Thursday, July 25, 2013

Time to Change Hats (1945), by Margot Bennett Part 1

Margot Bennett (1912-1980)
Margot Bennett isn't really a Golden Age detective novelist, unless we extend the period from its traditional cutoff of 1939/40 to the end of World War Two or, better yet, the early 1950s.  She published two detective novels in the aftermath of World War Two, Time to Change Hats (1945) and Away Went the Little Fish (1946), followed by The Widow of Bath (1952), The Man Who Didn't Fly (1955) and Someone from the Past (1958), which won the Golden Dagger from the Crime Writers Association (earlier The Man Who Didn't Fly had been shortlisted by the CWA--in both CWA actions, I detect the fine hand of Julian Symons, who was a great fan of Bennett's later fiction). Two other Bennett novels, The Golden Pebble (1948) and Farewell Crown and Goodbye King (1952) are more in the nature of being thrillers, I believe.

Margot Bennett's debut detective novel, Time to Change Hats, which introduces series detective John Davies (who also appears in Away Went the Little Fish) is a highly discursive English rural comedy of murders that is quite reminiscent, I think, of Edmund Crispin's detective fiction in the same period.  At the same time there's a genuine mystery puzzle at the heart of the tale.  I'm finding it an entertaining though slow-moving tale, rather long at over 110,000 words. Tomorrow I hope to have a full review up, wherein /I render a final verdict.  In the meantime, enjoy Martin Edwardspiece on Bennett over at his blog.


  1. I've been hoping to find some of her books in affordable editions ever since I first read about her in Symons' BLOODY MURDER about 30 years ago and never have - really looking forward to your review of what appears to be a somewhat atypical work from her.

  2. "Qualcuno dal passato" (Someone from the Past, 1958), I have got. But, another novel by Margot Bennett was published in Italy, by Garzanti: "L'uomo che non era partito" (The man who didn't fly, 1955): this, I haven't got.
    "Qualcuno dal passato" I read several years ago: I remember that the plot was about a woman loved and who loved a lot of men. But then there's someone from the past who kills her, etc...

  3. I had the happy experience years and years ago of being behind the counter at a mystery bookstore when someone brought in a handful of Bennett's work in a box of miscellaneous mysteries he wished to trade for other books. I enjoyed reading them all -- at least one of them twice -- and have never seen any copies since. This was in the days before the internet rationalized prices, so I have a feeling that they were a huge bargain when I finally put them out for sale; I remember handselling them to a regular customer who trusted my taste. Slow moving? I rather like that sort of thing when done properly, and I recall that Bennett had the knack.

  4. Hope to finish today. This is a challenging book to write about!