William F. Deeck

SHELLEY SMITH – He Died of Murder! Harper & Brothers, hardcover, 1948. First published in the UK: Collins, hardcover, 1947.

   When the Master of The Seekers, a religious sect devoted to celibacy, truth-telling, and a vegetarian diet, is murdered, it appears to be something of a miracle, in the nonreligious sense, to be sure. The Master was shot almost point blank in the middle of a plowed field with several of his sect more or less observing. Yet no one was near him and there were no footprints other than his in the field.

   Staying at the Sanctuary, the home of The Seekers, Detective Inspector Chaos of Scotland Yard investigates these now ostensibly unworldly people and their definitely worldly neighbors. A man of insights and practical knowledge, Chaos, belying his name, finds an unspiritual motive and calmly tracks down the murderer.

   Generally I find novels of alleged psychological suspense tedious or unpersuasive. I have heretofore avoided Smith’s works for that reason. But this is also a detective novel, with Chaos a delightful character. Even the child whom he befriends and who intends to marry him is acceptable, most unusual in a genre where children are little horrors whether the author intended it or not.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

Bibliographic Notes:   Shelley Smith was the pseudonym of Nancy Bodington, 1912-1998, author under this pen name of 15 crime and detective novels between 1942 and 1978. There was one earlier case adventure for Inspector Jacob Chaos, that being Background for Murder (Swan, 1942; no US edition).