MARGERY SHARP – The Tigress on the Hearth. Collins, UK, hardcover, 1955. No US edition.

   At 125 smallish pages, with wide margins, big type and illustrations no less, this is not so much a novel or even a novella as a shaggy dog story about Victorian manners and murders.

   Young Hugo Lutterwell, is a member of the landed gentry, hunting in Albania of all places, who gets separated from his party and fires a shot in the air to locate them. However it seems he’s not a terribly proficient marksman because his shot misses the sky and kills a farmer’s dog. Hugo suddenly finds himself mobbed and about to be killed by the farmer when a lovely young woman jumps into the fray, fatally knifes the farmer, and escapes with Hugo.

   In less time than it takes to tell (as they say) the two are happily married and back in England, where Hugo finds it a bit difficult to explain to his bride that although he’s very grateful to her for saving his life, and it was wonderful of her to do it, knifing a man isn’t the sort of thing one admits to in polite society.

   He finally manages to convey to her that there are things a gentleman simply doesn’t do, but a lady is not bound by conventions except that she shouldn’t talk about killing people, a coda that leads to years of wedded bliss — until a local scoundrel starts making trouble for Hugo, who cannot retaliate because (as he explains to his wife) there are some things a gentleman simply doesn’t do….


   What follows is a short, cheerful and pleasantly amoral bit of foul play, followed by a spot of polite detecting and a sedate wrap-up in the coziest tradition. Tigress on the Hearth is a slight thing, but I think I’ll remember it.