Mignon G. Eberhart (1899 – 1996)


9007017_108857716061Mignonette Good (1899-1996) was born in a suburb of Lincoln, attending Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she studied English and history from 1917 to 1920. In 1923 she married Alanson C. Eberhart, a civil engineer. After working as a freelance journalist, she decided to become a full-time writer. In 1929 her first crime novel, The Patient in Room 18, was published featuring ‘Sarah Keate’, a nurse and ‘Lance O’Leary’, a police detective. This couple appeared in another four novels, While the Patient Slept (1930), The Mystery of Hunting’s End (1930), From This Dark Stairway (1931) and Murder by an Aristocrat (1932) aka Murder of My Patient. By the end of the 1930s was one of the most popular female mystery writers of America. In the Forties, she and her husband divorced. She married John Hazen Perry in 1946 but two years later she divorced him and remarried her first husband. Over the next forty years she penned over 50 novels and numerous short stories. Eight of her books, including While the Patient Slept and Hasty Wedding (1938), were adapted for film. In 1971, she received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She was also president of the Mystery Writers of America. Eberhart continued publishing roughly a book a year until the 1980s. Her final novel, Three Days for Emeralds, was published in 1988.

The Sarah Keate novels by Mike Grost: Eberhart began her mystery career with a series of novels featuring nurse Sarah Keate and police detective Lance O’Leary. They are not exactly a team – they keep stumbling against each other accidentally when Sarah’s nursing cases turn into murder mysteries. Sarah Keate tends to be the central character of the stories, as well as the narrator. She often takes care of helpless young male patients in a female, nurse-run world: a reversal of the social roles often prescribed for men and women of the era. None of the books is a triumph, considered as a pure puzzle plot mystery – although the locked room in The Mystery of Hunting’s End and the disappearance in From This Dark Stairway are admirable. Yet several of them have opening sections with imaginative storytelling. The first five Sarah Keate novels appeared at the start of Eberhart’s career (1929-1932); the last two followed after long intervals. There are short stories about the character, such as “The Old Man’s Diamond” (1934), which appears in Mignon G. Eberhart’s Best Mystery Stories. And more importantly, there are five short stories about Keate in Dead Yesterday (available from its publisher Crippen & Landru).

Further reading:

Mysterious Press has re-issued some of her books.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Doubleday The Crime Club (USA), 1932)

After a murder at the manor where she’s employed, a nurse trades her stethoscope for a magnifying glass…

When Nurse Keate arrives at the Thatcher estate to care for a man with a bullet in his shoulder, she’s told that he shot himself accidentally—but when the convalescing man is murdered soon thereafter, it becomes clear that the only “accident” was his not being fully killed the first time around. A murderer stalks the manor and yet the rest of the family isn’t the slightest bit alarmed; instead, they seem intent on concealing the crime and adding it to the other dark secrets buried deep within their mansion’s walls. Meanwhile, Nurse Keate is passed from one family member to another, each one claiming some spurious ailment requiring her expertise, realizing only too late that the family is anxious to keep her and her knowledge of the crime from leaving the premises. After another apparent murder takes place, she begins to fear that the price of this knowledge may be her life.

A thrilling mystery set in the rarified world of a wealthy Midwestern family, Murder by an Aristocrat renders its pulse-pounding suspense and puzzling crimes with eloquent prose, exemplifying why Eberhart was widely known, in her day, as “the atmosphere queen.” It is the fifth installment in the Nurse Keate series, which can be read in any order. (Source: Penzler Publishers)

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