Thursday Night Your Stockings Needed Mending*

StockingsNot very long ago, Moira at Clothes in Books posted an interesting discussion of giving stockings as gifts. And that’s not her first post on stockings in literature. The whole thing has me thinking of how often stockings do figure in books; certainly they do in crime fiction. You might not really think about it, because they’ve been such an ordinary, everyday part of dressing for a lot of people for a long time. But they certainly play a role in crime novels.

For example, Anthony Berkeley’s The Silk Stocking Murders begins with a letter sent to Roger Sheringham at the offices of The Daily Courier, where he is a contributing columnist. The letter is from a rural parson, A.E. Manners, who is concerned about his daughter Janet. Janet had left home to try to ‘seek her fortune’ as the saying goes, and for some time, she’d been writing more or less regularly, mostly from London. But now her letters have stopped, and her father is worried about her. He doesn’t want the police involved, so he asks Sheringham to investigate. Sheringham’s curious about it, and happens to mention the matter to a colleague. His colleague identifies the ‘photo of Janet that Sheringham shows him as that of a chorus girl who recently died. She was strangled with her own silk stockings, and the police theory is that it was suicide. But Sheringham isn’t sure that’s the case, so he looks into the matter more deeply. Then, other, similar murders occur. Now it’s clear that Janet’s death was not suicide, so Sheringham works with Inspector Moresby and with Janet’s older sister Anne to find out the truth.

In Agatha Christie’s A Pocket Full of Rye, wealthy Rex Fortescue is poisoned, and Inspector Neele is assigned to investigate. He begins, as is logical, with the members of Fortescue’s family, and it’s not long before he discovers plenty of motives. To say the least, the family has not been a loving, united one. But if it’s a family member, what’s the meaning of the bunch of grains of rye that were found in Fortescue’s pocket? Neele tries to keep an open mind, but he doesn’t get very far along. Then, the family maid Gladys Martin is killed – strangled with a stocking. Miss Marple is especially upset at this, since she knows Gladys well. In fact, she prepared her for domestic service. So she gets involved in the investigation, and works to find out who the murderer is. The case isn’t solved in time to prevent more death, but in the end, Miss Marple gets to the truth. I know, I know, fans of Cards on the Table and of The ABC Murders.

In P.D. Martin’s Fan Mail, best-selling crime novelist Loretta Black pays a visit to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, where Sophie Anderson works. Soon afterwards, Anderson transfers to the Los Angeles FBI office. Then, she learns that Loretta Black has been killed. What’s especially eerie about this murder is that it exactly resembles a series of murders Black wrote about in a novel. Part of the fictional killer’s ‘signature’ was strangling with torn-off stockings, and that’s how Black’s been murdered. Then, another writer is killed; again, the real murder mimics the writer’s fiction. And another writer disappears. Now, Anderson has to work with the LAPD as well as her fellow field agents to find out who the killer is before there are more murders.

Tony Black’s Murder Mile also has stockings as a main ingredient. Edinburgh DI Rob Brennan and his team investigate when the body of Lindsay Sloan is discovered in a field. She’s been strangled with her own stockings, and the body mutilated. As Brennan works on the case, he learns that this murder is eerily similar to the five-year-old murder of Fiona McGow, whose killer was never caught. When the media gets wind of this possible connection, the press begin to dub the killer ‘The Edinburgh Ripper.’ Pressure builds to catch this murderer before there are any more victims. It’s not going to be an easy case though, because the one witness who may have valuable information is not willing to give it up.

There’s also Kate Flora’s Death in Paradise. Boston education consultant Thea Kozak attends an education conference on Maui (trust me; that is a beautiful place for a conference!). The director of the conference is Martina Pullman, who heads the National Association of Girls’ Schools. One morning, Pullman doesn’t appear for a conference session. Since it’s very unlike her, the other people in the session begin to get worried. A search is made, and her body is found in her hotel room, strangled with a stocking. What’s more, she’s dressed more like a ‘call girl’ than an education executive. The association isn’t exactly a united group, so there are plenty of suspects. In the end though, Kozak finds out who’s responsible and what the motive is.

See what I mean? Stockings may be very useful, but they can be extremely dangerous, too. Little wonder I like trousers as well as I do…. πŸ˜‰

Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration. Now may I suggest your next blog round stop be at Clothes in Books, which is the source for fictional fashion and popular culture and what it all says about us.

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Beatles’ Lady Madonna.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Kate Flora, P.D. Martin, Tony Black

29 responses to “Thursday Night Your Stockings Needed Mending*

  1. You always amaze me, Margot. Your knowledge of crime fiction is inspirational!

  2. The mystery of the deadly stockings… that made me laugh! Who’d have thought?

  3. You never can tell where danger may lurk Margot! I must admit I didn’t realise how often they featured in murder mysteries until this post – thank you!

  4. It surprises me that stockings feature in more modern novels. I did not think they were even worn that much anymore. I do love that song.

    • I love the song too, Tracy. And you’re right; considering that I think stockings are worn a lot less these days, it’s interesting how often they still figure into crime…

  5. I loved the P D Martin book…and the rest of this series…

  6. I like that story “Pocket Full of Rye”. It was cleverly done.

    I LOVED the fact that you used that line from Lady Madonna as your title. I saw the line, and went wait… I had to think, use the mental rolodex, until find myself humming SEE HOW THEY RUN… etc!

    Wanted to tell you that I’ve started re-watching Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes.

    It’s quite refreshing; I really like going back to basics, especially after watching an ELEMENTARY, where Moriarty is a WOMAN!!! Cleverly done, but man, I started reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories when I was ten!

    Moriarty as a woman was jarring. Made me laugh though.

    Oh well, Watson is a woman! πŸ™‚

    I wonder if Arthur is turning in his grave.



    • Interesting question what Conan Doyle would think of Elementary. As to the Jeremy Brett series, I’ve always thought Brett was much the best Holmes; I just really like his performances. And I agree with you about Pocket Full of Rye – a really solid novel. Oh, and about Lady Madonna? Hey, it’s The Beatles! Can’t go wrong in my opinion.

      • I agree regarding Brett. It is a delight to revisit him. Regarding your title, and Lady Madonna — I was just pleased as punched that I KNEW I knew the line, and then came up with WHERE I knew it. Considering that some days I don’t remember WHAT day it is … I celebrate the WINS! :)))

  7. What a fascinating list Margot – must admit, not a garnent that figures much in my wardrobe πŸ™‚ I always do think of the poor patsy in THE ABC MURDERS who is a a door-to-door sticking salesman …

    • Lovely to see you back, Sergio πŸ™‚ – And no, I shouldn’t expect stockings would be part of your everyday wardrobe… Yes, the stock salesman from The ABC Murders came to my mind right away when I was planning this post.

  8. Col

    About time I read some more from Tony Black, Murder Mile is on the pile!

  9. What was the one, Margot, where Poirot trapped the girl thief by presenting her with a selection of stockings and asking her to select a couple of pairs for his mythical niece? I remember the scene quite clearly but can’t place the book…

  10. has any fictional murder ever featured asphyxiation by gym socks?

  11. Great post Margot, and I am proud to be part of the process. There must be something to be made of the fact that stockings are so flimsy and transparent – they seem ephemeral – and yet they are strong enough to kill. What a metaphor….

    • Moira – I appreciate the inspiration πŸ™‚ . And you know, I hadn’t thought of it, but you’re right. Stockings, both flimsy and strong enough to be a murder weapon…lots of ‘food for thought’ there…

  12. Although this is minor, in The Lost Girls by Wendy James, there’s a sock darning contraption that looks like a mushroom (my mother had one) and Jane (who runs an antique shop) offers to give it to Erin, who is writing a documentary on the effects of murder on families.
    Margot, I heard of Wendy James through your blog and want to THANK YOU. This is the kind of crime writing that I really like! πŸ™‚

    • Carol – Yes!!! That is a great little tool! My mother had one too. And that scene really is a nice little touch in that novel. And honestly, I’m very glad you discovered Wendy James. Isn’t she talented? I have yet to be disappointed in anything of hers I’ve read.

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