Death in High Heels (Christianna Brand)

By Christianna Brand

First published: UK, Bodley Head, 1941; US, Scribners, 1941

 My review

Atypical of Brand’s work—she has not yet found her voice, for the majority of the book is taken up with police detection, and the characters only come into the story through Inspector Charlesworth’s eyes.  Most of the story-telling is dull, the characters not particularly interesting, and the murderer is obvious, although the motive is good.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 12th April 1941):

Such intimate glimpses of the running of a Regent Street dress shop are revealed by Death in High Heels that the plot becomes of secondary interest.  All the mannequins, vendeuses (their own word), and manageresses, chosen for their breath-taking loveliness, become so human directly no customers are in sight that it is excitement enough to hear them deciding which bit each shall have of the curried rabbit.  Every small incident and every scrap of conversation are engrossingly real.  A murder seems unreal almost inevitably, but the visits of the police, especially when they interview Mr. Cecil, the dress designer, renew the sensation that we are privileged spectators of a life the ordinary public never sees.


Manchester Guardian (E.R. Punshon, 27th May 1941):

We wander far from reality in Death in High Heels, by Christianna Brand.  Her shop assistants, straight from the depths of Bloomsbury, her Scotland Yard, her poisons, all alike belong to the realm of fantasy.  Nevertheless she has produced a lively and readable tale, making up for lack of skill in characterisation by her clever descriptive writing.


Time and Tide:

The best book of the month without any question at all is Death in High Heels.  It is a very long time since I have read a better story.  It is not only the book of the month, but the book of the year.