SLEUTH’S ALCHEMY by Gladys Mitchell

SLEUTH’S ALCHEMY

Cases of Mrs. Bradley and Others
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The latest rediscovery from the Lost Classics series is 31 mini-mysteries from one of the most prolific but obscure of all Golden Age puzzlers.

As editor Fuller’s introduction observes, Mitchell (1901–83) was a professional’s professional. Nicholas Blake, Edmund Crispin and P.D. James all admired her psychiatrist sleuth Beatrice (later Dame Beatrice) Bradley, who specialized in mysteries with a strong dose of supernatural fantasy. What Fuller doesn’t point out is that Mitchell’s short stories, practically all written for the Evening Standard between 1950 and 1953, couldn’t be more different from her 61 novels. Whether Mrs. Bradley or the British constabulary does the detecting honors, these gemlike anecdotes are matter-of-fact, businesslike and ruthlessly efficient in destroying alibis, noting telltale discrepancies and plucking malefactors from among tiny fields of suspects (there’s rarely more than one innocent). Two-thirds of the stories are slender but fair-play whodunits (e.g., murder among the acrobats in “The Falling Petals”) or howdunits (the fatal bicycle accident in “Daisy Bell”); the others are inverted tales that follow known murderers and then reveal the tiny mistakes that do them in. Although the scope of each story couldn’t be smaller, and no one of them is outstanding, the effect of the whole assembly is startlingly impressive.

A perfect bedtime book, and a valuable glimpse inside the workshop of a master craftsperson notable for economy, variety and invention.

Pub Date: March 15th, 2005
ISBN: 1-932009-30-2
Page count: 194pp
Publisher: Crippen & Landru
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2005