Agatha Christie,Ngaio Marsh,Dorothy Sayers,Margery Allingham
Charters & Caldicott
Take one body in the library. Add two old English gentlemen playing amateur sleuth. Mix well and serve.
“Have you heard the news, sir?” the waiter said.
“I’m afraid I haven’t. What is it?”
“Plumley’s dead, sir. Henry Plumley. We just got the news over the ’phone. Suicide they say it was. Anything else you want, sir?”
I am going to commit a murder. I offer no apology for the curtness of the statement.
“And that’s not all. Somers is dead too … He poisoned himself … in the lounge!”
Somebody at that very moment might be watching from behind the hedge! Melodramatic perhaps—but the fact remained that one murder had been committed and a second seemed more than likely.
However thorough your search was, I’m convinced the murderer, or the burglar—call him what you will—is still in the house.
“If you don’t think I’m taking a liberty in saying so, my opinion is that he was knocked down first and hanged after!”
Travers looked down at the face. On the collar was a red patch and a long streak. Across the throat was a gash.
“It was some sort of sudden death?”
Travers made a face. “It certainly was sudden. I’ll say it’s ten to one it was murder.”
“Let us know when you’re dead!”
Old Hunt slithered in the most amazing way and then fell to the floor. He lay between the seats, face upwards.
“Send someone here quick. There’s been a murder!”
Travers turned to Wharton. “I ask you, George, as a man of the world—do schoolmasters and mistresses have souls full of glamour and passion and intrigue? Are they torn by the same emotions that rend people like us?”
“Murder is easy. It’s child’s play to commit murder and get away with it.”
Murder on Mondays! Greatest prophecy of the century! T.P. Luffham was murdered!
“It’s terrible. It’s a body . . . the head cut off . . . and the hands.”
Travers looked down at the thing that sprawled. The head gave a last movement, and there was a faint sound like a tired moan. The time was eight minutes to eight.
“You needn’t look impatient, sir. He’ll be finished with you long before dinner.ˮ
‘I judge him to have been dead just about twenty-four hours. Suicide, almost certainly.’
Palmer saw him out, and gave that little deprecatory cough.
“If you’ll pardon me, sir, is it another murder?”
“Looks like it,” Travers told him from the door.
“George Wharton said he hoped I’d have a nice murder for you.”
As Travers’s finger touched the dead hand, he felt the warmth, and wondered if the man were still alive. Then he saw the knife that stuck sideways in the ribs.
An attendant had come in with the cage. He stooped and held the rope taut. The cage door was opened, Jules called from high in the roof and at once the rat began to climb. Then something went wrong. All at once Auguste scampered down and shot back into his cage.
The tea had brought a pleasant warmth and Travers snuggled down in bed. Once more he was busy with something that had vastly cheered him of late—a perfect scheme for the murder of Stirrop.
The curtain had been drawn back and there was the bed. Wharton and a stranger were standing by it, and when Wharton moved to meet me, I saw on the bed the body of Penelope Craye.
“She’s dead,” I said.
Wharton merely nodded.
What was I to be this time? A Commandant again of a Prisoner of War Camp? Was I to get a sedentary job at the War Office itself, and begin the slow process of fossilisation? Was I due for some wholly new job of which the rank and file had never even heard? As it turned out, I most certainly was.
“Good God!” I was staring like a lunatic. “Murdered, you say? When?”
“Less than half an hour ago, sir.”
“Is he bad, sir?”
“Worse than that,” I said. “In fact, he’s dead.”
“It’s about a murder. . . . Here. Five Oaks, they call it. . . . A man, he’s murdered. . . . Oh, no, it isn’t a joke. I wish it was. . . . I said I wished it was. . . . You’ll send someone at once?”
It wasn’t I who discovered the body. I want to make that perfectly clear, if only for the benefit of a couple of club acquaintances of mine.
““This is something desperately secret,” she said. “Something I want you to do for me . . . But I can’t tell you now. It’s something I’m frightened about.”
‘Maybe,’ he said guardedly, and then as a kind of afterthought: ‘Just slipping along to Hampstead. Charles Manfrey’s dead.’
Near the right temple was a hole, and down the forehead and along the nose was dried blood.
It was Murder Eve, and I was the last person in Sandbeach to suspect it.
“I have an idea that a certain man is going to commit murder. He told me so—in so many words.”
The murderer was clever and the planning was perfect. There was apparently nothing that had been overlooked and nothing that didn’t go to plan. There was nothing that could be called a slip. Why then was the murderer caught?
“Murder’s my job, not parish politics.”
“At first it may seem an astounding coincidence that two members of a family should have considered it necessary to ask for the services of the same detective agency. I think I can prove otherwise, and even if I can’t, the facts remain. Alice Stonhill and Peter Wesslake did precisely what I have said, and what’s more . . .”
I was thinking of offering Godfrey Prial some sort of partnership. I’m pretty sure now of at least two things—that he liked me, and that he’d have accepted. If he’d lived.
He was deader than last year’s hit-song. At the side of the skull was where the bullet had done its work.
“Famous Spiritualist Dead . . . Gun Found in Flat”
“Not content with mucking up my front garden with corpses, you dare to suggest that the wretched creature passed out in my house!”
“What earthly grounds are there for believing it to be murder! Great Scott, man! Accidental drowning is tragic enough! And the young lady, Miss Torrington, could swim like a fish too!”
“I want to catch them. To do that we’ve got to lead them on. Now listen to me.”
Together they looked down at the inert sprawling figure of a man fantastically dressed in red-and-white-striped pyjama trousers, with a red sash belt and a white silk shirt open at the neck.
It had been so quickly done that he felt almost as if a little knife had actually flashed by him and stuck, quivering, in the door at his back.
Murder in the poisoned bosom of a genteel, if alarmingly dysfunctional, family in the English countryside.
“We’ve managed to head off the Press men so far. But that won’t last. We can’t escape publicity, and the reading public enjoys murders.”
The Secret Arts
'An incredible new voice; witty and wise.' Adele Parks
The knife with the carved sheath inlaid with silver, had been driven up to its haft between the shoulders of Captain Geoffrey Hunt.
His arms were hanging down, but his face was turned upwards. For the first time Johnny saw a dead man.
‘One brown mouse. Victim of foul play.’
He called out, ‘Abie!’ The word was swallowed up in the depths of the hall. It was like a morgue.
‘There’s been a murder there.’
Tubby stared at him. ‘A murder! Who was it?’
It was the first time in his life that Tubby had been told that he had been murdered.
‘The man died from wounds on the head. There was no trace of carbon in his lungs, so he must have been dead before he was put on the dump.’
There was no mistaking the sound: it was that of a stealthy footfall, and it appeared to come from the staircase leading to the next floor.
Mr Sutton Armadale, the financier, was shot dead on the private polo ground of his palatial home. Before expiring in his gamekeeper’s arms, he muttered the one word “murder”.
“What’s the matter?” Vereker asked breathlessly, and at the same moment realised that the mass lying at Ricardo’s feet was the body of a woman. “Has she fainted?”
“It’s Mrs. Mesado, Algernon,” replied Ricardo, “and if I’m not mistaken, she’s dead.”
The body of John Cornell the well-known London Merchant and banker, was exhumed early this morning with great secrecy, following representations made to the Home Office.
Thrusting his pipe in his pocket, he crossed to his writing desk. Extracting a heavy army-pattern revolver from a drawer, he began silently to search the whole ground floor of the house.
“Take my advice; from to-day keep your own counsel. Listen to everything, disclose nothing. Avoid being alone. Come to me if you’re in doubt about anything or feel you scent danger. I can assure you we both live in danger.”
A tragic discovery was made at Bishop’s Hotel last evening when a maid, on entering the suite of Signora da Costa, a rich Argentine guest at the hotel, found her dead body on the bed wrapped in an eiderdown.
Before she could touch him she saw it—the handle of a weapon sticking out between his shoulder-blades.
“Give me my rights or I will let them kill you. Think what has happened already—”
“Nobody would have murdered him,” Miss Lavinia cried. “Everybody liked John!”
“I’m afraid it is evident that someone did not.”
The body lay face downwards in a foot of water at the bottom of the ditch. Up to the present it has not been identified. But a card was found in the pocket with the name of –
“Owing to the sudden death of Miss Charmian Karslake this theatre is closed until further notice. Money for tickets already booked will be refunded.”
“Early this morning a gruesome discovery was made by a gardener employed at Holford Hall in Loamshire...”
“A crime of a peculiarly mysterious nature was perpetrated some time last night in a block of flats called Abbey Court.”
Protruding from the dead woman’s breast was the gold and jewelled dagger she had shown them half an hour before. And, looking horribly incongruous among the laces of her fichu, a deep stain was spreading.
“I cannot understand why Mr. Bechcombe apparently offered no resistance. His hand-bell, his speaking-tube, the telephone—all were close at hand. It looks as though he had recognized his assassin and had no fear of him.”
“He had his tea as usual; when I knocked at the door with the tray (he always had afternoon tea), I found him—like this.”
“There’s no dirty trick he wouldn’t play—it’s my belief that he wouldn’t even stop at murder!”
“Who knows if he didn’t make away with her here? Those things found in the Home Coppice show that she was made away with plain enough, I say.”
Glancing at her more closely, he noticed dark stains on her white gown. Horror-struck, he bent over her for a moment, and realised that it was unmistakably a corpse.
“As for books,” Sir Oswald said, “I don’t care for them. Unless I get hold of a good detective story. The tracing out of crime always has a curious fascination for me.”
‘A constant pleasure’ Daily Telegraph
‘Crime with a P.G. Wodehouse flair’ Chicago Tribune
‘A denouement vintage as High Table port’ Sheridan Morley
‘Tom Sharpe couldn’t have done it better’ New Statesman
‘A dazzling whodunnit’ Jilly Cooper
‘Lighthearted – but lethal’ Chicago Tribune
Death and The Visiting Fellow
Dark deeds and deception down under for Tudor Cornwall
Death and The D'Urbervilles
Tudor Cornwall tries to rewrite Tess of the D'Urbervilles as a murder mystery - with fatal results.
A Death on The Ocean Wave
Rum doings aboard the good ship Duchess as Tudor Cornwall embarks on a nautical mystery
“He is dead. It is quite impossible that he should have killed himself. He has been murdered. About half an hour ago. By a long knife passed under the left shoulder-blade into the heart.”
“the murderer was also riding a bicycle... why, if we can trace it, we shall have the murderer!”
Murder begins with the death of a kitten...
A World War Two mystery, and a plot that may vitally endanger the security of Great Britain itself
The plot takes Stephen on an amazing journey of subterfuge, secret codes, nightclubs, spies, rural England and romance.
“Murder’s an ugly thing!” Detective Inspector Haig said. “Maybe you’ll not want to attend the funeral.”
As the door closed, Thelma said, “I know one funeral I wouldn’t mind attending.”
‘Listen! I see I’d better take you into my confidence.’
‘I’d rather you didn’t,’ I said.
He caught the back of a chair, staggered and groaned. There was a heavy crash and fall, and the parson lay motionless and livid, while lilies from a vase fell, like a wreath, across his chest.
Burglary, fraud, murder and golden age mystery
Death Among The Sunbathers
Dark deeds surround a sun worshippers' retreat in this golden age mystery
A crossword puzzle provides the final clue in this devilish golden age mystery
An eerie house containing a long-dead corpse is the spur for this golden age mystery
Death of a Beauty Queen
When a beauty pageant becomes the setting for murder, Bobby Owen has more suspects than he can handle – almost.
Death Comes to Cambers
Bobby Owen is a guest at a country house, advising on security... but soon it’s a case of murder not burglary
The Bath Mysteries
Bobby Owen is on a family case, investigating the death of his cousin. But how exactly did he die in the bath...?
Mystery of Mr. Jessop
Who killed Mr. Jessop? Who stole the Fellows necklace? Who attacked Hilda May? Bobby Owen is on the case.
The Dusky Hour
A man is found dead in the chalk pit. Who was he? And why did so many clues lead to that infamous London nightclub, the ‘Cut and Come Again’?
When an old acquaintance of Bobby Owen’s from Oxford days turns up out of the blue, he needs help. Bobby is in the frame...
“You see,” Miss Kayne said, “I committed a murder once myself.”
“Know him?” he asked.
Bobby was for a moment too surprised to answer. He had thought of every one else but not of the man whose dead face now was staring up at him.
“Yes. I know him,” he said.
Perhaps the victim had not been unconscious but had known her fate, had sent upwards from the black pit a cry that none but murderers had heard.
“You think it’s murder, don’t you?”
“There is no proof of that as yet, sir,” Bobby answered cautiously.
“No, I know, but it’s what you think,” Glynne answered. After a pause, he added: “So do I.”
“I’ll have breakfast ready before you’re dressed,” Olive said, her mind full of bacon and eggs, tea, toast.
“Can’t stop,” Bobby told her. “I’ve to be at Castle Wych at once.”
“What’s happened there?”
“Murder,” Bobby answered as he made for the door.
Late in the afternoon a man, unidentified, had been seen to throw a glove into the Midwych, Wychshire and Southern Canal…
“Ode to a chocolate,” murmured Bobby.
“I wouldn’t come any nearer if I were you. It’s not a thing to see unless you have to.”
“I’ve got to hurry,” Bobby said. “Mr Weston has been found dead from a knife-wound in his study.”
Deep in bucolic Wychshire something dreadful is stirring …
With a slow gesture of one lifted hand, Bobby pointed. There, in a space between the prostrate stag and posturing goddess, was a human leg, a twisted, motionless leg in a strained, unnatural position.
“Give me gossip or Sherlock Holmes, and I take gossip every time. The detective’s first aid and ever present help in time of doubt.”
“I don’t like it, Olive. No good, plain evidence, not so much as the smell of a fingerprint. Nothing but psychology and an atmosphere of doubt, menace, and suspicion.”
“Gets on your nerves, doesn’t it? I mean, that playing of hers. I’ve never heard anything like it.”
Bobby Owen stood for a time in silence, looking down thoughtfully at the dead man’s face. A small, insignificant face, lacking even that touch of repose and dignity which death, even violent death, so often gives, and one that Bobby had never seen before. Of that at least he was sure.
“What happens,” Bobby asked, “when a woman with an irresistible attraction for men, and the man with an irresistible attraction for women, meet? When glamour meets glamour . . . ?”
At that moment the door opened and a deep, harsh, husky voice said:
“Discussing my murder, are you?”
“There’s a spot of trouble this morning. Old gentleman found dead in his bath.”
Bobby answered: “there may be one chance in a million it’s natural death.”
“Why should anyone want to pinch the dagger—except to do somebody in?”
No one answered this question.
“It’s murder all right; no one could bash his own head in the way this chap’s was.”
“The poor devil’s mouth was filled with feathers. An unconscious man with his mouth full of feathers wouldn’t have had much chance of surviving, and this one didn’t.”
The stage was set, Bobby thought, the actors in position; but how the drama would develop, that he could not even guess.
“You called him a ‘wrong ’un’. Why? Birds of a feather know each other? Is that the idea? Or do you really know something about him? Oh, and don’t lie.”
Bobby studied the Rembrandt intently, with his own strange intensity of gaze that seemed as if by sheer strength of will it could force all secrets to reveal themselves.
“You’re the murder man, aren’t you?” Mrs. James demanded.
“Well, that’s not exactly how I describe myself,” Bobby answered.
“Jiminy! He’s going to fish for him.”
Why should a holidaymaker, sitting to enjoy a game of village cricket, suddenly meet with death in the shape of a flying bullet?
“I think you had better telephone for the police,” he said. “This woman has been poisoned.”
“I think,” said Palk slowly, “there’s a homicidal maniac loose in the Hydro, but who it is, God knows.”
“Well, tight lines!” they called over their shoulders.
“Bleeding hooks!” grinned the Major.
That settles it, thought Smith savagely. He shall be murdered, even if I have to do it myself!
crime on my hands
George gets the part of a lifetime – if he can only live to tell the tale!
stranger at home
Which one of you killed me? That's what Michael Vickers is dying to find out!
The D.D.I. recognized him and smiled. “That was a great case you brought us. You’ll be interested to hear that it is a case of mur-r-der!”
In the hall he found the body of his maidservant, Helen Dunn, aged about fifty, lying on the floor near the telephone. She had bled profusely from a wound in the head and her body was cold.
“The late Miss Clynes, sir? How dreadful. It must have been very sudden.”
He flung open a drawer and took from it a heavy dagger in a sheath with blood-stains upon it. On the blade were engraved the words, “Blut und Ehre!”
“I’m writing to you about the death of Mr. Dearborn. You bet the murderer’s laughing up his sleeve now that he’s got away with it.”
“There’s one thing which I daresay you noticed—that pair of slippers half kicked under the bath were of men’s size.”
“Yes, I noticed that, too, and they were sprinkled with blood.”
“What are you looking for, sir?” he said.
None of the other guests could explain what she was doing in Crooked Lane during the night…
There was something about those hands, with their strangely crisped fingers, as though they had been arrested in the very act of closing, that somehow gave the lie to the woman’s attitude of sleep.
News travels quickly and mysteriously on board ship. By the time lunch was over, the rumour began to spread that Mr. Smith’s death had not been due to natural causes.
“The blood’s coming from a cut at the back of his neck,” she said slowly. “He couldn’t have done that in falling. Some one must have—”
“There’ll be blue murder here before Christmas!”
Constantine reflected on the various means dentists have at their disposal should they wish to silence their patients …
“He had his enemies, I suppose?”
“Disputes, you mean? Over the merits of Puccini and Wagner, Strauss and Verdi! But people do not entice an old man from his home many years afterwards to avenge Wagner or Puccini!”
‘I’m Scarface. I’m just about ten times as hard-boiled as Johnny Lovo ever thought of being. I’ve bumped off six or eight myself and another one – especially a rat like you – wouldn’t mean a thing in my young life. Get me?’
“Lomas was poisoned, shaved after death, and placed in the river. He is full of whisky and the post-mortem examination will undoubtedly prove that cocaine was in the alcohol. The murderer worked on him with a lavish hand, one so lavish that it may eventually prove to be his undoing.”
If Lesley Dexter had not been a snob her husband might have lived out his three-score-and-ten years.
“Death has no manners as a general rule. In this instance he was a reformed character, and knocked twice before entering.”
“Inspector, it’s—it’s dastardly!”
“Mrs. Huntingdon,” said Knollis, “your choice of words is admirable!”
Madeleine Burke is prepared to swear that she was Dr. Challoner’s last patient on Tuesday evening, and that he was alive and in good spirits when she bade him good night.
He shone the torch into the depths of the well. There was water at the foot of the shaft. Something dark and mis-shapen was huddled against the brickwork.
“He’s dead all right. Taken him clean through the heart. It’s murder, Rose!
Frank Jennings was a keen murder-mystery fan, but no one was more surprised than he to find himself mixed up in a murder mystery in real life, and that the victim was the wife of one of his own neighbours.
“Where are you going?” asked Knollis, as Brother Ignatius pushed back his chair.
“To try to prevent a murder.”
Grayson tipped back his head, and stared at the ceiling. Herby was certainly not liked, but who on earth, apart from himself, hated him sufficiently to think of murder
At what point in the life of Edward Packman did the Angel of Death put his finger on him and say “You are mine!”?
“You mustn’t go to Meade House. I’ve heard…”
“How would you like to die for your country?” asked Benbow Smith languidly.
“Beware – walk with care,
Or mumbo jumbo will hoodoo you.”
“You talk of him as if he were alive.”
“He is alive,” said Benbow Smith.
“And you think he would do murder?”
“I am quite sure that he would do murder, Captain Loddon.”
“Do you want to make 500 pounds? If you do and are willing to earn it, write to...”
“I went down to the pool, and he was lying half in and half out of it with his head bleeding and the tide coming in. The water was up to his shoulders.”
Ice is still. Death is still. But no living flesh should be as still as this…
“Sylvia had on the wrong stockings for her dress, and her lipstick was all crooked, so I think things are pretty grim.”
“You told me a lot of things,” said James grimly. “Most of them weren’t true.”
“How would you like to be a rocket? A stranger for a week, an heiress for a week, then down with the stick and a stranger again.”
“I think you’re tempting fate when you say that you will never go back to Danesborough.”
Chloe laughed, suddenly, frankly.
“It’s a fate I don’t mind tempting,” she said.
Why can no-one stay at the Dower House?
Ten years! He had been dead ten years!
“I hate him worse than I hate snails, and worms, and slugs, and spiders with hairs down their legs…”
“They are letting me say good-bye. I’m to be shot to-morrow. It will be over by the time you get this…”
“I don’t know…no one knows…nobody knows but me…and they’re the finest emeralds in the world…the Van Berg emeralds…and nobody knows where they are but me…”
She was looking at the place where the mirror had hung. It didn’t reflect anything because the glass was gone. Instead there was a blackness, a dark hole full of shadows. There was a shuffling and a sighing, and a deep and dreadful groan. Then something moved.
“Anybody could have told you what Ross was like.”
“They did tell me,” said Mavis tearfully. “That’s why I did it.”
“I wouldn’t like to make you really angry, darling. You know, the only time I did you nearly scared me dead. I believe if you were really roused you might do something rather frightful.”
The parcel was addressed in sprawling capitals to “Antony Rossiter, Esq. By hand.” There was no more address than that.
Meg leaned forward suddenly. There was a note of terror in her voice. “Bill—where—is—Robin?”
Not a breath. Nothing. Just a dead man lying there on the tumbled bed…
“The door!” he shouted. “The door!” Every man in the room looked where Fifteen was looking. Above the water-lilies and the storks, where the top panel of the door had shown, there was a dark, empty space. The door was open.
“Thou hast betrayed, and thou hast slain…”
There was a hand pressed against the window, a large hand that looked unnaturally white. The light showed the pale fingers—and the still paler palm crossed by a dark, jagged scar.
“She’s a hula mula wula girl,
She’s a crazy daisy nightmare
My baby’s a scream.”
She had trembled. She had laughed her shaky little laugh. And she had vanished into thin air.
And the door was locked on the inside.
When she had let down her case, she locked her bedroom door. And then she put out the light and climbed out of the window.
“I know what we’ll do. We’ll play Devil-in-the dark.
“Are you sure? Don’t I inherit anything?”
“Not unless something happens to Miss Ann Vernon.”
Thief, kleptomaniac… or innocent victim of a malevolent plot to implicate her?
She held the candle steady and, stooping, touched the smeared patch with the tip of her finger.
The stain was blood.