Mizmaze (Mary Fitt)

  • By Mary Fitt
  • First published: UK: Michael Joseph, 1959; US: British Book Centre, 1959

Fitt’s last book—and very poor.  Style surprisingly spare and scrappy; characters (self-obsessed egoists) flat and uninteresting (unlike Robert or Christabel, neither of whom we meet living, Augustine Hatley remains a shade).  More of an orthodox detective story than normal (murder in the maze: Theseus and the Minotaur), but lacks the developing interest of her 1940s books—too much like a pastiche, and not as good as Innes.  Plot OK, but final chapter very bad—extremely clichéd snarling villain / policeman confrontation (‘You won’t get away with this…  Why don’t you give in?  You’ve done enough already…’).  Last paragraph rushed—as COC says, ludicrous and perfunctory.


CONTEMPORARY REVIEWS

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 4th January 1959): Rich eccentric found coshed by mallet on the crypto-croquet lawn in the middle of the maze where he used to play Minotaur with his exquisite daughters.  Trust Miss Fitt to introduce a mythological element into any English family she lays hands on, and to give you a house-party with an atmosphere like the eve of Judgement Day.  Some extraordinary suspects led by a giant pituitary case.  Investigation by Inspector Mallett.  A wild woman’s read.

Manchester Guardian (Sarah Russell, 6th February 1959): Mizmaze, by Mary Fitt, is perfectly fair and properly clued detection; but the tyrannical father who died in the maze and the extraordinary daughters and their peculiar suitors are too fantastic for the reader to accept the inevitable strange conventions of fictional murder.  Verisimilitude in detection is a queer thing: it is hard to achieve with humour, offensive with too much feeling, and unconvincing with detachment.

A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): Only in her earliest work did this author manage to keep her taste for feminine psychology subordinate to the needs of detection.  Occasionally, as in Love from Elizabeth, which made no intellectual demands, she built up a telling atmosphere; but here the attempt is to produce a legitimate whodunit complete with country house, maze, and a detestable group of characters.  Insp. Mallett is as wooden as the instrument with which the victim’s skull is cracked, and Dr. Fitzbrown conducts the questioning ad nauseam.  The ending is perfunctory and almost ludicrous.