The Wilberforce Legacy (Josephine Bell)

  • By Josephine Bell
  • First published: UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1969; US: Walker, 1969

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first of two books Bell set in the Caribbean, part of the Sixties British craze for tropical thrills that began with Doctor No. (James Bond was soon followed by Danger Man, The Avengers, The Saint, and dear old Aunt Jane.)

Wilberforce is an ex-colonel staying at a rundown Jamaica inn. Two men arrive claiming to be his nephew; each is after the old man’s money. Soon after, the colonel is found floating face up in a hotel pool, apparently drowned. Or was he? The story is slow to move at first, but develops into a frenetic story of buried treasure, Nazis, substitute corpses, and poisoned knives on a tropical island crawling with villainy and counter-Intelligence. There is little mystery about the murderer’s identity, although the motive still puzzles after the end. Josephine Bell has had an exhilarating holiday.

The Bello (Pan Macmillan) reprint is full of typos. People meet in the toad; the heroine felt her lover’s arras loosen; and a character leaves, dosing the door behind him.

Contemporary reviews

The Times (H.R.F. Keating, 1st March 1969): Tumbledown Caribbean setting, solid puzzle and highly neat twist.  Reads like taking a good walk, covering plenty of miles with lots to see.

A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): Dr. Bell again indulges her liking for decrepit heroes.  All the picturesque setting in “Princeton, San Fernando” (=Kingston, Jamaica) fails to make one care very much about what had happened to the elderly Mr. Wilberforce.

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