Friday, September 20, 2013

Give a Corpse a Bad Name (1940), by Elizabeth Ferrars

Today I'll be looking at the debut detective novel by the prolific Elizabeth Ferrars (1907-1995), one of our very last Golden Age authors.  Give a Corpse a Bad Name was published at the very tail end of the Golden Age, as traditionally dated (c. 1920-1940). I've written about Elizabeth Ferrars on the blog before, here and here, but this is my first review of one of her many novels, though I have read about all of them.  Some of Ferrars' books are pedestrian, to be sure, but Corpse is first-rate.  I have read this now for a second time and quite enjoyed the rereading.

Late in her writing career, which lasted over half-a-century, Ferrars introduced two series amateur sleuths, con man Felix Freer and the elderly scientist Andrew Basnett (the latter based on her husband); yet she also started out her career with one, or rather two: the detective duo of the freelance journalist Toby Dyke and his mysterious friend George.

The first of the five novels in which they appear is a classical English village and country house mystery, set in Devonshire.  With an interesting plot, nicely etched characters and some clever writing, Corpse deserves honorary "Crime Queen" status, as it reminds one very much of Christie, Sayers, Allingham and Marsh.

I'll be expanding this post later today.  Sorry to be running late yet again, but editing duties on the collection of mystery fiction essays in honor of Doug Greene have been keeping me busy (there are about thirty pieces).  I'll soon be able to write more as well about what this book will look like!


  1. Apparently Ferrars stopping writing Toby Dyke series (even thought it was what launched her successful career) because she "got to hate him so much." It's a bit unusual for authors to get to that point concerning one of their characters so early in a series.

  2. BVLawson: Indeed, it took Christie like two decades to get to hate Poirot, lol (though around the same time). I think perhaps what some of these authors really hated was the complex clueing that mysteries with such sleuths required. And they took it out on their detectives!

  3. Conan Doyle pretty much hated Holmes from the get-go.