ELIZABETH DALY – Death and Letters. Dell/Murder Ink #21, paperback, 1981. First edition: Rinehart & Co., hardcover, 1950. Also: Mercury Mystery #165, digest-sized paperback, 1951. Berkley, paperback, 1963.

   It’s nice to see some of Elizabeth Daly’s work back in print again. Her books are increasingly hard to find in used paperback shops, and the demand for them is high, as Carol Brener, the proprietress of Murder Ink [in part responsible for this line of paperbacks], most assuredly well knows.

   And I’ve known it, too, for quite some time now, and yet I’ve never gotten around to reading anything by her until now. This book, written toward the end of Miss Daly’s writing career, was my introduction to Henry Gamadge, and do you know, from reading it I’m still not sure what it is exactly that he does for a living. Private eye work, apparently, but dealing primarily with bookish matters, perhaps?

   Which certainly doubles the appeal to mystery fans, most of whom are collectors and savers of one sort or another.

   In this case, a message via a crossword puzzle, and a Gamadgian response, with a little help from G.K. Chesterton, help spring a lady whose family has shut her up in her room as mentally incompetent. It seems she suspects something wrong about her husband’s “suicide.” One of the family knows for a fact there was. The others are merely afraid of scandal.

   At first Daly’s storytelling methods seem rather dry and aloof, more British in tone than American, but the effect begins to diminish as the characters and the proceedings start to sort themselves out a bit. The quiet little climax/resolution only serves to reinforce the obvious statement. Here is the ultimate antithesis of the Mickey Spillane school of writing!

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1981 (slightly revised).