Wednesday, May 4, 2022

She Shall Have Murder by Delano Ames

Title: She Shall Have Murder
Author: Delano Ames
Publication: Rue Morgue Press, paperback, originally published in 1948
Genre: Mystery/series
Setting: 20th century London
Description: Jane Hamish is a law clerk for a firm of London solicitors that seems to specialize in real estate. It was the frequent visits of the paranoid Mrs. Robjohn and the urging of her boyfriend that inspired Jane to consider writing a thriller in her spare time, although she had not got round to it when an actual murder takes place. Jane and her boyfriend Dagobert Brown had visited Mrs. Robjohn the night before she died, and he is suspicious of the initial assumption she died of gas poisoning in her sleep. Soon he has proved to at least his own satisfaction that Mrs. Robjohn was murdered and it seems to be an inside job with no dearth of suspects among Jane’s coworkers. If Jane is to become an author, she can’t let Dagobert investigate by himself, although she does not always appreciate his methods if they involve flirtation with other women.
Look, there's a movie!
My Impression: After a slow start, I enjoyed this screwball mystery and a heroine smart enough to be a lawyer herself, although her perpetually unemployed and unreliable boyfriend got on my nerves. The way he and Jane go drinking at lunch and after work reminded me of Bridget Jones’s Diary; however, he is smarter than he appears and actually figured out who the murderer was. I wasn’t surprised to learn the author was “a transplanted Yank,” as Tom & Enid Schantz of Rue Morgue point out in the introduction: although the law firm is very British in its hierarchy and frequent tea breaks, there was something indefinable about Dagobert’s disguises and demeanor that reminded me of a noir gumshoe detective.

The author’s skill is creating zany characters and unusual situations. Everyone at Daniel Playfair & Son Solicitors has a secret – Jane’s is that Dagobert has an estranged wife - and the office boy is an equal opportunity blackmailer. Jane can’t quite figure out whether to take his demands seriously or not. My favorite character is the senior partner of the firm, Mr. Playfair, who prefers the crossword to billable hours:
I found Mr. Playfair’s room a haven of peace after the madhouse outside. He looked up from The Times and smiled as though he were glad to see me. The smile became a little fixed as I told him about an appointment he’d made with a Mr. Dowling this afternoon.

“It will be about the application for a wine and spirit license,” he sighed. “You might look up the Dowling file for me sometime before this afternoon.”

“I have it here, Mr. Playfair,” I said, putting it down on the desk in front of him.

“Have you?” he murmured sadly. “So you have. Thank you so much, Miss Hamish.”

He extricated The Times from under the Dowling file, which I had rather pointedly placed on top of it. It was folded back, as I had already seen, at the half-filled-in crossword puzzle.
Back in August, Kate Jackson at Armchair Sleuth mentioned Delano Ames as a classic crime author who deserves to be better known and recommended this series about Jane and Dagobert. Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery is also a fan (the Dell paperback has the most charming cover!). The Boston Public Library has a non-circulating copy shelved as nonfiction in music - there's a mystery for you! I helpfully suggested they investigate this misclassification as I didn’t have time to go downtown, sit and read it, but the ILL Librarian eventually found me a copy from Spartanburg, SC.
Source: Library.  This is my eleventh book for Carol's 2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge


TracyK said...

I am glad you enjoyed this book. I felt the same way about Dagobert in this book. I want to read more of the books but I don't think I will be able to read them in order if I just go ahead with what I already have. Oh well.

Katrina said...

I've only managed to get a hold of two books by Delano Ames, but I really liked them both. Jane and Dagobert make a great couple, so funny.