Wed 28 Sep 2011
William F. Deeck
DOROTHY BOWERS – The Bells of Old Bailey. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1947. Originally published in the UK: Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1947, as The Bells at Old Bailey.
While it would at first appear that my bias against detective-story characters who do not report information to the police ought to be shaken by the main event in this novel, later incidents validate my opinion.
Miss Tidy, the proprietress of Minerva Hatshop, Beauty Parlor and Teashop, receives two poison-pen letters following a series of unlikely suicides in Ravenchurch, where her establishments are located, and Long Greeting, where she lives.
Taking the letters to the police, Miss Tidy argues that the suicides were well-executed murders. Dubiety on the suicides greets her efforts, and there’s no small suspicion that Miss Tidy wrote the letters herself. But then –
To go on would reveal information that some readers would rather not know as they begin the novel. Suffice it to say that Bowers has written a charming novel about an English village, with all that that implies — to wit, blackmail and murder — and including an antiquarian bookseller, a detective-story writer, and a mainstream novelist for the biblio enthusiasts.
Also there is fair play for the most part. Bowers is another author I am adding to my long list of writers whose books are sought after.
Bibliographic Notes: Dorothy Bowers wrote four crime novels before The Bells of Old Bailey, all featuring Chief Inspector Dan Pardoe. All were first published in the US by Doubleday Crime Club. They are difficult to find as first editions; if anyone might be looking for copies to read, all four have been reprinted by Rue Morgue Press.
Postscript to Poison. Hodder 1938.
Shadows Before. Hodder 1939.
Deed Without a Name. Hodder 1940
Fear for Miss Betony. Hodder 1941. US title: Fear and Miss Betony.