Big Business Murder (G.D.H. and M. Cole)

By G.D.H. and M. Cole

First published: UK, Collins, 1935; US, Doubleday, 1935

An average story.  The financial setting is for once interesting and well-drawn, and combines social, political and financial satire — the effect of the murder upon society. There is much human interest (indeed, perhaps too much, to the detriment of the detective story), provided mainly by Jimmie Paltrow’s attempts to get himself hanged (“I want to tell you enough to get myself decently hanged.” “Don’t talk like that, sir. It’d go to my heart to hang a cricketer like you.”) for the murder committed in a block of flats, and solved by Wilson (who appears on p. 176 of 252). The crime seems to be an impossible crime (with hopes of a deadly booby-trap), but the solution is a let-down, and the ending depressing, as everyone is arrested.

Blurb (UK)

In the palatial city offices of Arrow Investments, Ltd., Kingsley Manson, the suave, handsome, perfectly-dressed genius of the financial world, faced an angry meeting of his fellow directors.  Wilfred Gathorne, who had always been a thorn in his flesh, was asking some deucedly awkward questions.  Well, he would let them have it.  Calmly he told them the brutal truth.  The Arrow was, and had been for quite a long time, a fraudulent concern.  After the bombshell burst confusion reigned, and the meeting was adjourned until the afternoon.  But before it resumed Gathorne was murdered.  In Big Business Murder G.D.H. & M. Cole have written an exceptionally clever detective story and one which certainly provided Superintendent Wilson with one of his most baffling cases.

Blurb (US)


London, Feb.—1935.  On the eve of the collapse of Arrow Investments, Inc., Director Wilfred Gathorne, recently returned from abroad, was found mysteriously shot in his London apartment.  The absence of powder burns and other unrevealed aspects of the case have convinced the police that Gathorne was murdered.  Two suspects, Mrs. Violet Manson, wife of Managing Director Kingsley Manson of Arrow Investments, and James (Jimmie) Parlow, popular sportsman and member of the Arrow board, are being held on suspicion of murder.


New York, Feb.—1935.  A special story from London states that G.D.H. & M. Cole, outstanding economists and, in their spare time well-known mystery story writers, have united their two fields and written a sensational murder story involving the gigantic swindle that finally precipitated the collapse of one of Britain’s greatest financial houses.  The story, it is said, offers not only a baffling mystery but a private peephole view of the peculiar tactics of a great financial house.  It is expected that a new and wide reading public will find its way to this carefully plotted, engagingly narrated story of murder and civilized plundering.

Contemporary reviews

Observer (Torquemada, 6th January 1935):

While on the subject of prose, it is, strangely enough, difficult to commend with so much certitude the Coles.  Big Business Murder is an extraordinarily good story, in spite of the fact that we only have a hundred pages of Superintendent Henry Wilson; but, when two scholars collaborate, there is always a chance of a slip of the torch as it passes from hand to hand.  This may result, as it does here, in an occasional clumsiness of expression quite impossible to each writer as an individual.  A veneration, founded upon almost textual knowledge, of the Coles, led me to the correct solution earlier than was, possibly, intended; but I defy the casual reader to solve this perfectly fair mystery before its talented authors mean that he should do so.

Times Literary Supplement (7th February 1935):

Mr. and Mrs. Cole have again written one of those detective stories which few readers will solve before they are meant to, though a second reading shows that the clues are there for the observant.  The story deals with the murder of the one director of Arrow Investments, Limited, who was both honest and moderately competent and who sprang on a board meeting his discovery that the business was using fraudulent methods.  Both he and the first suspect (honest and incompetent) were old and honourable admirers of the managing director’s wife, the managing director himself being thoroughly unscrupulous and as thoroughly prosperous in his management of the Arrow’s affairs.  There is also—the best-drawn character in the book—a titled guinea-pig who prettily combines willingness to hush up the discovery of the frauds with genuine solicitude for his own honour and good name.  There are yet another director and a secretary, both with the same possible motive for murder—the safety of the Arrow.  The business details, never too technical, are convincing and the story never flags.  Only one mystery is left unsolved—who was sitting on Manson’s right at the first meeting of the board?

Books (Will Cuppy, 17th February 1935, 200w):

The Coles employ some of the best Scotland Yard talent, provide plenty of complications and generally keep the ball rolling.  Their economic chatter is admirably simplified for those of us who cannot tell stocks from bonds.

Sat R of Lit (23rd February 1935, 30w):

Background of crooked finance is best part of well-knit, ironically amusing, and puzzling yarn.

Springfield Republican (24th February 1935, 240w):

The Coles write in a breezy and satirical style and have fashioned a story of financial intrigue and police detection that is certain to hold the reader’s interest.  He may wonder, however, if there are any honest people left in the world when London’s ‘best’ contains such wicked schemers.

Boston Transcript (6th March 1935, 150w):

There is very little sentiment wasted in the writing of this latest mystery story by two authors well known for their serious contributions to the literature of economics.  While presumably fictitious, the tale follows the general lines of at least one widely publicised recent business scandal in England, and there cannot be much doubt that that is where the authors secured their inspiration.

Chicago Daily Tribune (Mortimer Quick, 9th March 1935, 120w):

The book is highly recommended to readers who like a good, practical mystery neatly and entertainingly recorded.

Manchester Evening Chronicle (Dr. Watson):

Not only is it an excellent mystery, but the whole book gives one an impression of being the work of intelligent and cultured authors.  Also, financial scandals make an excellent and little-explored basis for a story.