New (to me) Authors I’m Looking Forward to

Dorothy Bowers (1902 – 1948)

Clifford Witting (1907 – 1968)

Following my inveterate habit not to start reading an author following a chronological order of his or her books, I have selected the following titles to begin to familiarise myself with them both. Stay tune!

08Fear For Miss Betony, 1941 (Inspector Pardoe # 4) by Dorothy Bowers (Moonstone Press, 2019)

Emma Betony is an elderly lady reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that the rest of her life is to be spent in inaction at Toplady Homes–a serviced London establishment for retired gentlewomen. Salvation appears to arrive in the form of an impassioned plea for help from an old pupil, Grace Aram, who now runs Makeways, a girls school and private nursing home in the west country. When Emma arrives at Makeways, however, it is to discover a community haunted by a malignant force that threatens to call up anew the ghosts of her own past. And when tragedy strikes, Emma finds she must face her own demons if she is to bring a murderer to justice.

56077537._SY475_Catt Out of the Bag, 1939 (Inspector Harry Charlton #4) by Clifford Witting (Galileo Publishers, 2020)

This reissue of a classic mystery originally published in 1939 sparkles with wonderfully wry humour and the energy of the time. John Rutherford finds himself puzzling the mysterious disappearance of a man from an evening of carol singing. The novel begins with: “A rather curious thing happened during the evening of Sunday, the 21st of December”. John narrates, and within a few paragraphs had me chuckling in appreciation. As John investigates it becomes clear that the darkest of deeds may have been committed, and he reports the case to Inspector Charlton. Clifford Witting wrote 16 novels between 1937 and 1964, Catt Out of the Bag is the fourth involving Inspector Harry Charlton, yet you can quite happily read this as a standalone. I found myself completely wrapped up in the era, and thoroughly enjoyed the lively wit. Sitting as it does within the ‘Golden Age’ of mystery writing Catt Out of the Bag really is a perfect Christmas Mystery.

Notes On: The Dartmoor Enigma, 1935 (An Inspector Richardson Mystery # 5) by Sir Basil Thomson

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para acceder a la versión en español

Dean Street Press, 2016. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 867 KB. Print Length: 222 pages. ASIN: B01CKX30II. eISBN: 978 1 911095 76 7.The Dartmoor Enigma was originally published under the title Richardson Solves A Dartmoor Mystery by Eldon Press Limited, London, in 1935, and as The Dartmoor Enigma in the US by Doubleday in 1936. It is the fifth book in the series featuring Inspector Richardson, and it was preceded by The Case of the Dead Diplomat (1935) and followed by Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? (1936). This new edition, the first in over seventy years, features an introduction by crime novelist Martin Edwards, author of acclaimed genre history The Golden Age of Murder.

dartmoorDescription: “I’m writing to you about the death of Mr. Dearborn. You bet the murderer’s laughing up his sleeve now that he’s got away with it.”

An inquest is held in South Devon on the death of a man apparently killed in a motor accident on Dartmoor: the verdict is “Death from misadventure.” But soon afterwards Scotland Yard and the Devon Chief Constable receive anonymous letters alleging that the verdict was wrong; that the death was caused by blows inflicted by a person, or persons, unknown.

The Chief Constable asks for help from Scotland Yard. Richardson is detailed, as Chief Inspector C.I.D., to unravel the case. A discharged quarryman is suspected by the local police; Richardson clears him. He finds the writer of the anonymous letters, but he also finds that the dead man had shrouded his own past in mystery and was going under an assumed name. It looks like the most difficult case he has had to unravel, but Chance steps in to provide him with a clue…

My Take: The Dartmoor Enigma, the fifth book in the series featuring Inspector Richardson, was first published under the title Richardson Solves A Dartmoor Mystery by Eldon Press Limited, London in 1935. The story begins the day Scotland Yard receives an anonymous letter advising them of “ … some funny business over the death of Mr Dearborn of The Firs, Winterton. The coroner said the cause of death was a motor accident. If I was to tell all I know the doctor who gave the evidence and the coroner too would look foolish. You ought to stop the burial.”  The envelope was addressed to the Chief Constable, Scotland Yard, and was postmarked Tavistock. But before the letter is send to Devon, a second letter arrives at Scotland Yard and the case begins to take shape.The second letter is from the Chief Constable of Devon requesting the help of the Yard  regarding an anonymous letter with a Moorstead postmark, in a similar sense to the first letter received at Scotland Yard. In this way we find out that Mr Charles Dearborn, on September 29, have had a motor accident and was assisted by one Dr Wilson who rendered him first aid. When Mr Dearborn recovered, he was able to give his name and address and Dr Wilson took him home, leaving him in care of his wife. A few days later he became ill and within two days Mr Dearborn had died. At the ensuing inquest, the verdict returned that Mr Dearborn death was cause by injuries sustained in a motor accident. Efforts to identify the author of the anonymous letter proved unsuccessful. Under other circumstances, nobody would have paid much attention to an anonymous letter, except for the fact that one police officer discovered a broken walking-stick with blood upon it at the site of the motor accident. Therefore, the Chief Constable of Devon would be very much obliged if Scotland Yard could spare an experience detective officer to take charge of the investigation. Meanwhile, the funeral will be postponed for one or two days to allow time for a more detailed examination of the newly-found evidence. In this manner, Chief Inspector Richardson and Detective Sergeant Jago, a native of Tavistock who can provide Richardson the local knowledge, take charge of the case. Their main trouble will be that no one in the area knows anything about the past of the late Mr Dearborn, not even his widow. Dearborn seemed to have been a mysterious an reserved man. He had money, though no one was sure how he got it. It was rumoured he sold a property in London and moved to this area only three years ago when he announced that he was looking for a housekeeper whom he married a year later. He had recently bought a local quarry. A quarry worker, described as a troublemaker, had been fired by Dearborn himself and was seen at the scene of the accident, but he was able to provide a solid alibi and in this manner the investigation returns to square one.

Richardson grunted his acquiescence and added that in a case where one had no certain clue to go upon, one had to make deductions and to work upon theories. “Anyhow,” he added, “this case is the most interesting that I have yet had to work upon … “

I honestly cannot explain what made me read this author and why I choose to read this book in particular. It is true I’d been looking for a while to read something light and not too demanding to spend a good time when I realised I had almost forgotten the existence of Sir Basil Thompson. Certainly, Martin Edward’s article on his life and his books encouraged me to read him. But the next question had no easy answer. I should have probably followed the advise by J F Norris and TomCat and start reading The Case of Naomi Clynes, but then I realised that The Dartmoor Enigma had been translated to Spanish and is available in bookshops. Consequently I ended up choosing this title to get me acquaintance with this author and I don’t regret it. The Dartmoor Enigma is appealing enough as to read it in one go and has enough twists and turns as to satisfy the most demanding readers. The story is easy to read and has the added incentive of being written by someone who had had insider knowledge of Scotland Yard. Sir Basil Thomson probably wrote some of the firsts police procedurals before this term was even coined. And if to all this we added the recommendation of an expert like the late Noah Stewart in the attached review we won’t go wrong in our choice. I don’t think it is necessary to add that even if Sir Basil Thomson can fit within the so-called “humdrum” his books may turn out being highly attractive for fans of Golden Age mysteries who will enjoy his fair play. He might not be in the top tier of the mystery writers of his time, but he certainly deserves to be much better known and recognised of what has been so far. Needless to say I’m looking forward to reading other books in the series.

“It was one of the guesses that one has to make on his job. I’ll let you into a secret. If you feel sure that something must have been done, don’t ask the witness whether it was done because he or she will say no; speak of it as something you both know was done and in nine cases out of ten the they won’t risk lying about it”.

The Dartmoor Enigma has been reviewed, among others, by Noah Stewart at  ‘Noah’s Archive’


(Source: Facsimile Duct Jackets LLC. Doubleday The Crime Club, USA, 1936)

About the Author: Sir Basil Home Thomson, KCB (21 April 1861 – 26 March 1939) was a British colonial administrator and prison governor, who was head of Metropolitan Police CID during World War I. Thomson was also a successful novelist. He was born in Oxford, where his father, William Thomson (who would later become Archbishop of York), was provost of The Queen’s College. Thomson was educated at Worsley’s School in Hendon and Eton College, and then attended New College, Oxford. Thomson ended his university studies after two terms, after suffering bouts of depression, and spent some time from 1881 to 1882 in the United States, working as a farmer in Iowa. (read more at Wikipedia)

Martin Edwards at The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015) wrote about Sir Basil Thomson:

Sir Basil Thomson, a former Head of CID at Scotland Yard whose eventful career also includes spells as assistant prime minister of Tonga and governor of Dartmoor and Wormwood Scrubs, wrote several mystery stories, including a series charting the rise through the ranks of a policeman called Richardson. Thomson worked with the intelligence service during the war, conducting an interrogation of Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer and spy subsequently executed by a French firing squad. In his mid sixties, Thomson gained first-hand experience of the criminal justice system when he was charged with an act of indecency in Hyde Park with a woman who gave the name of Miss Thelma de Lava. Thomson claimed he was talking to her for the purpose of researching vice in London, prior to meeting a confidential source in the Communist Party at Speaker’s Corner. His defence was not helped by the fact that Miss de Lava was a prostitute, or by his having misled a police constable about his identity. Thomson was a controversial figure, and it is conceivable that he was ‘fitted up’ by enemies in the police or political classes, but he was fund guilty and fined five pounds. (pp: 195 – 196).

Between 1933 and 1937 Sir Basil Thomson published eight crime novels featuring series character Inspector Richardson receiving great praise from Dorothy L. Sayers among others. The Richardson series is made up of the following books: (the first title given is that of the 2016 Dean Street Press edition): Richardson’s First Case (1933) – originally PC Richardson’s First Case; Richardson Scores Again (1934) – retitled Richardson’s Second Case in the US; The Case of Naomi Clynes (1934) – originally Inspector Richardson CID, retitled The Case of Naomi Clynes in the US; The Case of the Dead Diplomat (1935) – originally Richardson Goes Abroad, retitled The Case of the Dead Diplomat in the US; The Dartmoor Enigma (1935) – originally Richardson Solves a Dartmoor Mystery, retitled The Dartmoor Enigma in the US; Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? (1936) – originally Death in the Bathroom, retitled Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? in the US; The Milliner’s Hat Mystery (1937) – originally Milliner’s Hat Mystery, retitled The Mystery of the French Milliner in the US; A Murder is Arranged (1937) – retitled When Thieves Fall Out in the US.

Dean Street Press publicity page

Sir Basil Thomson’s Richardson series, by Martin Edwards

Basil Thomson by John Simkin ( © September 1997 (updated January 2020)

Basil Thomson page at Gadetection 

El enigma Dartmoor (Edición Ilustrada): Un misterio de la «Golden Age» de Sir Basil Thomson

portada-El-Enigma-DartmoorSinopsis: Inglaterra, 1935. El señor Dearborn, de Winterton, fallece en su casa pocos días después de sufrir un accidente de tráfico en los páramos de Dartmoor. Tanto el juez como un forense dictaminan que la causa de la muerte ha sido la conmoción cerebral sufrida durante el propio accidente. No obstante, una serie de cartas anónimas enviadas a las oficinas de Scotland Yard advierten del posible error que se está cometiendo y piden que se posponga el entierro y se realice una investigación más profunda sobre el asunto.

El elegido para hacerse cargo del caso y desplazarse al condado de Devon es el inspector jefe Richardson, famoso tanto por su juventud a la hora de ascender dentro del cuerpo como por su pericia para resolver casos difíciles. Con la inestimable ayuda del sargento Jago, Richardson comienza unas pesquisas que pronto le llevan a descubrir que por cada detalle resuelto en este misterio surgen nuevas intrigas, y todas ellas convergen en el enigma más sorprendente de todos: el propio señor Dearborn.

Mi opinión: El enigma Dartmoor, el quinto libro de la serie protagonizado por el inspector Richardson, fue publicado por primera vez con el título Richardson Solves A Dartmoor Mystery por Eldon Press Limited, Londres en 1935. La historia comienza el día en que Scotland Yard recibe una carta anónima en la que se les informa de “… algo raro sobre la muerte del Sr. Dearborn de The Firs, Winterton. El juez de instrucción dijo que la causa de la muerte fue un accidente automovilístico. Si tuviera que decir todo lo que sé, el médico que presentó las pruebas y el juez de instrucción también parecerían tontos. Deberían detener el entierro.” El sobre estaba dirigido al jefe de policía de Scotland Yard y tenía matasellos de Tavistock. Pero antes de enviar la carta a Devon, llega una segunda carta a Scotland Yard y el caso comienza a tomar forma. La segunda carta es del jefe de la policía de Devon solicitando la ayuda de Scotland Yard con respecto a una carta anónima con matasellos de Moorstead, en un sentido similar a la primera carta recibida en Scotland Yard. De esta manera nos enteramos de que el Sr. Charles Dearborn, el 29 de septiembre, tuvo un accidente automovilístico y fue asistido por un tal Dr. Wilson que le prestó los primeros auxilios. Cuando el Sr. Dearborn se recuperó, pudo dar su nombre y dirección y el Dr. Wilson lo llevó a casa, dejándolo al cuidado de su mujer. Unos días más tarde se enfermó y en dos días el Sr. Dearborn había muerto. En la investigación subsiguiente, el veredicto arrojó que la muerte del Sr. Dearborn fue causada por las lesiones sufridas en un accidente automovilístico. Los esfuerzos para identificar al autor de la carta anónima resultaron infructuosos. En otras circunstancias, nadie habría prestado mucha atención a una carta anónima, excepto por el hecho de que un oficial de policía descubrió un bastón roto con sangre en el lugar del accidente automovilístico. Por lo tanto, el jefe de la policía de Devon estaría muy agradecido si Scotland Yard pudiera contar con un oficial detective experimentado para que se hiciera cargo de la investigación. Mientras tanto, el funeral se pospondrá uno o dos días para dar tiempo a un examen más detallado de la evidencia recién encontrada. De esta manera, el inspector jefe Richardson y el sargento detective Jago, un nativo de Tavistock que puede brindarle a Richardson el conocimiento local, se hacen cargo del caso. Su principal problema será que nadie en el área conoce nada sobre el pasado del difunto Sr. Dearborn, ni siquiera su viuda. Dearborn parecía haber sido un hombre misterioso y reservado. Tenía dinero, aunque nadie estaba seguro de cómo lo había conseguido. Se rumoreaba que vendió una propiedad en Londres y se mudó a esta zona hace solo tres años cuando anunció que estaba buscando un ama de llaves con quien se casaría un año después. Recientemente había comprado una cantera local. Un trabajador de la cantera, descrito como un alborotador, había sido despedido por el propio Dearborn y fue visto en la escena del accidente, pero pudo proporcionar una coartada sólida y de esta manera la investigación vuelve al punto de partida.

Richardson refunfuño su aprobación y agregó que en un caso en el que uno no tenía una pista segura a la que seguir, uno tenía que hacer deducciones y trabajar sobre teorías. “De todos modos”, agregó, “este caso es el más interesante en el que he tenido que trabajar hasta ahora…” (mi traducción libre)

Sinceramente, no puedo explicar qué me hizo leer a este autor y por qué elegí leer este libro en particular. Es cierto que llevaba un tiempo buscando leer algo ligero y no demasiado exigente para pasar un buen rato cuando me di cuenta de que casi había olvidado la existencia de Sir Basil Thompson. Ciertamente, el artículo de Martin Edward, sobre su vida y sus libros me animó a leerlo. Pero la siguiente pregunta no tenía una respuesta fácil. Probablemente debería haber seguido el consejo de J F Norris y TomCat y empezar a leer The Case of Naomi Clynes, pero luego me di cuenta de que El enigma de Dartmoor había sido traducido al español y está disponible en las librerías. En consecuencia, terminé eligiendo este título para familiarizarme con este autor y no me arrepiento. El enigma de Dartmoor es lo suficientemente atractivo como para leerlo de una sentada y tiene suficientes giros y vueltas como para satisfacer a los lectores más exigentes. La historia es fácil de leer y tiene el incentivo adicional de haber sido escrita por alguien que tenía un conocimiento interno de Scotland Yard. Sir Basil Thomson probablemente escribió algunos de los primeros procedimientos policiales antes de que se acuñara este término. Y si a todo esto le sumamos la recomendación de un experto como el desaparecido Noah Stewart en la reseña adjunta no nos equivocaremos en nuestra elección. No creo que sea necesario añadir que si bien Sir Basil Thomson puede encajar dentro de los llamados “humdrum”, sus libros pueden resultar muy atractivos para los aficionados a los misterios de la Edad de Oro que disfrutarán de su juego limpio. Puede que no esté en el nivel superior de los escritores de misterio de su tiempo, pero ciertamente merece ser mucho más conocido y reconocido de lo que ha sido hasta ahora. No hace falta decir que estoy deseando leer otros libros de la serie.

“Era una de las conjeturas que uno tiene que hacer en su trabajo. Te contaré un secreto. Si está seguro de que algo pasó, no le preguntes al testigo si pasó porque él o ella dirá que no; habla de ello como algo que ambos saben que ha pasado y en nueve casos de diez no se arriesgarán a mentir al respecto”.

Acerca del autor: Sir Basil Home Thomson, KCB (21 de abril de 1861 – 26 de marzo de 1939) fue un administrador colonial británico y gobernador de prisiones, quien además fue jefe del CID de la Policía Metropolitana durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Thomson también fue un novelista de éxito. Nació en Oxford, donde su padre, William Thomson (que más tarde se convertiría en arzobispo de York), era rector del Queen’s College. Thomson se educó en Worsley’s School en Hendon y en Eton College, y luego asistió a New College, Oxford. Thomson dejó sus estudios universitarios después de dos períodos, tras sufrir episodios de depresión, y pasó un tiempo entre 1881 y 1882 en los Estados Unidos, trabajando como agricultor en Iowa. (leer más en Wikipedia)

Martin Edwards en The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015) escribió sobre Sir Basil Thomson:

Sir Basil Thomson, antiguo jeefe del Depaartamento de Investigación Criminal (CID) de Scotland Yard cuya agitada carrera también incluye períodos como asistente del primer ministro de Tonga y gobernador de Dartmoor y Wormwood Scrubs, escribió varias historias de misterio, incluida una serie que describe el ascenso en la jerarquía de un policía llamado Richardson. Thomson trabajó con el servicio de inteligencia durante la guerra, realizando un interrogatorio de Mata Hari, la bailarina exótica holandesa y espía ejecutada posteriormente por un pelotón de fusilamiento francés. A mediados de los sesenta, Thomson adquirió experiencia de primera mano en el sistema de justicia penal cuando fue acusado de un acto de indecencia en Hyde Park con una mujer que dio el nombre de Miss Thelma de Lava. Thomson afirmó que estaba hablando con ella con el propósito de investigar el vicio en Londres, antes de reunirse con una fuente confidencial del Partido Comunista en Speaker’s Corner. Su defensa no se vio favorecida por el hecho de que Miss de Lava era una prostituta, o por haber engañado a un agente de policía sobre su identidad. Thomson fue una figura controvertida, y es concebible que sus enemigos en la policía o en la clase política lo quisieran ‘incriminar’ falsamente, pero fue declarado culpable y multado con cinco libras. (Mi traducción libre)

Entre 1933 y 1937, Sir Basil Thomson publicó ocho novelas policiacas protagonizadas por el personaje de la serie Inspector Richardson y recibió grandes elogios de Dorothy L. Sayers, entre otros. La serie protagonzada por Richardson se compone de los siguientes libros: Richardson’s First Case (1933); Richardson Scores Again (1934); The Case of Naomi Clynes (1934); The Case of the Dead Diplomat (1935); El enigma Dartmoor (1935); ¿Quién mató a Stella Pomeroy? (1936); The Milliner’s Hat Mystery (1937) y A Murder Is Arranged (1937).

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