William F. Deeck

EILÍS DILLON – Death at Crane’s Court. Walker, US, hardcover, 1963. Paperback reprint: Perennial, 1988. Trade paperback: Rue Morgue Press, 2009 (shown). First UK edition: Faber & Faber, 1953.


   To his dismay, George Arrow, of no particular occupation but with a comfortable income, is told by a doctor he consults after he passes out one day that he has a bad heart condition and must avoid most activities and any excitement. A good place to go that meets those exigencies is Crane’s Court, a posh hotel in Galway, Ireland.

   Unfortunately, Arrow discovers that Crane’s Court is actually a hotbed of intrigue. A new owner has inherited the hotel and intends to put the old residents — old in both age and tenure — in their place or cast them out.

   Of course, the old people are up in arms, or at least those who can lift them are. Is it possible they en masse, or one of them a little more agile than the others, plunged a chef’s knife into the new owner? Or maybe it was the dotty old lady who has numerous cats that tend to die before their time and who gets visited by the haunt who built the original Crane’s Court.

   Referring to the elderly inhabitants, Professor Daly says:

    “The old are sometimes very terrifying. . . . I know why, because I’m old myself. It’s a return to the direct simplicity of childhood, but now they are free from childhood’s discipline. They stare unrestricted. and gobble their food, and ask personal questions, and they make loud personal remarks.”

   Heresy is about to he committed by this reviewer, and no doubt there shall be moves to have me expunged from the ranks of true mystery fans. Nonetheless, I have to state that this is a fine novel until the murder. When Inspector Mike Kenny arrives to investigate the killing, Arrow and Daly begin to take a back seat and the book then becomes only very good.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 1992.

Bibliographic Data:   [Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.]

DILLON, EILÍS.   1920-1994.

       Death at Crane’s Court (n.) Faber 1953.    [Insp. Mike Kenny]
       Sent to His Account (n.) Faber 1954.


       Death in the Quadrangle (n.) Faber 1956.    [Insp. Mike Kenny]

   Why only the three detective novels, in a long career of writing? (She “…was the author of fifty books, ranging from children’s stories to historical novels. She wrote and translated poetry, and had two plays produced by the Abbey Theatre company.”)

   There’s a long account of her life by her son, Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin, at the Rue Morgue Press website, from which the previous excerpt was taken, along with the answer. As a short biography of her, it’s well worth reading.

   The other good news is that all three mysteries have been reprinted by Rue Morgue Press.