A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Kathleen L. Maio

JOSEPHINE BELL – Curtain Call for a Corpse. Macmillan, US, 1965. Perennial, US, paperback, 1988. First published in the UK by Longmans, hardcover, 1939, as Death at Half-Term.

   Josephine Bell (whose real name is Doris Bell Ball) has practiced two professions. She began her career as a physician in the 1920s, when it was an unusual field for a woman. Since 1937 she has practiced a trade more expected of British gentlewomen — the writing of mystery and suspense stories.

   In recent years, Bell has specialized in non-series suspense stories, but she started her writing career with a series of classic mysteries starring David Wintringham. Her amateur sleuth is, appropriately enough, a doctor. His police counterpart is Inspector Mitchell, who does not always appreciate Dr. Wintringham’s interference.

   Wintringham’s fifth case takes him to the Denbury (boys’ prep) School, where he is conveniently related to the headmaster and one of the students. Half-term weekend traditionally features both a father-son cricket match and a theatrical performance. This year’s performance of Twelfth Night by a third-rate touring company becomes highly memorable when an ill-tempered actor collapses with a bashed skull as the curtain falls.

   Wintringham, who attends the dying actor, becomes even more interested in the case when it is discovered that members of the school’s staff may also have had reasons for wanting the victim dead. There is plenty of detecting to go around. Mitchell, Wintringham, and an enthusiastic band of young students all have a share of collecting clues and interviewing suspects. The result is a nicely complex investigation, punctuated by a cricket match and climaxing in a classic gathering of the suspects and confrontation with the murderer.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

       The Dr. David Wintringham series —

* Death on the Borough Council. Longmans, 1937.
* Murder in Hospital. Longmans, 1937.
* Fall Over Cliff. Longmans, 1938.
* Death at Half-Term. Longmans, 1939.
From Natural Causes. Longmans, 1939.
All Is Vanity. Longmans, 1940.
Death at the Medical Board. Longmans, 1944.
* Death in Clairvoyance. Longmans, 1949.
* The Summer School Mystery. Methuen 1950.
* Bones in the Barrow. Methuen 1953.
* The China Roundabout. Hodder 1956.
* The Seeing Eye. Hodder 1958.

(*) Inspector Steven Mitchell also appears. The latter had one case to solve on his own, and three with barrister Claude Warrington-Reeve, who had no solo appearances.