William F. Deeck

MILWARD KENNEDY – Poison in the Parish. Victor Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1935. No US edition.

   After a late death certificate and six months of rumor, the odious Miss Tomlin, who died at the Guest House — “a boarding-house where the inmates pay high for insufficient fare in order to avoid damage to their gentility” — is disinterred.

   Since an unusual amount of arsenic is found in the body, the police suspect murder. To get help in their investigations, the Chief Constable asks Francis Anthony to listen to the local gossip and report on his findings.

   Idled by a game leg and messed up intestines, Anthony at first is loath to take part. Only the fact that his beloved niece is enamored of Miss Tomlin’s nephew, who, along with his sister, may be a suspect, induces Anthony to accede to the Chief Constable’s wishes. Anthony hopes to prove that Miss Tomlin’s death was either accident or suicide.

   In his dedication, the author says to a “friend”: “In your omniscient superiority you have pointed out that in all my books, of which you have read so few, the characters are unpleasant: here is an attempt at something different.”

   The characters are quite pleasant, although [one] Miss Figgis is not exemplary. Fair play is lacking, but the astute reader — not that any such bother to peruse my reviews — will note an early oddity and begin building a case against one individual.

   Well written and amusing.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 4, Fall 1989.

Bibliographic notes:   Of the sixteen books published by the author (Milward Kennedy Burge, 1894-1968), including one as by Robert Milward Kennedy, this seems to have been the only mystery tackled by Francis Anthony. Two were cases solved by Inspector Cornfold; Sir George Bull was the sleuth of record in another pair.

   Kennedy also wrote two books as by Evelyn Elder, one of which, Murder in Black and White, has recently been reprinted in the US by Ramble House.