William F. Deeck

TRAILL STEVENSON – The Silver Arrow Murder. Herbert Jenkins, UK, hardcover, 1939. No US edition.


   As a way of dying, it was a bit unusual. But there was Philip Delavalle transfixed with nine arrows — one silver, and eight belonging to various members of the local archery club, which had recently expelled Delavalle.

   Was this done by one demented archer, or was the victim the target of lots of his former fellow archers, almost all of whom had reason to despise him and possibly want him dead? And what, if anything, do the missing cocker spaniels have to do with the case?

   Detective Inspector Peter Flemont of New Scotland Yard has to get it all straightened out and isn’t quite up to the challenge. Luckily he discusses his cases with his grandmother, who is a fine little-old-lady armchair detective and who solves the case, though she had rather not.

   I knew who the murderer was, of course. If there isn’t a homicidal tramp to suspect, I always fix my view on the… But you don’t want to know that, do you?

   Despite the presence of Flemont’s grandmother, moderately dull has to be the judgment on this novel.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 1992.

Editorial Comment: Traill is an unusual first name, and in retrospect I wonder why Bill didn’t comment on it. It turns out that it isn’t the author’s first name at all, and using Hubin as the first resource at hand, an even greater surprise lies in store:

Bibliographic information:     [Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin] —

STEVENSON, (Janet) TRAILL. 1889-1988.

      The Whispering Bird (n.) Nash 1923
      The Diamond in the Hoof (n.) Cassell 1926
      The Island Murder (n.) Jenkins 1936
      Murder at the Bar (n.) Jenkins 1936


      The Nudist Murder (n.) Jenkins 1937


      The Silver Arrow Murder (n.) Jenkins 1939

   There is no indication of a continuing character in any of these books, the title of one of which sounds measurably of more interest than the others. Silver Arrow may have been Inspector Flemont’s solo outing.

   Also of note is that the author wrote at least two western novels in the mid-1950s. I know nothing else about her, nor have I come across cover images for any of the books above.

[UPDATE] Later the same day.   The three cover photos were sent me by Bill Pronzini, who also provided story lines for both Nudist and Bar. You’ll find these in Comment #3. Thanks again, Bill!

   In terms of Breaking News, it appears that much of what was assumed to be true about the author, Traill Stevenson, may not be so true after all, including whether he/she was male or female. Research is being done, even I speak. Stay tuned. You’ll know more as soon as I do.

[UPDATE #2] 03-11-10.   Excerpted from an email from Steve Holland, proprietor of the Bear Alley blog, just about an hour ago:

    “We established that Traill Stevenson was the father, not the daughter: Captain John Traill Stevenson (1889-1968). He was a businessman, living at various times in Glasgow, Birkenhead and Harrow, and stood for as a Liberal candidate for Parliament in the 1920s and for some time was the editor of the Lloyd George Liberal Magazine where it was noted that he had sold his first novel, The Whispering Bird.

    “There’s no indication that his daughter wrote the later novels… It was a simple error based on the initial (J, in her case for Janet). All the evidence points to her father being the author.”