham College, Cambridge and the University College Hospital in London.
Doris Collier married a fellow doctor, Norman Dyer Ball, and the couple had four children, in addition to maintaining a joint practice in the pleasant city of Guildford, Surrey, where they had moved (they must have been lived in fairly close proximity to Freeman Wills Crofts).
Tragically, Norman Dyer Ball was killed in 1936 when a car he was driving (or he may have been the passenger) collided with a lorry.  Doris Collier Ball was left to support their children alone. Losing her husband when he was only forty must have been made even worse by the knowledge that she had lost her father when he was only fifty.  These were bad blows, but they didn’t break Doris Collier Ball.
In addition to continuing to practice medicine, Ball began a life of crime writing, under the pseudonym Josephine Bell publishing Murder in Hospital a year after her husband’s death, in 1937.  The book is dedicated to TO THE MEMORY OF N.D.B.  This was the beginning of a very long fiction writing career for Ball (she would publish her forty-fifth and final crime novel at the age of 85 in 1982).
Murder in Hospital is a remarkable detective novel in many ways. It’s one of the best and most authentic British “workplace” mysteries of the 1930s, the most famous example of which today probably is Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise (1933).  Clearly in the novel Bell is drawing on her experiences at London’s University College Hospital.

I’ve not been able to find many of her books but I was able to get hold of this one which sounds interesting: Bones in the Barrow (Bello, 2012) by Josephine Bell.

51mUGOww6HL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Description: Haltingly, a boy tolls his fearful story to Scotland Yard officials – how he alone had witnessed from the vantage point of his commuter train a scene of terror in a dingy room . . . a blood-chilling tableau framed in a lighted window, glimpsed for a moment between patches of fog, and then gone.
Chief-Inspector Johnson listens tolerantly, yet official credence can hardly be given to such a tale. Terry Byrnes is an impressionable, imaginative lad. No crime of violence has been reported in the Battersea area, and if the boy has witnessed murder, where is the corpse?
But if Scotland Yard is not worried, Janet Lapthorn is; and sometimes a fretful woman can be a powerful agent in the processes of justice. She has a number of questions which demand answers. Why have her letters to her close friend, Felicity Hilton, gone unanswered? Why has Felicity abandoned her husband, Alastair? Why has Alastair lied about his wife’s whereabouts? To come straight to the point, where is Felicity Hilton?
The evidence is disjointed. The clues are scattered. But slowly the mists of conjecture dissolve – as the police, like patient archaeologists themselves, reconstruct the hideous form and face of an unspeakable crime.

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