DELANO AMES – She Shall Have Murder. Jane & Dagobert Brown #1. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1948. Rinehart & Co., US, hardcover, 1949. Dell #493, US, paperback, 1951. Perennial Library, US, paperback, 1983. Rue Morgue Press, trade paperback, 2008. Manor Minor Press, US, annotated trade paperback, November 2014. Film: Concanen, UK, 1950 (with Rosamund John as Jane Hamish and Derrick De Marney as Dagobert Brown).

   Jane and Dagobert are not yet married in this, their first case of actual murder. Their relationship is complicated, and it takes a while to sort things out. They are (apparently) lovers, and I am sure Jane calls him her fiancé, but the fact is that Dagobert is already married but is (apparently) going through divorce proceedings.

   This is the first of the series I’ve read, but I am fairly sure that some point along the line — there were twelve books in all — they did get married. Jane is the sensible one with a steady job as a secretary in a law office), and it is a little perplexing at times what she sees in him. His is notoriously unemployed and flits from one interest to another like a moth on a holiday.

   The big conceit in She Shall Have Murder, and an amusing one, is that Jane should write a mystery novel whose characters are her bosses and fellow employees at work. But when one of the firm’s oldest clients dies, fiction becomes truth, and Dagobert has a new interest: that of amateur detective work.

   The telling of the tale that follows is bright and witty, and with Jane narrating the story, she gives Dagobert a few well-deserved jabs. Dead is an old and uncomfortably paranoid old lady whose visits to the law office are sadly barely tolerated by the staff. When she is found dead, everyone but Dagobert is convinced it was suicide, but as it always happens in detective novels, it turns out that he is correct. It was not.

   This was written back in the post-WWII when the British had to insert shillings into a gas meter box to obtain heat, and since a good deal of the plot depends on this, it makes the story rather dated, especially for US readers. Of the many characters, I also found only the main protagonists, Jane and Dagobert, particularly interesting, and of the others, rather than the least likely, it was the least interesting who was the killer.