Sat 27 Sep 2014
William F. Deeck
ELIZABETH HELY – A Mark of Displeasure. Scribner, hardcover, 1960. Heinemann, UK, hardcover, 1961.
Visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, for the first time, Commissaire Antoine Cirret of the Paris Sûreté is somewhat bemused. The references to the weather by everyone he meets lead him, temporarily, to believe that many of the inhabitants of that city are weather fetishists.
In Edinburgh at the request of a friend to support him while he’s giving a concert, Cirret goes to sleep during the “Emperor Concerto.” This does not, Cirret would assure you, mean he does not think much of his friend’s technique; it’s just that he does not care that much about music.
Alec Trevor, the friend and pianist, also has friends in the city, one of whom dies while leaving the concert. Except for Cirret’s curiosity, the murder of a not-much-loved widow by nicotine poisoning would not have been detected.
The poisoner is known to the reader and maybe to Cirret. Since she is also a friend of Trevor’s, Cirret disturbs the musician by wanting to investigate the case. Actually, Cirret doesn’t care who did it; he, as a humanitarian, merely wants no repetition of the crime.
Hely presents a wicked but well-liked murderess whose motives are, she assures herself, of the highest, and a delightful detective in Cirret, who looks much like a monkey and may have that creature’s sense of humor. There aren’t that many French detectives that I have enjoyed reading about, but Cirret is an exception.
Bio-Bibliographic Notes: Elizabeth Hely was the pen name of Nancy Elizabeth Brassey Leslie Younger, (1913-1981). Her criminous output as a writer consisted of three books in the Cirret series (see below), plus one standalone, The Long Shot (Heinemann, 1963).
The Commissaire Antoine Cirret series —
Dominant Third. Heinemann, UK, 1959. US title: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury. Scribner, 1959.
A Mark of Displeasure. Heinemann, UK, 1961. Scribner, US, 1960.
Package Deal. Hale 1965. No US edition. TV movie: Universal, 1968, as The Smugglers (with Shirley Booth and Emilio Fernández as Inspector Cesare Brunelli).
Nancy Elizabeth Brassey:
Nancy Elizabeth Brassey is the daughter of Lt.-Col. Harold Ernest Brassey and Lady Norah Hely Hutchinson. She married, firstly, S/Ldr. Reginald Frederick Stuart Leslie on 16 July 1935.1 She married, secondly, William Anthony Younger, son of Sir William Robert Younger, 2nd Bt. and Joan Gwendoline Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, on 25 July 1945.
From 16 July 1935, her married name became Leslie. From 25 July 1945, her married name became Younger.