Category Archives: Anthony Berkeley

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…. ;-)

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

Three Banquets a Day*

Festive  FoodIf there’s one thing this season brings, it’s….. lots of food. There are all kinds of delicious foods associated with the different holidays that come at this time of year; it’s enough to make you swear to take up an exercise regime for the rest of your life. But as scrumptious as holiday treats are, they can also be dangerous. And no, I’m not talking about the calories. A quick look at crime fiction is all that’s needed to show that holiday treats should be taken with extreme caution.

For example, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Commissionaire Peterson brings Sherlock Holmes an interesting case. He discovered a hat and a goose lying on the street after a scuffle between an unknown man and some hooligans. When Peterson’s wife prepared the goose for cooking it, she discovered a valuable jewel in its craw. Holmes uses clues from the hat to trace its owner, and soon finds out the story. Once he traces the goose back to its breeder, he learns that the breeder’s brother had stolen the jewel and stuffed it into the goose’s craw for lack of a better hiding place. Unfortunately, he didn’t remember which goose had the jewel, and it ended up in different hands.

Very well, then, the Christmas goose may not be as innocent as it seems. What about traditional plum pudding? In Agatha Christie’s short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (AKA The Theft of the Royal Ruby), Hercule Poirot is persuaded against his better judgement to spend Christmas at Kings Lacey, an English country house owned by the Lacey family. Ostensibly he is there to experience an old-fashioned English Christmas. But his real purpose is to recover a very valuable ruby that was stolen from a Middle Eastern prince. Poirot’s not happy about staying in a drafty country house (What? No central heating?), but he goes to King’s Lacey. On Christmas Day, the family has a full-scale Christmas feast, complete with plum pudding at the end. Everyone is joking around about who got the various symbols in the pudding when Colonel Lacey begins on his portion. To his shock, it contains a very unusual ‘surprise.’ And that night, someone raids Poirot’s room. It’s now clear that someone else has the same goal he does. But as the saying goes, Poirot has a few tricks of his own, and in the end, he finds out what happened to the pudding. He also finds out the truth about the ruby.

Any crime fiction fan can tell you that festive candy is dangerous. Consider, just as one example, Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. In that novel, Roger Sheringham and the other members of the Crimes Circle club try to find out the truth behind a bizarre case of poisoning. Wealthy Sir Eustace Pennefather gets a complimentary box of chocolates as a marketing ploy. Not much of a chocolate eater himself, and not too fond of that approach to advertising, he gives the box to an acquaintance Graham Bendix. Bendix in turn gives the box to his wife Joan. A few hours after they share the chocolate, Joan dies of what turns out to be poison. Her husband is taken ill too, but survives, since he didn’t eat as much of the chocolate. So the question before the Crimes Circle is: who poisoned the chocolate? Related to that is the question of whether Pennefather or one (or both) of the Bendixes were the original targets.

Very well, then: no goose, no plum pudding, no chocolate. What about eggnog? Not so fast. Just think what happens in The Tragedy of Y, the second in the ‘Barnaby Ross’ (a pseudonym used by the Ellery Queen ‘Queen team’) Drury Lane series. The body of an unidentified man is found by a fishing boat. On his body is a suicide note identifying the victim as ‘Y’ (York) Hatter. The police are working on figuring out the truth about Hatter’s death when tragedy strikes the Hatter family again. As it is, the entire family is a little odd; they’re even referred to as ‘the mad Hatters.’ But when the victim’s grandson Jackie drinks a glass of cyanide-laced eggnog intended for his step-aunt Louisa, things get even more strange in the family. The doctor treating Jackie contacts the police, and wealthy retired actor Drury Lane gets involved in investigating the poisoning. His main question is: who wanted to poison Louisa? There’s also the question of whether (and how) this is related to York Hatter’s death and to a later murder that occurs.

Well, what if you avoid all of the Christmas treats altogether? That certainly may lower your risk, but it’s no guarantee. Even if you celebrate other holidays, you may not be entirely safe. In Sharon Kahn’s Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Choir, for instance, the choir of Temple Rita, in Eternal, Texas, is planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies. They’ve been invited to participate in the first Interdenominational ChoirFest in Lake Louise, Canada – a real feather in the proverbial cap. In order to raise funds for the trip, the choir plans a latke promotion. For those who don’t know, latkes are special potato pancakes that are traditionally eaten during Chanukah. They’re not exactly healthy food, but (at least in my opinion) worth every calorie. As part of this promotion, the choir hosts a large latke party that will feature a musical performance. But to everyone’s shock, star soprano Serena Salit suddenly dies of what looks like a heart attack. Police Lieutenant Paul Lundy learns that Serena was poisoned, and he’s concerned for his love interest, Ruby Rothman, who’s a member of the temple community and planning to go on the trip. But Ruby believes that the trip will be just the thing to find out who the killer is.

See what I mean? It simply doesn’t pay to overindulge in holiday treats. And besides, you won’t have as much work to do to get back into shape after the season. So do be careful if you accept an invitation. On second thought, you might just be better off going to the gym…


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lionel Bart’s Food, Glorious Food.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Barnaby Ross, Ellery Queen, Sharon Kahn

A Box of Chocolates and a Dozen Flowers*

Valentine's Day 2014 It’s St. Valentine’s Day as I write this post. Now, traditionally, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day of grand romantic gestures such as flowers, candy and so on, and that’s all fine. But are you aware of how dangerous those things can be? Before you go rushing out to buy that special box of luxury chocolates or that bouquet of expensive roses, have a quick look at some crime fiction and you’ll see what I mean.




Flowers are beautiful of course, and if you watch advertisements, you’ll be convinced that nothing says ‘love’ like roses. But consider how dangerous flowers can be. In Agatha Christie’s story The Blue Geranium, a group of people including Miss Marple go to dinner at the home of Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife Dolly. During the meal, Bantry tells the story of George Pritchard, whose wife suddenly died of what seems to have been shock and fear. That’s not surprising, since she wasn’t in good physical or mental health. In fact, she began to believe that she could only be helped by psychics and seers. That’s how she fell under the influence of Zarida, Psychic Reader of the Future. Zarida specifically told Mrs. Pritchard to beware of, among other things, blue geraniums, blue primroses and blue hollyhocks. Then, mysteriously, the flowers on the wallpaper in Mrs. Pritchard’s bedroom began to turn blue. That’s when she suddenly died. Some people believed that Zarida actually predicted the future. Others blamed Pritchard for killing his wife. But Miss Marple has quite a different explanation.

In Rex Stout’s novella Door to Death, Nero Wolfe takes the drastic step of leaving his brownstone when his usual orchid expert Theodore Horstmann takes a leave of absence. Wolfe has heard of another expert Andrew Krasicki, who works for the Pitccairn family. He wrote to Krasicki asking him to fill in for Horstmann but got no response. Not willing to risk his beloved orchids, Wolfe takes Archie Goodwin with him and they make a personal visit to Krasicki. While they’re there, the body of Krasicki’s fiancée Dini Lauer is discovered behind a canvas in the Pitcairns’ greenhouse. Krasicki’s the most likely suspect since he admits that Dini visited him at the greenhouse the evening before. But he swears he’s innocent. If Wolfe is to bring Krasicki back with him to tend his orchids, he’s going to have to find out who really killed the victim. For Wolfe, that’s quite a motivation. See what trouble flowers can bring you?




It’s also traditional to give a box of candy on Valentine’s Day. Now, far be it from me to discourage you from supporting the chocolate industry. Really. I mean it. But chocolate can be very dangerous stuff.

Just ask Margaret de Rushbridger, who plays a role in Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts). She is a patient at a Yorkshire sanitarium run by eminent specialist Dr. Bartholomew Strange. One night, Strange suddenly dies of what turns out to be nicotine poisoning while he’s hosting a dinner party. Not long afterwards, Margaret de Rushbridger suddenly dies too, this time from chocolates poisoned by nicotine. As you might suspect, there is a connection, but not the one you may think. Hercule Poirot is already investigating Strange’s death and an earlier one that may be related. And in the end he links those deaths to that of Margaret de Rushbridger. See? If she’d just left the chocolates alone, she might have been fine.

And then there’s Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Berkeley’s sleuth Roger Sheringham runs the Crimes Circle, a discussion club for those interested in crimes and their solutions. When DCI Moresby is invited to address the clue, he presents them with a fascinating case. Well-known chocolate company Mason & Sons has come out with a new variety of chocolates. As a way of garnering interest (and of course, sales), they’ve sent boxes of chocolates out to some select influential people. One of them is Sir Eustace Pennefeather Pennefeather doesn’t eat chocolate, so he passes the candy on to a fellow member of his club Graham Bendix. Bendix in turn takes the chocolate home to share with his wife Joan. Shortly thereafter, both Bendixes are sickened. Graham recovers but Joan does not. Analysis shows that the chocolates were poisoned. Moresby lays the case before the Crimes Circle and in turn, each member presents a theory of who killed Joan Bendix and why. The answer isn’t what you’d think, but it does go to show that chocolate is risky.




Very well, then, what about a bottle of fine wine? What a lovely romantic touch, right? Not so fast. Do you know how many fictional characters have been poisoned by wine?

In Colin Dexter’s The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis investigate the murder of Nicholas Quinn, the newest member of Oxford’s Foreign Examinations Syndicate. That’s a high-status position, as the Syndicate oversees all exams given in non-UK countries with a UK education tradition. One afternoon, Quinn is murdered with poisoned sherry and Morse and Lewis are soon on the case. It turns out that there are several suspects too. For one thing, Quinn was not a unanimous choice for the Syndicate, so the members who didn’t want him there are under suspicion. Then too, it turns out that some Syndicate members are keeping secrets that Quinn could easily have found out. In the end, Morse and Lewis track down the culprit, but it all might have been avoided if Quinn hadn’t had that sherry. I’m just saying…

And then there’s Arlette Montrose Banfield, who features in Emily Brightwell’s Victorian-Era historical novel  Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead. Arlette and her husband Lewis are welcoming guests to the Banfield family’s annual Ball. Everyone takes seats and soon the wine begins to flow. Suddenly Arlette dies of what turns out to be poisoned champagne. Inspector Gerald Witherspoon takes the case and he gets to work right away since the Banfield family are ‘people who matter.’ It took timing and daring, but someone managed to poison the victim in the full view of lots of witnesses. Witherspoon’s ever-efficient and capable housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries alerts her staff, and each in a different way, they help solve the case.

See what I mean? Those grand gestures can be deadly. Besides, they can be expensive. And anyway, there are lots of other great ways to show you care. Just ask Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman. She knows her lover Daniel Cohen truly cares about her. He brings her coffee in the morning. Bliss. And then there’s Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache. There’s no doubt his wife Reine-Marie loves him, and one of the ways she shows it is by helping him sort through his files and keep them organised. Now that’s an act of love. And of course there’s my personal choice for truly Great. Romantic. Gesture. Read Angela Savage’s The Half Child. Well, read it anyway, but there’s a great scene in it. Trust me.  You’re welcome. Always happy to help with romantic advice. ;-)




*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Bird and The Bee’s My Fair Lady.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Anthony Berkeley, Colin Dexter, Emily Brightwell, Kerry Greenwood, Louise Penny, Rex Stout

I Want Candy*

ChocolateA lot of people have made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier food and perhaps get a little more fit. We need to make those resolutions at times because let’s face it: the not-so-good-for-us food is very tempting. Take chocolate for instance. We all know that too much chocolate isn’t good for us. That doesn’t stop us though from eating it. There are dedicated lovers of chocolate everywhere. There are blogs, recipe books, restaurants and television shows devoted to the topic.  But crime fiction fans know that chocolate, like anything else, can be quite dangerous. Just a quick glance at the genre should show you what I mean.

There’s a prime example of the dangers of chocolate in Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Newspaper columnist and amateur sleuth Roger Sheringham runs the Crimes Circle, a discussion group for those interested in crimes and their solutions. When DCI Moresby is invited to address the club, he shares a most interesting case with them. Mason & Sons, a chocolate manufacturer, has just developed a new variety of chocolates. A box of the new chocolates is sent to Sir Eustace Pennefather as a way to spark some word-of-mouth (yes, pun intended ;-) ) advertising. Pennefather doesn’t like chocolate so he passes the box on to a fellow member of his social club Graham Bendix. Bendix shares some of the chocolate with his wife Joan and both become very ill. Although her husband survives, Joan Bendix dies of what turns out to be poison. The police haven’t been able to get any solid leads on the case. In fact, their only theory is that the Bendixes were poisoned by mistake, and the intended victim was Sir Eustace. Moresby lays the case before the Crimes Circle and each member offers a theory of the crime. Of course, Berkeley being Berkeley, things aren’t what they seem at first…

Agatha Christie fans will know that several of her stories and novels include characters who meet untimely ends because of chocolate. For example, in Three-Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts), we meet Sir Bartholomew Strange, a noted specialist in nervous disorders. Strange has taken on a new patient Margaret de Rushbridger, who has come from the West Indies. One day she receives as a gift a box of chocolates. When she suddenly dies after eating some of the chocolate, it’s shown that she was poisoned by pure nicotine. Her murder is especially telling in that it comes shortly after the murder of Strange himself. Hercule Poirot is investigating that death as it is, and he’s able to link Margaret de Rushbridger’s murder with Strange’s and with one other death. I know, I know, fans of Peril at End House and, of course, The Chocolate Box (‘though perhaps M. Poirot would prefer we all forget about that one…).

In Rex Stout’s Gambit, Nero Wolfe gets a visit from Sally Blount. Her father Matthew Blount has been arrested for the poisoning murder of Paul Jerin. Jerin did magic stunts and other party tricks, and was also quite skilled at chess. According to Sally, her father and Jerin had played chess a few times and the idea came up for a sort of competition at Blount’s chess club, the Gambit Club. The idea was that Jerin would be in one room, blindfolded. Club members would be in other rooms. Jerin would play twelve games simultaneously against the various members, with each move communicated by messenger. The details were worked out and the evening began. During the course of the competition, Jerin was brought a cup of hot chocolate, which was very likely poisoned. Shortly after drinking it, he became very ill, was rushed to hospital and later died. Since Blount brought the chocolate, and since the two men knew each other, he’s the natural suspect. But Sally is convinced her father is innocent. And the more Wolfe and Archie Goodwin look into this case, the less clear-cut it becomes.

And then there’s Ruth Dudley Edwards’ second Robert Amiss mystery, The St. Valentines Day Murders. Whitehall bureaucrat Amiss is seconded for a year to the British Conservation Corporation. The job turns out to be a grim position in a bureaucratic backwater, and Amiss is understandably miserable. He soon notices that he’s hardly the only one. There’s a general air of pettiness, spite and malice, and it’s not improved by his arrival. In fact, he’s resented by several of his colleagues at first. Matters get worse when someone starts playing unpleasant practical ‘jokes.’ Still, Amiss does his best and even begins to get on with some of his colleagues. Then tragedy strikes. Boxes of chocolates are sent to several of the bureaucrats’ wives for St. Valentine’s Day. When some of the recipients die, Superintendent Milton of the Met investigates. It turns out that the chocolates were poisoned, and Milton looks to Amiss for help in finding out who killed the victims and why.

There are even crime fiction series with a chocolate theme. There’s Sally Berneathy’s Death by Chocolate series, for instance. Those novels feature Lindsay Powell, who owns Death by Chocolate, which is a sandwich-and-treat shop. And there’s Joanna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries, featuring Lee McKinney, business manager for TenHuis Chocolate.

Yes, there’s enough chocolate out there in crime-fiction land to satisfy any chocolate lover. Shame it can be so very dangerous. Maybe it’s just as well to keep that resolution and eat more healthfully.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just have a nibble…

Want more about chocolate? Sure ya do! Visit Janet Rudolph’s Dying For Chocolate. Yum!




*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by The Strangeloves.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Joanna Carl, Rex Stout, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Sally Berneathy

Come on and Join Us in the Club*

ClubsDo you belong to a hobby or interest club, like a book club, a gardening club or perhaps a film club? With the ease of access to the Internet, our social life is going increasingly online, but there are still an awful lot of local face-to-face clubs. And any time you get a group of people together, even people with a common interest, you get disparate personalities. What’s more, each club member has a personal life with all sorts of ‘baggage,’ so it’s no wonder at all that we see a lot of clubs in crime fiction.

There’s a crime club in Agatha Christie’s collection The Thirteen Problems (AKA The Tuesday Club Murders). That set of stories is bound together by the overarching theme of a regular gathering to discuss crime. Here’s how Joyce Lemprière, one of the members, describes the club:


‘How would it be if we formed a Club? What is today? Tuesday? We will call it the Tuesday Night Club. It is to meet every week, and each member in turn is to propound a problem. Some mystery of which they have personal knowledge, and to which, of course, they know the answer.’


The group agrees to form in that way, and the stories are based in part on that group’s meetings and on the mysteries each member shares.

There’s a different sort of angle on the ‘crime club’ theme in Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Mason & Sons, a chocolate manufacturer, has developed a new variety of chocolates. A box of these is sent to Sir Eustace Pennefather, presumably as a gift to induce him try them and then buy the chocolates. But Pennefather is a chocolate hater, so he passes the candy on to a fellow member of his social club Graham Bendix. Bendix shares some of the chocolate with his wife Joan and both are soon taken very ill. Graham survives but his wife dies of what turns out to be poison. The police can’t get any leads or really plausible suspects, so the case hasn’t been solved. The only theory they have developed is that Joan Bendix was poisoned accidentally because the intended victim was Pennefather. That’s logical too as Pennefather had made a lot of enemies. DCI Moresby, who investigated the case, is invited as guest speaker to the Crimes Circle. That’s a discussion group for those interested in crime, run by sometime newspaper columnist and amateur sleuth Roger Sheringham. Once Moresby outlines the known facts of the case, each member of the Crimes Circle offers a theory as to who committed the crime and why. And in true ‘Golden Age’ style, Berkeley saves the truth for the end of the novel…

The Manhattan Flower Club is featured in Rex Stout’s novella Disguise for Murder (AKA The Affair of the Twisted Scarf). Nero Wolfe has been persuaded to invite the members of the club to his brownstone to see his prize orchids. Archie Goodwin is posted in the orchid room to mingle with the guests and ensure that the orchids themselves remain unharmed. It’s not Goodwin’s sort of afternoon, so at one point he sneaks out of the party to relax in his office. That’s when he gets a visit from one of the guests. She calls herself Cynthia Brown and tells Goodwin that she needs Wolfe’s help. Her story is that she recognised another guest who has committed a murder and who knows that she knows about it. She wants Wolfe to bring the murderer to justice, but to leave her out of it. Goodwin is finally persuaded to get Wolfe, but by the time they return to Goodwin’s office, the young woman’s been murdered. Now Wolfe and Goodwin have to find out which of the other guests is the killer.

There’s more horticultural mayhem in M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener. In that novel, PI Agatha Raisin returns to her home in Carsely after a prolonged holiday only to find out that there’s a new resident Mary Fortune. The newcomer is an avid gardener and a member of the local horticultural society. She’s also got the attention of Raisin’s next-door-neighbour James Lacey, whom Raisin herself fancies. So Raisin decides to join the horticultural society although gardening is most definitely not her forte. Still, she resolves to try to do something for the upcoming Garden Open Day, when the villagers are invited to visit each other’s gardens. Raisin finds other things to occupy her on that day though, because Mary Fortune is found hung upside-down and buried head first in a gardening pot. It turns out that there are several suspects, as the victim had her share of enemies. In the end, Raisin finds that village life can breed a lot of resentment…

You wouldn’t think that book clubs would be dangerous, but they can be. In Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Progressive Dinner Deadly, retired teacher Myrtle Clover decides to try to get the local book club to read books other than ‘blockbuster’ best-sellers. Unfortunately her suggestion gets misunderstood and taken out of context so that before she knows it, the idea has morphed into a progressive dinner club. The idea of a progressive dinner is that the club members will visit each other’s homes on a given night, with each host providing one part of a meal. So the members will visit one host’s home for soup, one for the main course, another for dessert, and so on. Myrtle is not exactly a gifted cook and has no interest in a progressive dinner club. But she grumpily goes along with the plan. On the night of the club’s first dinner, the group makes a stop at the home of member Jill Caulfield. To everyone’s shock she’s been murdered by a blow to the head from a heavy pan. Her husband Cullen is the most likely suspect, but Myrtle soon finds that he’s far from the only one. Craig also writes the Southern Quilting series which features the Village Quilters, another club in which disparate personalities and histories can lead to murder.

In Wendy James’ The Mistake, Jodie Evans Garrow becomes a social outcast when questions are raised about her past. She and her husband Angus were considered practically model citizens of the small town of Arding, New South Wales. In fact Angus was even being spoken of as a good candidate for the upcoming mayoral election. But then a secret from Jodie’s past comes to light. Her daughter Hannah is in an accident and is taken to the same Sydney hospital where years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another child. A nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie and when she asks about the baby, Jodie says she gave the baby up for adoption. But there turn out to be no records of that adoption and no evidence that the baby grew up. Very soon people begin to believe that Jodie might have had something to do with the baby’s disappearance and she’s ostricised. Then one day Amber, an acquaintance from the gym, invites Jodie to join her book club. Jodie’s so pleased that there’s at least one group that hasn’t shut her out that she agrees to come to the club’s meeting. That’s when she learns that she was actually invited almost as a curiosity because the group is reading a book about the Lindy Chamberlain case, another case of a mother whose baby disappeared and who has been accused of being responsible. Angry and humiliated, Jodie leaves the meeting. What she doesn’t know at the time is that one member of that book club is a friend from long ago – a friend who turns out to be Jodie’s psychological salvation.

A ladies’ bowling club is the focus of Ellen Mary Wilton’s Hysteria at the Wisteria. The Wisteria Ladies’ Bowling Club of Sydney is getting ready to play one morning when they find the body of a dead man on the green. It turns out that he has more than one connection to the club; he is the son of a former member and it seems that he was on his way to meet a current member when he was killed. The club’s vice-president Lucy Law decides to investigate the murder. I have to confess I’ve not (yet) read this one, but it was just too good an example of a club not to mention it. Want to know more? Check out this excellent review at Fair Dinkum Crime, which is the place for information and reviews relating to Australian crime fiction. It’s well worth a prominent place on any crime fiction fan’s blog roll.

Clubs like book clubs, dinner clubs and so on unite members with common interests, and they can be an important source of support. They can also be a source of tension, the clash of disparate personalities and worse. No wonder they’re great contexts for murder mysteries…


On Another Note…


Speaking of clubs, author and fellow blogger Rebecca Bradley has organised a terrific online book club, which will meet once a month. Want the details? Check them out right here. And while you’re at it, her blog is a great source of inspiration for writers, as well as a fine source for interesting book reviews.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Joe Walsh’s Welcome to the Club.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Ellen Mary Wilton, Elzabeth Spann Craig, M.C. Beaton, Rex Stout, Wendy James