THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck

CONSTANCE & GWENYTH LITTLE – The Black Shrouds.

CONSTANCE & GWENYTH LITTLE The Black Shrouds

Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1941; Collins Crime Club, UK, hc, 1942, as by as by Conyth Little. Paperback reprints: Popular Library #112, n.d. [1946]; Rue Morgue Press, trade pb, 2002.

   To find fame — her father already has a fortune — on the stage, Diana Prescott has come to New York City. What she discovers, however, is horror at Mrs. Markham’s boarding house, which is occupied by the usual oddities one finds at fictional boarding houses and maybe even the real ones.

   Two elderly and old-maid sisters, an absolutely harmless pair, are found murdered — bludgeoned and then gassed.

   It’s obvious it’s an inside job, but the police, in more ways than one, haven’t a clue. Even when another resident disappears and items appear and disappear and books and other objects are burnt in the furnace, the officials are at a loss.

CONSTANCE & GWENYTH LITTLE The Black Shrouds

   Though frightened a fair part of the time, Prescott does her own investigating, primarily to avoid playing bridge with her father.

   For reasons unknown, but perhaps because the inhabitants are generally eccentrics, I enjoy mysteries with boarding-house settings. I’d have enjoyed this one anyhow because the Littles are quite amusing writers, and their Miss Giddens is a delightfully nutty character.

   And if my recommendation isn’t enough, I refer you to Something Wicked, by Carolyn G. Hart, in which her wonderful bookstore, Death on Demand (Annie Laurence, prop.), put The Black Shrouds in its window with several other books to illustrate humor in the mystery.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 3, Summer 1988.



EDITORIAL COMMENT. For more information on the authors, who wrote 21 mystery novels in very much the same vein as The Black Shrouds between 1938 and 1953, there is no better place to send you than to the Rue Morgue Press website, where publishers Tom and Enid Schantz say in part:

CONSTANCE & GWENYTH LITTLE The Black Shrouds

    “If these two Australian-born sisters from East Orange, New Jersey, are not better known today, its probably because they chose not to write a series.

    “But if the characters in each of their books had different names, you could always recognize a Little heroine, whether she was a working woman or a spoiled little rich brat. Nothing held her back or kept her from speaking her mind, which may explain why she so often fell under suspicion when a body turned up…”

   To this date, Rue Morgue has reprinted 20 of the 21 novels, all but The Black Gloves (1939). Note that the word “Black” appeared in all of the books by the Little sisters except the first one, The Grey Mist Murders (1938).