Month: May 2020

Roy Vickers (1889 – 1965)

7422061-MWilliam Edward Vickers (1889 – 1965) was an English mystery writer better known under his pen name Roy Vickers, but used also the pseudonyms Roy C. Vickers, David Durham, Sefton Kyle, and John Spencer. He is the author of over 60 crime novels and 80 short stories. Vickers is now remembered mostly for his attribution to Scotland Yard of a Department of Dead Ends, specialized in solving old, sometimes long-forgotten cases, mostly by chance encounters of odd bits of strange and apparently disconnected evidence.

He was educated at Charterhouse School, and left Brasenose College, Oxford without a degree. For some time he studied law at the Middle Temple, but never practiced. He married Mary Van Rossem and they had one son. He worked as a journalist, as a court reporter and as a magazine editor; he also wrote a large number of nonfiction articles and sold hundreds of them to newspapers and magazines. Between November 1913 and February 1917, twenty short stories by Vickers were published in the Novel Magazine. About this time he published his first book, a biography of Field Marshal Frederick, Earl Roberts. He was the Editor of Novel Magazine. Vickers is best known for his ‘Department of Dead Ends’ stories which were originally published in Pearson’s Magazine from 1934. Partial collections were made in 1947, 1949, and 1978, earning him a reputation in both the UK and the US as an accomplished writer of ‘inverted mysteries’. He also edited several anthologies for the Crime Writers’ Association.

He also published mystery stories as Sefton Kyle, David Durham and John Spencer. His series characters were Inspector Rason, Hugh Stanton, Jabez Winterbourne and Felicity Dove. In 1960 he edited the Crime Writers’ Association’s anthology of short stories Some Like Them Dead. The Manchester Evening News called one of his collections, “one of the half-dozen successful books of detective short stories published since the days of Sherlock Holmes.” Vickers’s work has been adapted for film and TV, including Girl in the News (1940), Violent Moment (1959) and three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Season 3: 1957–58). (Source: Wikipedia and Golden Age of Detection Wiki).

Roy Vickers Bibliography

Vickers wrote many crime novels from the twenties onwards, but those books bear no mark of being produced by the same man who wrote the short stories which begun with the invention of the Department of Dead Ends, an imaginary branch of Scotland Yard in which the details of all unsolved murder mysteries are kept. Vickers begun to write the Dead Ends stories in the thirties, but found it hard to sell them, because their realistic tone was utterly incompatible with the requirements of magazines at the time. It was not until Ellery Queen discovered “The Rubber Trumpet” and one or two other stories in the dusty pages of Parson’s and asked it there was a series of these tales that Vickers was moved to revive his highly original idea. …. When at last a collection of stories appeared in hard covers, as The Department of Dead Ends (1949), the brilliance of the conception was at once appreciated. (Julian Symons, Bloody Murder Penguin 1974. pp. 178 – 179)

One writer ferocious hostile to snobbery was Roy Vickers, who after a long writing career was elected to the Detection Club in the Fifties. William Edward Vickers, to give his real name, was educated at Charterhouse and Oxford, but left without taking a degree, and although he qualified as a barrister he soon turned to journalism. Despite his apparent advantages the smooth progress of his career seems to have been hindered by lack of money and a supportive social network. Vickers’ output includes a novel and a short story with different plots, both call Murder of a Snob. The Judge’s Dilemma, written under the name of Sefton Kyle, has a chapter called ‘Class Prejudices’ in which the near-impossibility of a young barrister succeeding in his chosen career without money behind him is described with what seems like personal anguish. Vickers’ writing simmers with resentment towards the ‘haves’ who patronized the ‘have-nots’. He recognized, as did many others in the Detection Club, that England in the Thirties was not a meritocracy, nor a country at ease with itself. (Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder, Collins 2015. page 265)

Further Reading:

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Faber & Faber Limited (UK), 1949)

Here in one volume are ten of the best of Roy Vickers celebrated Department of Dead Ends detective stories. These are detective stories with a difference; the ‘inverted’ type of detective story. Knowing from the start who the murderer is, the reader is presented with the motive, the workings of the criminal’s mind, the crime itself, and all the clues.
The ‘surprise’ in Mr Vickers’s stories is, of course, supplied by the way in which his murderers are detected; and this is where the Department of Dead Ends comes in – that repository of files which were never completed, of investigations without a clue and clues which led nowhere. From time to time, quite illogically, Inspector Rason finds a connection between happenings in the outside world and the objects in his Scotland Yard museum, a rubber trumpet, maybe, or a bunch of red carnations. Then events move inexorably to their appointed end.
‘One of the half-dozen successful books of detective short stories published since the days of Sherlock Holmes.’ Manchester Evening News. (Amazon)

The Department of Dead Ends has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ A Penguin a week and Mysteries Ahoy!

Carolyn Wells (1870 – 1942)

descarga (3)Carolyn Wells (18 June 1869, Rahway, New Jersey – 26 March 1942, New York, New York) was an American parodist and anthologist. A precocious child, Carolyn Wells hated formal schooling and refused to attend college. Scarlet fever, suffered at the age of six, caused her to become hard of hearing. Reared in New Jersey, she made her home in New York City after her marriage to Haldwin Houghton, of the Houghton Mifflin publishing clan. She loved puzzles, bridge, chess, charades, and detective stories (her discovery of a mystery by Anna Katharine Green was pivotal, inspiring her both to read voraciously and to write voluminously in that genre). Her literary career began almost by accident, with the contribution of jingles to humorous periodicals. She considered 1902 an important date in her career: by then she had written eight books and had begun composing juveniles; after this date she consistently published at least three or four books annually. From 1909 on she wrote mysteries, and she claimed in an autobiographical work (The Rest of My Life, 1937) to have written 170 books, including 70 detective stories—”so far.”

Her other main literary activity was as an anthologist, but she was also an important collector and bibliographer of the works of Walt Whitman. Her parody of Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street (Pto-maine Street, 1921), in which Carol Kennicott becomes Warble Petticoat, is funny and full of witty puns. Sometimes it misses its mark because both locale and social class are changed, but it wickedly refashions a number of episodes from the original.

Although also clearly limited by its time and place, Wells’ detective fiction holds up somewhat better. She claimed the title of “Dean of American Mystery Writers” and was widely considered an authority. The Technique of the Mystery Story (1913; revised 1929), heavily larded with quotations of both primary and secondary materials, is a thorough survey of the field, written for aspiring authors. Unfortunately, Wells’ own style is undistinguished; dialogue and dialect are often clumsily handled. Characterization is flat, characters often being hard to distinguish from each other. Her women are often irritatingly coy, shallowly coquettish ingenues—whom the reader is clearly expected to find charming—and she made it a rule that a woman could never be the murderer (though women were sometimes the victims in her stories). Although male figures are more varied, heroes and detectives are consistently well educated and wealthy. Plotting, however, is inventive, and Wells made interesting use of such conventional types as the “locked room” mystery.

Wells created a number of detectives, the best known and most frequently used (in 61 novels) being Fleming Stone, a professional detective who is a cultivated gentleman, moving easily in the elevated social circles in which Wells’ mysteries occur. He was her first creation (The Clue, 1909), and she continued to use him until the end of her career (Who Killed Caldwell?, 1942). Similar to Stone in characterization and methods of detection is Kenneth Carlisle, but he is distinguished by being a former screen star and matinee idol (in Sleeping Dogs, 1929, and two other novels). More interesting is the team of Pennington (“Penny”) Wise and Zizi (in The Man Who Fell Through the Earth, 1919, and five other novels). His approach to detection is rational while hers is intuitive; both are fallible, although Zizi is more often right. She is presented as a mysterious young sprite of a girl who seems to have no background or past. Wells’ other detectives are Lorimer Lane (in More Lives Than One, 1923, and another novel) and Alan Ford (in Faulkner’s Folly, 1917, and two other novels). Wells’ sleuths often work wonders of detection, but they occasionally err and thus illustrate her distaste, often expressed, for the “omniscient detective.”

Once well known and highly respected, Wells’s works now languish unread. She was too prolific, wrote too easily and rapidly, reflected her age too uncritically, and restricted herself too narrowly to popular genres and formulas. Her importance thus is largely historical, and is most clearly found in her practice of the detective novel. (Source: Excerpt from Encyclopedia.com)

Read more about Fleming Stone novels at The Thrilling Detective Web Site

Selected works by Carolyn Wells (to begin with): Anybody But Anne (1913-1914), Faulkner’s Folly (1917), The Room with the Tassels (1918), The Man who Fell Through the Earth (1919), Raspberry Jam (1919-1920), The Vanishing of Betty Varian (1922).

Further reading:

Anybody But Anne does establish, that what we think of as a “typical Golden Age style mystery novel”, was in existence before what is often thought of as the official start of the Golden Age in 1920. It is also a fact, that Wells was American, and that her book is set in the United States: somewhere in New England. (Mike Grost)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. J. B. Lippincott Company (USA), 1914)

Eccentric millionaire David Van Wyck has decided to pledge all his money away, leaving his wife Anne nothing but her jewelry to survive on. When David sees Anne flirting with an old high school friend during a weekend party at his mansion, Buttonwood Terrace, he decides to include Anne’s gems in his giveaway. David Wyck is found murdered the next morning in a locked-room and while suspicion initially points to Anne, it becomes apparent that several of Wyck’s guests had a motive for the crime. The narrator of the story, the guest Ann is in love with, prays that the culprit is ‘Anybody but Anne.’ In a structural twist, Detective Fleming Stone appears in the preamble and returns in the third act, book-ending the mystery, rather than merely appearing in the denouement. (Source: Goodreads)

Anybody But Anne has been reviewed, among others, at Mystery File, and Ontos.

Elspeth Huxley (1907 – 1997)

OIPElspeth Joscelin Huxley CBE (née Grant; 23 July 1907 – 10 January 1997) was a polymath, writer, journalist, broadcaster, magistrate, environmentalist, farmer, and government advisor. She wrote 30 books; but she is best known for her lyrical books The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard which were based on her experiences growing up in a coffee farm in Colonial Kenya. Nellie and Major Josceline Grant, Elspeth Grant’s parents, arrived in Thika in what was then British East Africa in 1912, when she was 5 years old, to start a life as coffee farmers and colonial settlers. Flame Trees… explores how unprepared for rustic life the early British settlers really were. Elspeth was educated at a whites only school in Nairobi.

She left Africa in 1925, earning a degree in agriculture at Reading University in England and studying at Cornell University in upstate New York. Elspeth returned to Africa periodically, becoming the Assistant Press Officer to the Empire Marketing Board in 1929. She married Gervas Huxley, a grandson of Thomas Huxley and a cousin of Aldous Huxley, in 1931. They had one son, Charles, who was born in February 1944. She resigned her post in 1932 and traveled widely. She was appointed an independent member of the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (the Monckton Commission). An advocate of colonialism early in life, she later called for independence for African countries. In the 1960s, she served as a correspondent for the National Review magazine.

Most of Elspeth Huxley’s writing reflects on her experiences growing up in Kenya and her continued interest in African development. Her output includes both novels and non-fiction: autobiography, travel writing, political exposition, biography, and journalism, produced throughout the latter half of the twentieth century—her book-publishing career alone spanned more than sixty years. Sympathising from the beginning with the white settlers and increasingly with the black Africans, with a professional background in agriculture as well as journalism, she became a skilled interpreter of Africa to the world outside, even while remembering that “no person of one race and culture can truly interpret events from the angle of individuals” who belong to a “different race and culture.” This has not exempted her from later strong critique of her racial attitudes: attitudes which were normal, nearly inescapable, for her generation, her race, and her colonial identity. As a professional she prided herself on being able to turn her pen to anything. Her polemical writing on environmental issues, for instance, deserves to be better known. (Source: Goodreads)

She died on 10 January 1997 in a nursing home in Tetbury, in Gloucestershire, England. She was 89.

Elspeth Huxley Obituary The Independent.

Elspeth Huxley produced a handful of detective novels, mainly set in sub-Saharan East Africa. The first three, featuring Superintendent Vachell, are: Murder at Government House (1937), Murder on Safari (1938), Death of an Aryan aka The African Poison Murders (1939). Years later she published The Merry Hippo aka The Incident at the Merry Hippo (1963) and A Man From Nowhere (1964).

Mike Grost finds ‘her mystery plotting rarely achieves much interest as a puzzle. Her story telling is dull. Her characters tend to be either mediocre human beings or unpleasant, thus lacking much positive interest.’ (A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection). However I’m quite tempted to read Murder on Safari, both because the action is set in Africa, as for the time when the story unfolds. Besides it has also some favourable reviews.

One of the best detective novels I read last year was Murder on Safari (1938) by Elspeth Huxley. Despite its uninspired title, the book is the epitome of what a detective story should be: an excellent cast of well-drawn characters inhabiting a vividly painted setting and a top-notch plot that plays scrupulous fair with its readers – in this case providing a solution with nearly a dozen footnotes, referring back to the pages where the clues were given. Brilliant!’ (TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time).

150 Favorite Golden Age British Detective Novels: A Very Personal Selection, by Curt J. Evans.

My 150 Favorite Mysteries (Updated: July 1, 2012) by TomCat.

Further reading:

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Methuen & Co. Ltd. (UK), 1938)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Harper & Brothers (USA), 1938)

Lord and Lady Baradale, on a posh safari in Kenya, anticipate splendid photo trophies for their luxurious labors. But rather than collecting trophies, they gave some up. When Lady Baradale’s jewels are stolen, a young Canadian policeman, Vachell, is called in. He sets to work on the theft, but is interrupted by murder. Lady Baradale’s body is discovered with a bullet hole in the skull. Every member of the hunting party is suspect.
“Elspeth Huxley does not rely for effect simply on the unusual nature of her Kenyan setting. She has woven a complicated web of clue and counter-clue, clever enough to entrance and entangle even the most experienced detective fan.” (The Times, London) Source: Fantastic Fiction.

Murder on Safari has been reviewed, among others, at The Invisible Event, Tipping My Fedora, Vintage Pop Fiction, Only Detect, The Grandest Game in the World, Crimepieces, My Reader’s Block, and ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’

Stuart Palmer (1905 – 1968)

palmer-for-websiteStuart Palmer (1905–1968) was an American author of mysteries. Born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Palmer worked a number of odd jobs—including apple picking, journalism, and copywriting—before publishing his first novel, the crime drama Ace of Jades, in 1931. It was with his second novel, however, that he established his writing career: The Penguin Pool Murder introduced Hildegarde Withers, a schoolmarm who, on a field trip to the New York Aquarium, discovers a dead body in the pool.

Withers was an immensely popular character, and went on to star in thirteen more novels, including Miss Withers Regrets (1947) and Nipped in the Bud (1951). A master of intricate plotting, Palmer found success writing for Hollywood, where several of his books, including The Penguin Pool Murder, were filmed by RKO Pictures Inc. (Source: Mysterious Press)

Stuart Palmer’s detective tales usually feature either Hildegarde Withers, a spinster sleuth, or, less frequently, Howie Rook, the least hard boiled of all private eyes. Palmer’s tales are generally comic in tone, but he is not a member of the “farce school” of Phoebe Atwood Taylor. Rather Palmer’s works adhere to the classical detective paradigms of the intuitionist school, of such writers as Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen. Reading Palmer’s best works show why this school is so well loved: watching Hildegarde Withers unravel “The Riddle of the Black Museum” (1946) is just plain fun. There is a detective, a mystery, and an ingenious solution, and one experiences a strong desire to read more stories like this. (Mike Grost)

Many of Palmer’s best puzzle plot stories show structural features in common. These include the novels Murder on Wheels (1932), The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (1933), The Puzzle of the Silver Persian (1934), The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla (1937), The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (1941) and Cold Poison (1954), and the short stories “The Riddle of the Dangling Pearl” (1933), “The Riddle of the Brass Band” (1934), “The Riddle of the Forty Naughty Girls” (1934), “The Riddle of the Hanging Men” (1934), “The Riddle of the Whirling Lights” (1935), and “The Riddle of the Tired Bullet” (1948), all in the collection Hildegarde Withers: Uncollected Riddles; “Once Upon a Train” (1950), “Autopsy and Eva” (1954), “Rift in the Loot” (1955) and “Withers and Malone, Brain-Stormers” (1959) in People Vs. Withers & Malone; “Tomorrow’s Murder” (1940), “Green Ice” (1941), “The Monkey Murder” (1947), “Fingerprints Don’t Lie” (1947) in other collections.

Hildegarde Withers novels: The Penguin Pool Murder (1931), Murder on Wheels (1932), Murder on the Blackboard (1932), The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (1933), The Puzzle of the Silver Persian (1934), The Puzzle of the Red Stallion aka The Puzzle of the Briar Pipe (1935), The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla (1937), The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (1941), Miss Withers Regrets (1947), Four Lost Ladies (1949), The Green Ace aka At One Fell Swoop (1950), Nipped in the Bud aka Trap for a Redhead (1951), Cold Poison aka Exit Laughing (1954), and Hildegarde Withers Makes the Scene completed by Fletcher Flora after Palmer’s death (1969).

Hildegarde Withers short stories: People Versus Withers and Malone (1963) was a collaboration with Craig Rice. Many of his short stories published in newspapers were collected in The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers (1947), Monkey Murder and other Hildegarde Withers Stories (1950) and Hildegarde Withers: Uncollected Riddles (2002).

Other novels as Stuart Palmer: Ace of Jades (1930), No Flowers By Request aka Omit Flowers (1937), Unhappy Hooligan aka Death in Grease Paint (1956) and Rook Takes Knight (1968).

Read also: Stuart Palmer & Hildegarde Withers An Appreciation by Steven Saylor

Further Reading:

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Brentano’s (USA), 1932)

Miss Withers investigates a man who appears to have hanged himself while driving

As snow falls on the steps of the New York Public Library; a line of cars moves sluggishly down Fifth Avenue. Oblivious to the traffic, a blue Chrysler roadster tears down the street, hops the curb, and slams to a halt. The car is empty, its driver thrown half a block back. He is stone dead, his cigarette still burning, and a noose tied tight around his neck.

First on the scene is Detective Oscar Piper, followed closely by Hildegarde Withers, a schoolmarm with more than a passing interest in crime. They are a close-knit pair, and would have been married by now if murder didn’t keep getting in the way. Piper and Miss Withers must race across New York, attempting to learn how a man can be hanged while driving, and to do whatever it takes to keep his twin from suffering the same fate. (Source: Mysterious Press)

Murder on Wheels has been reviewed, among others, at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, Beneath the Stains of Time, The Invisible Event, and Pretty Sinister Books.

Anthony Abbot (1893 – 1952)

4496517Anthony Abbot pseudonym of Charles Fulton Oursler (January 22, 1893 – May 24, 1952). Fulton Oursler was once famous for his popular religious books, particularly The Greatest Story Ever Told (1949), a retelling of the story of the Bible. It was followed by The Greatest Book Ever Written (1951) and The Greatest Faith Ever Known, completed by his daughter, April Oursler Armstrong, and posthumously published in 1953, as well as other books of Christian apologetics. But as Anthony Abbot he wrote a brief series of mysteries about Thatcher Colt, head of the New York City police department.

Abbot began his writing career as a newspaperman with the Baltimore American, having previously work at jobs as various as law clerk and water boy for a construction crew. Although he never finished high school –actually, he never entered it, having dropped out of the eighth  grade– he rose to high positions with publishing companies in New York City. While working for MacFadden publications he oversaw various pulp magazines including True Detective. Abbot continued his own writing, however, and had a long-running play on Broadway, The Spider (1927), co-written with Lowell Brentano. He begun the Thatcher Colt series with About the Murder of Geraldine Foster (1930), which features an axe murder inviting comparisons with the Lizzie Borden case. Like S. S. Van Dine, Abbot sometimes used real cases as inspiration; also like Van Dine, the connection to reality stopped there. Thatcher Colt is the police commissioner of New York City, but he goes about in evening dress and is clearly a genius detective of the Philo Vance school. Although the Colt books are not even harder to find than the Vance mysteries, Barzun and Taylor gave Abbot credit for being more “sensible” than Van Dine.

Oursler became a senior editor at Reader’s Digest in 1944. He was a broadcaster during World War II. He also lectured on criminology and pursued a wide variety of interests, including psychic phenomena. He died in New York City in 1952, while halfway through writing his autobiography, Behold This Dreamer, published in 1964. (Source: The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery by B. Murphy)

Abbot wrote four Thatcher Colt detective novels in 1930 – 1932. They are especially Van Dine like in their tone, and in their detectival approach. He then paused for three years, without publishing any more Colts. During 1935 – 1943, he published four more Colt novels, at long intervals. These later novels are much less Van Dine like in tone, perhaps not surprising, in that Van Dine was no longer anywhere near as popular as in the early 1930’s. They also contain much more about an Abbot enthusiasm of those years, psychic phenomena. (Mediums are also mentioned briefly in his first book About the Murder of Geraldine Foster. (Mike Grost)

The Thatcher Colt mysteries date back to the 1930s and were the source material for a couple of interesting old films. You may find these difficult to acquire but keep your eyes open, they’re worth it. Classic American detection with good writing and interesting plots. I liked About the Murder of the Nightclub Lady; About the Murder of the Clergyman’s Mistress is tough to find but very enjoyable. (Noah Stewart)

Bibliography: About the Murder of Geraldine Foster, 1930 (UK Title: The Murder of Geraldine Foster [1931]); About the Murder of the Clergyman’s Mistress, 1931 (UK Title: Crime of the Century [1931]) (Also published as: Murder of the Clergyman’s Mistress [1950]; and as: Mysterious Murder of the Blonde Play-Girl [193?]); About the Murder of the Night Club Lady, 1931 (UK Title: Murder of the Night Club Lady [1932]) (Also published as: The Night Club Lady [1932]); About the Murder of the Circus Queen, 1932 (UK Title: Murder of the Circus Queen [1933]); About the Murder of a Startled Lady, 1935 (UK Title: Murder of a Startled Lady [1936]); About the Murder of a Man Afraid of Women, 1937 (UK Title: Murder of Man Afraid of Women [1937]); The Creeps, 1939 (UK Title: Murder at Buzzards Bay [1940]); and The Shudders (UK Title: Deadly Secret [1943]).

Anthony Abbot is one of the most important of the “little known” mystery writers. Like Ellery Queen an early follower of S.S. Van Dine, Abbot’s books are distinguished by a wonderful plot complexity. Abbot is good at misdirection. The reader is encouraged to view subplots as having a certain significance, when in reality they point in an entirely different direction, one that is only revealed at the end of the story. This is perhaps related to the plotting technique sometimes used by pulp writers, in which so many actors are doing so many things that the reader is constantly misled about the real origins of every startling, new plot twist. (To continue reading it click here at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection)

Further reading:

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. (USA), 1935)

About the Murder of a Startled Lady was originally published in the US in 1935 by Farrar and Rinehart and, a year later, in the UK as Murder of a Startled Lady by Collins Crime Club.

From the Introduction:

The truth about the case of the foundling bones should have been apparent from the start. At least, on looking back, it seems so to me. I believe that almost from the beginning, Police Commissioner Thatcher Colt had an idea of the nature of the deed and how it was committed. The problem was to prove it, and in this process, so Colt maintains, the Police Department and not himself deserves all praise. As to that, I make no comment, except to remind the reader that the only reason Thatcher Colt has permitted me to publish these memoirs is for the greater glory of the department which he administered so fairly and efficiently under two Mayors, of opposite political faiths. Colt’s love for the Police Department is thorough and sincere; he is anxious to win public respect and support for the blue-coats in the war against crime. Some years ago, in presenting the first of these mysteries of New York to the public, I made a few remarks which may bear repeating now:

“When Mr. Thatcher Colt was Police Commissioner of the City of New York he was confronted with a number of mysterious crimes. In the face of grave difficulties, not all of which were known to the public, he personally conducted the investigations and, under handicaps that might have discouraged a less determined man, he solved the cases, caused the arrest of the guilty persons and saw them convicted. Yet the credit for his detective work was given to others. Recently Mr. Colt was approached with the proposal that the[Pg 8] facts in these startling cases be published. At first he declined, on the wholly reasonable grounds that it might appear he was seeking honour for himself. The argument which finally persuaded the former commissioner was that he would bring honour to a place where it is too often a stranger—the police department.

“It is all too true that the American public does not sufficiently appreciate its police. There is a romantic fallacy that the Force is hopeless when faced with a clever crime; indeed many persons hold the departments of the country in contempt and derision. From short stories and novels they seem to have gained the impression that puzzling crimes are solved only by brilliant amateurs. These whimsical creatures of the story-teller’s imagination, a printed army of amiable dilettanti of the current fiction, are gentlemen of inexhaustible knowledge and accomplishment. They are experts in chemistry and astronomy, psycho-analysis and fire-arms; they know rugs, music, chess and wines; they are languid fellows with a great fund of humour, and a mischievous liking for cryptic utterances until they are ready to put a delicate finger on the malefactor. Their avocation is to catch elusive murderers, when the police detectives are ready to confess their utter ineptitude for their own business.

“Of course there are no such detectives in real life. Yet the crimes of reality are infinitely stranger than the fanciful misdeeds which these imaginary detectives are asked to unravel. The police face crime and mystery as a part of their daily routine, and they solve their cases by knowing their business and attending to it—by vast and competent organisation, patience and determined hard work, together with some ingenuity and an occasional streak of good luck….”

These were the methods employed in dealing with [Pg 9] the mystery of the box of bones. They are described here just as I saw them performed; perhaps you will anticipate the solution long before I did. As I said before, it was perfectly obvious almost from the beginning—or should have been. (Anthony Abbot)

About the Murder of a Startled Lady has been reviewed at Death Can Read, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Beneath the Stains of Time, The Invisible Event, and Vintage Post Fiction