ELIZABETH LEMARCHAND Suddenly While Gardening

ELIZABETH LEMARCHAND – Suddenly While Gardening. Walker & Co., hardcover, 1978; paperback, 1983. UK edition: Hart-Davis, hc, 1978.

   Lemarchand writes the classic (some would say old-fashioned) style of detective story, and this one, about the skeleton of a recently murdered youth found in an ancient gravesite on an English moor, fully demonstrates the blunt, efficient approach she takes to her craft.

   Detective-Chief Superintendent Pollard is her detective, and part of what he discovers the title gives away for free. In any case, after all these years, there ought to be a law against accepting broken watches as evidence, of anything, at any time.

   That’s what I think.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1979. This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant.

[UPDATE] 03-16-11.   I didn’t happen to mention it in this review, but there were two detectives from Scotland Yard who worked as a team in each of Elizabeth Lemarchand’s mysteries, Tom Pollard and Gregory Toye. When they began Pollard was an inspector and Toye his sergeant, but when the former was eventually promoted, perhaps Toye was also.

   There were 17 entries in the series, beginning with Death of an Old Girl in 1967 (when the author was 61) and concluding with The Glade Manor Murder in 1988. All of them were reprinted in the US, but only a few had paperback editions.

   A quick search on the Internet has come up with very little critical commentary on her work. One site devoted to cozy mysteries says of hers: “Very traditional British mysteries, often set in girls’ schools; makes use of English history and archaeology.”

    I don’t know for sure — this is the only book of hers that I’ve read — but I think my review may have encapsulated Lemarchand’s approach to detective fiction rather well. While she was obviously not another Agatha Christie, and in spite of the somewhat negative tone to my comments, I wouldn’t mind reading another.