RICHARD HULL – Keep it Quiet. Dover , US, trade paperback, 1983. Originally published by Faber & Faber, UK, 1935. Putnam, US, hardcover, 1935. Reprinted again later by Agora Books, UK, trade paperback, 2018.



   Richard Hull abandoned his accounting career after reading Francis Iles’ Malice Aforethought, the first “inverted” psychological mystery. Hull’s first mystery was The Murder of My Aunt, which followed the inverted model. Keep It Quiet was his second mystery. It proved to be very popular and successful.

   Set in a London men’s club, the ambience is that of quiet good breeding, tasteful meals, and drinks served in the library. The Whitehall Club’s atmosphere is predictable and ordinary – until one of its members dies shortly after eating dessert one day. The club’s chef fears he was at fault, since it was his prescription for perchloride of mercury that was mistaken for vanilla. The club’s secretary wants only to “keep it quiet.” And with the victim’s doctor also a member of the Whitehall Club, the death is labeled as one due to natural causes.

   Then a second club member dies after a few sips of sherry. Should the secretary and doctor keep this one quiet too? But what about the blackmail letters, and threats, that are received by the secretary and doctor?

   Hull has created a traditional British mystery that blends subtle humor with unnerving psychological twists that will please most any mystery fancier.



   Dover is doing us a good deed by reprinting some of the good old mysteries. The great ones remain in print; the good ones and even the mediocre ones are of interest historically, and Dover is giving us the chance to get our hands on them easily and inexpensively.

   Hull’s first mystery, The Murder of My Aunt, is one of the great ones. Keep it Quiet was his second, and not nearly so good. Yet it’s of interest. It begins on a farcical note, and I suspect that Hull had his tongue firmly in his cheek throughout the book. The cook at a London club has a carbuncle for which the doctor has prescribed perchloride of mercury. The cook’s wife thoughtfully puts part of the prescription in an old vanilla extract bottle so he can take it to work.

   So when old Morrison, who insisted on vanilla flavor in his souffle, dies unexpectedly, it’s no wonder that the club secretary, Ford, wants to keep it quiet. More surprisingly, Ford’s doctor, Anstruther, who’s also a club member, goes along. The result: blackmail.

   But blackmail of a marvelous kind! The blackmailer actually succeeds in getting muddleheaded Ford to make some long-needed improvements in the club facilities! Anstruther, on the other hand, is instructed to bone up on poisons, for the blackmailer intends that some people should suffer. Who is the blackmailer? How did Morrison really die? Who is stealing the library books? Did Pargiter die a natural death?

   Remember the tongue in the cheek and read this book for fun.

– Both reviews reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 6, Number 3 (Fall 1985).