Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


ANTHONY GILBERT – Sequel to Murder: The Cases of Arthur Crook and Other Mysteries. Edited and with an introduction by John Cooper. Crippen & Landru, hardcover/trade paperback, September 2017. Collection: 18 stories.

   Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson, 1899-1973) was a woman who shared with other successful female crime writers a combination of writing talent and clever plotting skills necessary to make it in detective fiction’s Golden Age. Even after the GA’s decline, however, she retained a high profile on the mystery scene for several decades; novels, short stories, original radio plays, and TV adaptations made her a multimedia presence well into the hippie era, and in fact, the tales in this collection date from as early as 1927 and as late as 1972.

   In his informative Introduction, editor John Cooper fills us in on her writing career, including why she chose “Anthony” instead of “Tony” and “Gilbert” for her nom de plume, and her series characters. Arthur Crook wasn’t the only one, although most readers think of the devious barrister when discussing Gilbert’s work:

    “The author’s most famous detective was the suitably named Arthur Crook,” writes Cooper, describing him as “big, red-haired, slow speaking, beer swilling, pot-bellied, middle-aged,” distinguishable by his “great, circular red face and a crafty eye” and who, if necessary, was willing to go “to unprofessional lengths to clear his clients.” Gilbert reserved Crook primarily for her novels (fifty-one of ’em!), but she did write five short works with him; they’re all in this collection, amounting to roughly half of the page count:

(1) “You Can’t Hang Twice” (1946): If you’ve committed a murder and there’s a witness still running around, what better place to dispose of the problem than a thick, nearly impenetrable London fog? Crookism: “Murderers get caught because they’re yellow. The minute they’ve socked their man they start feverishly buildin’ a little tent to hide in, and presently some chap comes along, who might never have noticed them, but gets curious about the little tent.”

(2) “Once Is Once Too Many” (1955): Climbing a mountain is hazardous enough without somebody waiting nearby to give that little shove that unmistakably says I hate you. Crookism: “They get careless and forget murder’s a game two can play.”

(3) “A Nice Little Mare Called Murder” (1964): The gallows loom large for a man whose only alibi just lost a race at the track—and he doesn’t even play the ponies. Crookism: “When a chap’s paying me to act for him he’s always innocent.”

(4) “Give Me a Ring” (1955): A wrong turn in the fog, a mix-up about a Christmas gift, a needle in the arm—Alice never had it like this in Wonderland. Crookism: “Don’t know what they teach ’em at these posh schools.”

(5) “The Black Hat” (1942): A blackmailer gets his in a blackout; there’s universal agreement that he deserved it, but the man they’ve arrested doesn’t. Crookism: “If I thought you were going to have another chance of killing a chap I’d warn you—never re-visit the scene of the crime.”

   The rest of the stories fall into the miscellaneous category, most of them involving blackmail (evidently her favorite theme): Surprising developments at “The Reading of the Will” … A lawyer’s dilemma in “Curtains for Me” … Spinsters in jeopardy in “Point of No Return” … Double murders in a “Cul-De-Sac” … Inspector Field’s eerie tale of the “Following Feet” … “Three Living … and One Dead”—and one’s a murderer … Knifed in a taxi cab by “The Man with the Chestnut Beard” … There’ll be wedding bells “Over My Dead Body” … The king of the beasts attends “The Funeral of Dendy Watt” … To Inspector Field, there’s no such thing as “Horseshoes for Luck” … Life was looking grand until “He Found Out Too Late How Good an Artist Mabel Was” … Spouse killers in love in “A Day of Encounters” … and a newspaper dated the day of a murder becomes a “Sequel to Murder” (which, says our editor, Gilbert considered “as her best short story”).

   Anthony Gilbert’s short fiction is as durable as her novel work, and the stories in Sequel to Murder are well worth spending time with; the author knew how to write and, an important consideration in mysteries, how to plot. Along with Agatha Christie, she had a talent to deceive.