Gladys Mitchell

Mitchell - photo.jpg

Born: Cowley, Oxfordshire, 19 April 1901

Died: Corfe Mullen, Dorset, 27 July 1983


Overview

“One of the Big Three women detective writers” – Torquemada, The Observer

Gladys Mitchell was one of the most imaginative and original of detective story writers.  Her series sleuth is the memorable Mrs. (later Dame) Beatrice Bradley, psycho-analyst and witch

I love Mitchell’s work, but acknowledge that she’s an acquired taste.  Those who are after a rollicking, high-spirited tale, with plenty of zest and wit, spiced with witchcraft and folklore, will enjoy her.  Those who want a mathematically worked-out problem in deduction should look elsewhere.


Works

Mrs. Bradley in all.  She is Dame Beatrice from Twelve Horses and the Hangman’s Noose (1956).  Her secretary, Laura Menzies, first appears in Laurels are Poison (1942).

  1. Speedy Death (1929)
  2. The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (1929)
  3. The Longer Bodies (1930)
  4. The Saltmarsh Murders (1932)
  5. Death at the Opera (1934)
  6. The Devil at Saxon Wall (1935)
  7. Dead Men’s Morris (1936)
  8. Come Away, Death (1937)
  9. St. Peter’s Finger (1938)
  10. Printer’s Error (1939)
  11. Brazen Tongue (1940)
  12. Hangman’s Curfew (1941)
  13. When Last I Died (1941)
  14. Laurels are Poison (1942)
  15. The Worsted Viper (1943)
  16. Sunset over Soho (1943)
  17. My Father Sleeps (1944)
  18. The Rising of the Moon (1945)
  19. Here Comes a Chopper (1946)
  20. Death and the Maiden (1947)
  21. The Dancing Druids (1948)
  22. Tom Brown’s Body (1949)
  23. Groaning Spinney (1950)
  24. The Devil’s Elbow (1951)
  25. The Echoing Strangers (1952)
  26. Merlin’s Furlong (1953)
  27. Faintley Speaking (1954)
  28. Watson’s Choice (1955)
  29. Twelve Horses and the Hangman’s Noose (1956)
  30. The Twenty-third Man (1957)
  31. Spotted Hemlock (1958)
  32. The Man Who Grew Tomatoes (1959)
  33. Say it with Flowers (1960)
  34. The Nodding Canaries (1961)
  35. My Bones Will Keep (1962)
  36. Adders on the Heath (1963)
  37. Death of a Delft Blue (1964)
  38. Pageant of Murder (1965)
  39. The Croaking Raven (1966)
  40. Skeleton Island (1967)
  41. Three Quick and Five Dead (1968)
  42. Dance to Your Daddy (1969)
  43. Gory Dew (1970)
  44. Lament for Leto (1971)
  45. A Hearse on May-Day (1972)
  46. The Murder of Busy Lizzie (1973)
  47. A Javelin for Jonah (1974)
  48. Winking at the Brim (1974)
  49. Convent on Styx (1975)
  50. Late, Late in the Evening (1976)
  51. Noonday and Night (1977)
  52. Fault in the Structure (1977)
  53. Wraiths and Changelings (1978)
  54. Mingled with Venom (1978)
  55. Nest of Vipers (1979)
  56. The Mudflats of the Dead (1979)
  57. Uncoffin’d Clay (1980)
  58. The Whispering Knights (1980)
  59. The Death-Cap Dancers (1981)
  60. Lovers, Make Moan (1981)
  61. Here Lies Gloria Mundy (1982)
  62. Death of a Burrowing Mole (1982)
  63. The Greenstone Griffins (1983)
  64. Cold, Lone and Still (1983)
  65. No Winding-Sheet (1984)
  66. The Crozier Pharaohs (1984)
  67. Sleuth’s Alchemy (2005; short stories, edited by me)

 

As Malcolm Torrie

  1. Heavy as Lead (1966)
  2. Late and Cold (1967)
  3. Your Secret Friend (1968)
  4. Churchyard Salad (1969)
  5. Shades of Darkness (1970)
  6. Bismarck Herrings (1971)

Mitchell’s best books include:

  • The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (1929)
  • The Saltmarsh Murders (1932)
  • Death at the Opera (1934)
  • The Devil at Saxon Wall (1935)
  • Come Away, Death (1937)
  • St. Peter’s Finger (1938)
  • Brazen Tongue (1940)
  • The Rising of the Moon (1945 – more straight novel than detection)
  • Death and the Maiden (1947)
  • Tom Brown’s Body (1949)
  • The Echoing Strangers (1952)
  • Merlin’s Furlong (1953)
  • The Twenty-third Man (1957)

Recommended reading:


What they say…

“Ever since her classic Saltmarsh Murders, I have considered her to be one of the half-dozen best detection-writers in this country.  Not only has she created that unforgettable sleuth—the eccentric, flamboyant and witch-like alienist, Mrs. Bradley: she is also witty and ingenious; she carries her load of erudition with the utmost grace; and she likes the detective story to be full-blooded fantasy with no nonsense about it.” – Nicholas Blake, The Spectator

“The marvel is that although Miss Mitchell has been so prolific, she has also been so good.  What matters is, as Mr. Philip Larkin once said to me, that ‘she writes so well’.  And indeed, indeed she does: Miss Mitchell is certainly the most perfect and pellucid prose-writer in crime fiction.” – Edmund Crispin, Sunday Times

“Gladys Mitchell is a wittier and more original writer than Sayers or Christie.  She has succeeded in devising a structure which can accommodate the untoward, the ambiguous and the unaccountable; at the same time, many of her novels conform, in outline at least, to a classic detective pattern.” – Patricia Craig, The Guardian

“Miss Mitchell has always stood splendidly apart from her crime-club confrères in total originality…  This originality consists in blending eccentricity of subject matter with authoritative common-sense of style.” – Philip Larkin, The Observer

“A new book by Miss Gladys Mitchell has always been a delight, and now that she has toned down a one-time tendency to excessive elusiveness the delight is intensified.  Mrs. Bradley is as clever a creation as has ever been devised, combining as she does the eccentricity and odd characteristics considered indispensable in the private detective of fiction with a rounded reality shared by few others.  It gives this reviewer at any rate a positive thrill of pleasure to encounter again her cackles and her yellow claw.” – Anthony Berkeley, John O’ London’s Weekly

“Miss Mitchell began her career in the golden age of detective fiction and has maintained her highly individual talent through all the genre’s vicissitudes.” – P.D. James, Times Literary Supplement

“Amongst detective story-writers Gladys Mitchell is in a class by herself.” – Queen Magazine

“Regarding the ability of Miss Mitchell, I do not see how there can be two opinions.  With each successive book her prose seems more admirable, her insight and observation more acute, and her characters more solid and life-like.  Above all, she has created in Mrs. Bradley not only the best woman detective in fiction but also an extremely vivid, interesting and entertaining personality.” – News Chronicle

“Miss Mitchell is one of the few gifted writers who can make one forget the artificiality that is practically inherent in detective fiction.” – Scotsman