Friday, March 27, 2015

"A Hardcore Mystery Fan Couldn't Ask for a More Literate and Witty Refresher in the Genuine Traditional Mystery"

J. F. Norris, curator of Pretty Sinister Books, has single-handedly disinterred an unjustly forgotten Golden Age mystery author in "Harriet Rutland," about whom almost nothing is known. The GAD Wiki tells us:
Harriet Rutland (???-???) was the pseudonym of Olive Shinwell, a British writer cited during the 1940s (by Howard Haycraft in Murder for Pleasure) as an up-and-coming author.
Since only three mystery novels have as yet been attributed to Olive, it would seem this "up-and-coming author" got up and went—which, as Norris and contemporary critics attest, is a shame; the consensus is she was that good.

By Harriet Rutland.
1939. 292 pages. $2.00
[Full review] English "hydro" terrorized by triple murderer. Local Insp. puzzled, but deceptive "amateur" sleuth puts him on proper track. - Solution made especially difficult by apparent un-relation of crimes. Chorus of crotchety Britishers supplement main characters. - Verdict: Exceptional. ("The Criminal Record," The Saturday Review, November 18, 1939, page 29)
[Full review] Very well written, intelligent story of triple murder in an out of the way setting, a drab watering spa in England, where some carping aged and crippled relish every scandal sorespot among the younger guests, and live to see their juniors die off via murder. Acid characterization, if deduction not too energetic. (Kirkus ReviewsNovember 7, 1939)
[Review excerpts] . . . You couldn't find a more unusual detective novel than Knock, Murderer, Knock! (1938). From it's quasi Shakespearean allusion in the title to the quote lifted from The Pickwick Papers that serves as the novel's epigraph a hardcore mystery fan couldn't ask for a more literate and witty refresher in the genuine traditional mystery. Harriet Rutland in her debut as a mystery writer not only adheres to the tenets of the fair play detective novel she adds her own subversive spin . . . (J. F. Norris, Pretty Sinister Books Blog, March 27, 2015)
By Harriet Rutland.
Smith & Durrell.
1940. 269 pages. $2.00
[Full review] Scotland Yard expert on incognito fishing-trip in Wales unsnarls tough problem of predatory lady's poisonous demise. - Murder method interesting, characters well drawn and likable, sleuth unobtrusively slick and finish dramatic—if not too unexpected. - Verdict: Good grade. ("The Criminal Record," The Saturday Review, June 29, 1940, page 18)
[Review excerpt] . . . There are a couple of neat twists in this clever plot, many secrets revealed and a finale that gives three surprises one right after the other.  . . . (J. F. Norris, Pretty Sinister Books Blog, January 26, 2011)
By Harriet Rutland.
Smith and Durrell.
1942. 288 pages. $2.00
[Full review] The none-too-nice Hardstaffe family, he—a schoolteacher, lecher and bully, she—a chronic complainer, and their horsey spinster daughter find themselves good prospects for murder. A writer, planning these deaths on paper, and a young girl, chased by old Hardstaffe, the only outsiders in a neat, nasty case. Even paced—English. (Kirkus Reviews, October 19, 1942)
J. F. Norris promises a review of Blue Murder on the Pretty Sinister Blog in the near future.

Category: Detective fiction

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