The Clock in the Hatbox (1939) by Anthony Gilbert

The Clock in the Hatbox by Anthony Gilbert

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

I write this in case of emergencies. I have reason to believe that I am in great danger and I cannot say how it will all end.”

The jury is in, and no one expects a surprise. Viola Ross is clearly guilty of murdering her husband Edward. She had the means, the opportunity, and certainly the motive—Edward Ross was suspicious of his younger wife’s relationship with his son Harry. Much to everyone’s shock, however, it’s a hung jury, with one juror refusing to convict.

The lone holdout on the jury is novelist Richard Arnold, who remains convinced of Viola’s innocence. He is determined to find the real killer before Viola’s retrial, even if it means risking his relationship, his reputation, and even his life. Continue reading “The Clock in the Hatbox (1939) by Anthony Gilbert”

The Man in Button Boots (1934) by Anthony Gilbert

The Man in Button Boots by Anthony Gilbert

3 Stars (3/10 stars)

“I begin to see why you’re so frightfully interested in him. A diamond millionaire in a Monte Carlo hotel. Trite, of course, but the public doesn’t mind that. All the same ingredients. Who have you picked on for the murderer?”

Julian Marks is a man of mystery. The South African millionaire burst upon the London scene just a few years ago, buoyed by a mysterious fortune. Economic downturns and extravagant spending have brought him down to his last diamond, but it’s quite a stone. Most men would hesitate to travel to the French Riviera with the largest diamond in the world sewn to their waistcoats, but Marks is confident he can handle any kind of trouble.

At the Hotel Fantastique, his fellow guests place bets on how long Marks will manage to stay alive. What no one expects is for Julian Marks to vanish into thin air. Inspector Dupuy must discover what has happened to Marks…and what has happened to his diamond. Continue reading “The Man in Button Boots (1934) by Anthony Gilbert”

Tenant for the Tomb (1971) by Anthony Gilbert

Tenant for the Tomb by Anthony Gilbert

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“In my experience, no blackmailer stops short at one victim and most of them overreach themselves in the end. That’s when they get careless. Blackmail may be money for old rope, but even old rope can be twisted into a noose.”

Everyone knows Imogen Garland is not quite all there. Her exuberant fashion and rambling, all-too-honest conversational style have often proved embarrassing to her brother, a member of Parliament. He’s even hired a companion to keep Imogen out of trouble.

The chatty Imogen makes friends wherever she goes. While waiting for the London train, she confides to fellow passengers Dora Chester and Arthur Crook about her dislike for her companion Miss Styles and the number of accidents she has suffered recently. Her point is proven soon enough, as Imogen nearly ends up under the wheels of a train. Dora wonders whether it was really an accident. Arthur Crook knows it wasn’t—someone like Imogen is destined for murder. When you live life on your own terms, sometimes you end up dying on someone else’s. Continue reading “Tenant for the Tomb (1971) by Anthony Gilbert”

Courtier to Death (1936) by Anthony Gilbert

Courtier to Death by Anthony Gilbert

4 Stars (4/10 stars)

You wouldn’t think I was dangerous, would you? But I am.”

There was a time when Rene Tessier’s arrival in London drew cheering crowds who followed the French film star to his suite at the Ritz. But that was long ago, before Tessier’s son leaped to his death from the Arc de Triomphe. Before the great actor threw away his career in an alcoholic haze. Now, he slips into London unnoticed, holing up in a disreputable hotel. Tomorrow, he’ll be on the front page again—not as a comeback story, but as a suicide.

Glyn, the barrister hired to investigate the death, isn’t so sure. Why would Tessier kill himself when he was on the verge of recapturing his former glory? And what was Tessier’s true relationship to Eve Dulac, who captured Glyn’s heart at first sight? The lawyer soon learns that Rene Tessier’s real life was far more dramatic, and dangerous, than any of his films. Continue reading “Courtier to Death (1936) by Anthony Gilbert”

Die in the Dark (1947) by Anthony Gilbert

Die in the Dark by Anthony Gilbert

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“You see, Mrs. Watson, fear is a wild animal and during these last years he has been unleashed and has roamed through the world, biting and infecting.”

Though thousands of people see the advertisement, only two take special notice. To Emily Watson, it seems like exactly what she needs: a lovely home available for a woman of refinement, surrounded by a peaceful forest. Emily’s accommodating nature has led her to be taken advantage of by a sponging nephew and “temporary” roommate who won’t be dislodged. A cottage in the woods could be the refuge she is looking for.

To Arthur Crook, it looks like a murder waiting to happen. In her haste to escape a bad situation at home, Emily may be rushing headlong toward something even worse. Continue reading “Die in the Dark (1947) by Anthony Gilbert”

Lady-Killer (1951) by Anthony Gilbert

Lady Killer by Anthony Gilbert 1951 book cover

8 Stars (8/10 stars)

“As one man becomes an engineer and another a doctor, so Henry became a husband. It was his living. The knocking off of his various wives when they had served their purpose was part of the routine, and involved no personal dislike or revenge…It was all perfectly simple, and his conscience never gave him a twinge.”

Some men balk at marriage, but not Henry. He’s always been an eager bridegroom. First to Greta…then Beryl…then Flora.

No one is likely to notice the commonplace deaths of insignificant middle-aged women—no one except  lawyer Arthur Crook, who collects potential murders. When Sarah enters Henry’s life, it’s up to Crook to prove the truth about Henry’s career of widowhood before it’s too late. Continue reading “Lady-Killer (1951) by Anthony Gilbert”

Death Takes a Wife (1959) by Anthony Gilbert

Death Takes a Wife by Anthony Gilbert

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“The whole of his past life with Blanche closed up behind him like one of those vanishing roads in the ancient fairy tale. Turn your head and there’s nothing to be seen. Not darkness, not shadows even, just nothing, because until now nothing real has existed.”

There is an unsolved mystery in my city, the disappearance of a young woman. Everybody knows that the friends who saw her last conspired to cover up her death. Even the most cursory Google search by employers or potential dates will reveal that they have been convicted of murder in the court of public opinion. These accusations will follow them until the case is solved…if that ever happens.

If they are guilty, this is something like justice—maybe the only justice the victim and her family will ever receive. But if they are innocent, they are living a nightmare.

This dilemma fascinates me, and must have fascinated Anthony Gilbert as well, since Death Takes a Wife is at least the third book of hers dealing with characters who have been accused, but not convicted, of a crime. How do you carry on with life knowing that everyone you meet believes you’ve gotten away with murder?  Continue reading “Death Takes a Wife (1959) by Anthony Gilbert”