Inspector Cockrill / Christianna Brand

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Christianna Brand 

Christianna_brandBorn Mary Christianna Milne in Malaya in 1907, Christianna went on to write ‘The Nurse Matilda’ books for children, as well as three mystery series and ten other novels. Her best known mysteries are ‘Green for Danger’ (1944), which was made into a film, and the classic locked room masterpieces, ‘Death of Jezebel’ and ‘Suddenly at His Residence’ (US title: The Crooked Wreath), all of which feature her primary detective, Inspector Cockrill. Most of Brand’s titles are still quite rare in paperback, but the Cockrill stories, and some other titles, have recently been re-released in ebook formats.

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Christianna Brand Inspector Cockrill Series

Heads You LoseHeads You Lose (1941)
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: I wouldn’t be caught dead in that thing?  

War rages across Europe, as the citizens of London flee to the country. At Pigeonsford, a group of guests pass the time with games and tea, but strong emotions are just below the polite chatter. Grace Morland fas fallen head over heels in love with Stephen Pendock, the local squire, but Pendock’s eyes are on young Francesca Hart. Grace’s jealousy gets the better of her when Fran parades in a new hat. “I wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in a thing like that!” she claims, shortly before she is found dead with the hat on her head – a head no longer connected to her neck. Inspector Cockrill soon discovers that this horrid murder is not as simple as it first appeared. 

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Green For DangerGreen for Danger (1944)
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: A man dies on the operating table and Cockrill suspects murder!

As German V-1 rockets rain down on the English countryside, the men and women of the military hospitals fight to stay calm. The morning after a raid, Doctor Barnes prepares for a routine surgery to repair a postman’s broken leg. But with general anesthesia, there is always danger. Before the first incision is made, the postman turns purple. Barnes and his nurses do what they can, but the patient is dead in minutes.

The coroner calls for an inquest. Barnes has a history of lost patients, and cannot afford more trouble. Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Cockrill is unimpressed by the staff at the hospital, which he finds a nest of jealousy, indiscretion, and bitterness. One of them, doctor or nurse, murdered the postman—and it won’t be long before they kill again.

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Crooked WreathSuddenly at His Residence (1945)
US Title: The Crooked Wreath
Inspector Cockrill Series

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Note: Another from Hoch’s locked room list!

Sir Richard’s family has waited many years  for his death, but the old man just keeps on living and making their lives miserable, despite a bad heart. His favourite game is changing wills to the advantage of his current favourite. Things reach a climax when he decides to disinherit the whole family, but before  he can  sign the papers – he’s dead. Inspector Cockrill soon discovers that they all had good motive, but which one actually plunged the syringe full of poison into his heart and how was this even possible?

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jezebelDeath of Jezebel (1948)
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: A great top ten locked room mystery!

Johnny Wise died seven years ago, but emotions still run high. The past finally comes back to claim revenge at a medieval pageant with eleven knights hidden behind their armour and Jezebel perched high above, all alone in a sealed room – where she is strangled – before she crashes onto the stage. Inspector Cockrill is in the audience, but still unable to account for this impossible murder!

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Fog of DoubtLondon Particular (1948)
(US Title: Fog of Doubt)
Inspector Cockrill Series

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Note: Cockrill investigates the murder of an unpopular Belgian.

Inspector Cockrill is called in to solve the murder of a most unpopular Belgian. Few were disappointed when Raoul Vernet was found with his head bashed in, dead in a pool of his own blood. On vacation in England, the Belgian seducer comes to visit Matilda, an old flame from a few years before. She agrees despite suspicions that Vernet has been deploying his legendary charm on another member of the family: young Rosie, who has returned from her Swiss boarding school carrying a child.

None of the family members were in the house when Raoul was killed, but all were within a fog-choked London mile. Rosie calls in the brilliant Inspector Cockrill to clear the family’s name, but what he finds is a twisted clan of seven people, each as likely to laugh at a murder as commit one.

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Tour de ForceTour de Force (1955)
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: Cockrill’s working vacation

Inspector Cockrill is not impressed by the group of fellow travellers on his tour and soon abandons all hope of a good vacation. He finally retreats to the safety of a good mystery novel, until the group arrives at the craggy isle of San Juan el Pirata,  where real murder replaces fiction. The body of a woman is found laid out on her bed, in a pool of blood, with fingers clutching the dagger that ended her life. The  local police make Cockrill the primary suspect, meaning he must either solve the murder or face an Italian hangman. Not a true locked room puzzle, but impossibly killed in front of multiple witnesses.

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three-cornered haloThe Three-Cornered Halo (1957)
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: A mystery-comedy that returns to San Juan el Pirata

Only technically is this an Inspector Cockrill mystery. As the Kirkus Review notes: “Labeled a “mystery-comedy” this comes closer to an opera bouffe with its background of San Juan el Pirata, in the Ligurian Sea, its omnipotent Grand Duke, and the teacup-tossed tempest that involves the will of the people for canonizing a local saint. The Duke disposes, an English tourist guesses, a murder is averted in a Norman Douglas-Aubrey Menen cutting through of the people, the issues, (the profits) and the history involved. Precise and precious.”

An island republic goes to insane lengths to canonize its most famous resident. Juanita di Perli was a young woman when she decided to live the rest of her life on a table-top. She called it God’s will, but for the order of nuns that sprang up around her, Juanita’s devotion was a curse. For decades they did the bidding of the holy grouch, and the entire island of San Juan el Pirata sighed with relief when she died.

Twenty years later, the islanders fight for Juanita’s canonization—not because they liked her, but because a local saint would be a tourist boon. The only thing keeping the island poor is the Archduke, who refuses to ask Rome to consider Juanita for sainthood. His stubbornness may get him dethroned or worse, for nothing will stop his subjects in their pursuit of Juanita’s holy cause.

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Christianna Brand Novels – Other Detectives

Death in HeelsDeath in High Heels (1941)
Detective: Inspector Charlesworth


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Note:  Murder in a dress shop – very stylish!

Inspector Charlesworth investigates a strange murder in a dress shop. The sales room at Christophe et Cie is staffed by five young women. Each is beautiful in her own way—and each could be a murderer. One morning, two of the women purchase some oxalic acid to clean a stain off a Panama hat. No one knows how the poison gets into Miss Doon’s system, but it doesn’t take long to kill her. When Inspector Charlesworth steps into the little shop, he finds a dozen motives and no clear solution.

Everyone in the shop was jealous of Miss Doon, for as the owner’s girlfriend she was the favorite to head up the store’s new Riviera branch. Romantic feelings for his chief suspect sidetrack Charlesworth, and it takes a second murder to put him back on the trail of the killer.

Made into a 1947 movie under the same name, Death in High Heels is a British crime film directed by Lionel Tomlinson and starring Don Stannard, Elsa Tee and Veronica Rose. No DVD version found.

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rose darknessThe Rose in Darkness (1979)
Detective: Inspector Charlesworth


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Note:  Sari is running for her life – when a dead body intervenes!

Sari Morne had a shot at stardom, a five-year deal with a European film studio, and a starring role in an Italian romance that was poised to become a classic. But the film flopped, and Sari wasted her big break, disappearing from the set to flirt with her new beau: Prince Aldo, heir to a dukedom. Three years later, she is washed up, and all she has left from her romance is a ring—the tremendous heirloom diamond that the Duke’s associates will kill to retrieve.

Sari is being chased by the Duke’s henchmen when a tree falls across her path. She swaps cars with a man on the other side of the fallen timber, who is in just as much of a hurry as she is. When she reaches home, she realizes why. There is a corpse in the back seat—a young woman, beautiful no more. Death is all around her, and Sari’s only hope is to keep running.

Cat & MouseCat and Mouse (1950)
Inspector Chucky Series


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Note: A London writer finds danger in a Welsh village

Katinka Jones spends her days beautifying, trying out the latest ointments, corsets, and creams in order to pass the information on to the thankful readers of Girls Together. When not immersed in a mud bath, she answers advice letters, and none are so compelling as those of Amista, a Welsh girl in love with a modern-day Heathcliff. Amista’s dramatic stories and beautiful descriptions of her village spark Tinka’s interest. For her next holiday, Tinka travels to Wales, where she finds that beauty-product salesmen aren’t the only people who lie.

No one in Pentre Trist has heard of Amista, and no one will admit to writing the letters. As she tries to learn the identity of her pen pal, Tinka stumbles into an ancient Welsh mystery. The letters may have been lies, but the danger they described is all too real.

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ring rosesA Ring of Roses (1977)
Inspector Chucky Series (as Mary Ann Ashe)


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Note: A true mystery?

Christianna Brand, supremely skilled in plot construction and an impeccable stylist, returns triumphantly to detection writing with a book which is not so much a who-dunnit as a novel of murder. A funny book, a sad book, an intriguing book; but not a book that anyone will easily put down. (1977 cover) Not much information available on this title!

Christianna Brand Other Works

The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda

Brand’s famous series for children!      Book

The Single Pilgrim (1946) (writing as Mary Roland)

A very daring and hard to find volume about a woman with syphilis, a taboo subject in popular fiction of that era – and clearly the reason for writing under a different name. The heroine, a proper young woman married to the handsome scion of a prominent family, goes into an “emotional tailspin” when she hears that her husband has been killed in the war. She gives in to the seduction of a “mad, bad and dangerous” young pilot and contracts syphilis. When her husband turns up alive she faces the dilemma of revealing her indiscretion and its consequence.   Not Found

Welcome to Danger (1949)

A very rare title. No information available.  Book 

Starrbelow (1958) (writing as China Thompson)

Historical romance, set in the Regency. They called her Sapphire, this Venetian beauty of flashing radiance, cast into the cynical Splendour of Regency society – deceived, and deserted in her marriage to Lord of Weyburn Starrbelow.   Book 

Dear Mr. MacDonald (1959)

“Dear Mr. MacDonald” is a clever story first published in an all female author anthology, The Lethal Sex, edited by John D MacDonald for the Mystery Writer’s of America. MacDonald attempted to gather these stories by sending 80 imploring letters to female authors, and this was the story submitted by Brand.  Christianna Brand’s letter is supposedly delivered to her crazy next-door neighbor. The story is itself a letter, written by this ‘crazy neighbor’ back to MacDonald, but sent to him by Brand with the following “cover letter”: 

“I’m so sorry, but your letter asking me to write something for the MWA Anthology was delivered to the wrong address — as you’ll see by the enclosed; and I’ve only just found out about it, too late to send you a story, I’m afraid. I thought, however, that you personally might be interested in this document (though I hope you won’t blame yourself — you can see that the poor thing was quite mad). It is only a copy, of course. The original, which the dead woman was clutching, is in handwriting, very illegible and blotchy and what the trick psychs. call “disturbed.” The police have it now. This has been very much tidied up and made readable — as it stood it really was hardly sense. Don’t bother to return it.
Yours sincerely,
Christianna Brand”       

Book (Anthology)

Heaven Knows Who – The Trial of Jessie M’Lachlan (1960)

The Sandyford murder case was a well-known proceeding of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United Kingdom. The case revolved around the brutal murder of one Jessie McPherson, a servant, in Sandyford Place, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1862. McPherson’s dearest friend, Jessie McLachlan, discovered the body, and was accused of murder.  It was a remarkable case, since the defence was simply that the murder had been committed, not by the prisoner, but by the principal witness for the prosecution, and he was an old gentleman of 87. For almost a year England and Scotland were divided between these two – the frail young woman in the dock and ‘the old innocent’. Brand tells the story and keeps the mystery right to the end. What was the outcome of Jessie M’Lachlan’s trial? And then the even greater mystery of who really  killed poor Jess M’Pherson on that ‘bonny clear night’ of July 4? Her friend Jessie M’Lachlan? Or old James Fleming? To this day – heaven knows who. 

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Court of Foxes (1969)

A young widow proves that modesty can be deceptive when she becomes the toast of London. The Marchesa goes to the theater accompanied only by her maid. She dresses in pure white, without any jewels or powder to compete with her golden hair and blue eyes. In the London society of King George III, this modesty is enough to cause a sensation. Night after night, every bachelor in London sends her flowers, hoping to win an audience with this mysterious, enigmatic beauty, but none have come close to a seat in her box. And none of them guess that the Marchesa wears no jewels because she cannot afford them and is really not a Marchesa at all! She is Marigold Brown, a poor girl from Gloucestershire who is about to mount the greatest con London has ever seen—if falling in love doesn’t get in her way.

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Alas, for Her That Met Me! (1976) (as Mary Ann Ashe)

A Brand story based on the famous trial of Madeleine Hamilton Smith, a 19th-century Glasgow socialite who was accused in a sensational murder trial in Scotland in 1857.

Every moment he was free, debonaire adventurer, Louis d’Emilier ventured into Bairnswood Square. For it was there that he had first beheld the two enchanting sisters, Adelina and Isabella Brown, seen how they turned their pretty heads to glance after him, and observed the handsome mansion in which they lived. But, unbeknown to him, the intensity of his wish to marry out of the hells of poverty had awakened a dangerous rivalry between them–a rivalry whose scandalous conclusion would be more horrifying than any one of them could yet imagine. (from the cover)    Book

The Honey Harlot (1978)

Brand’s version of ‘The Mary Celeste’ story.  One woman has the answer to history’s strangest maritime mystery. Though history would remember her as the Marie Celeste, the ship’s name was actually Mary Celeste. She was a brig—square-rigged, a hundred feet long, large enough for a crew of nine, and sturdy enough to cross the Atlantic and bring profits home to its masters—a beautiful ship that was destined for tragedy. On December 4, 1872, the Mary Celeste is found adrift off the coast of Portugal with cargo in her hold, food upon her tables, and half-written letters on her captain’s desk. But not a soul can be found on board.

This mystery has puzzled maritime scholars for over a century, but one woman knows the answers, because she was there from the beginning, and knows the seductive “Honey Mary” the ship was secretly named after. As she retraces the events that lead up to that fateful voyage, she finds that the mind can be as dark and cold as an ocean grave.

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The Brides of Aberdar (1982)

A governess comes to Wales to work in a house with a ghostly past. For four hundred years, the squires of Aberdar have lorded over this gloomy patch of Wales. In Elizabethan times, the house burst with life, love, and intrigue, as gentlemen schemed endlessly in the shadow of the Virgin Queen’s court. But now the house is dark, populated only by two darling twins, their ghastly Belgian aunt, and their father, whose grief for their departed mother is too powerful to bear.

Into this grim environment steps Miss Alys Tetterman, a bright young governess with a disfiguring scar and secrets of her own. As she undertakes the education of the girls, she learns there is a long history of twins at Aberdar manor—and of brides dying young. There is one lesson Miss Tetterman should learn herself: Run.   

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Christianna Brand Short Stories collections

what dreadWhat Dread Hand?: A Collection of Short Stories  (1968)
The Inspector Cockrill Mysteries


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Fifteen perfectly constructed tales of death both well-planned and chaotic. Mr. de Silva begins the day sipping his coffee, reading the Times, and trying to decide how to murder his wife. After two years of marriage, he’s simply fed up, and has decided to move on to someone younger, slimmer, and prettier. The trouble is, he wants to keep his wife’s money. Killing her is the neatest solution. So begins “The Rose,” a three-page masterpiece that was the first story Christianna Brand ever wrote for publication. Over the next half-century she would write dozens of novels and countless short stories, proving again and again her genius for crisp characterization, witty dialogue, and timely bits of violence. This collection holds some of her finest early work—tales of murders committed for money, jealousy, or simply for something to do. Though the crimes often go awry, there is nothing quite so charming as a vintage Brand homicide.

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Included in ‘What dread hand?’

The Hornet’s Nest
Aren’t Our Police Wonderful?
The Merry-Go-Round
Blood Brothers
Dear Mr. Editor
The Rose
Akin to Love…
Death of Don Juan
Double Cross
The Sins of The Father…
After The Event
Death of a Ghost
The Kite
Hic Jacket…
Murder Game

Brand XBrand X (1974)



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Eighteen short stories—chilling, lovely, and sad—from a modern master of the form

For days she has been terrified that the phone will ring. Whenever she picks it up, the voice is there—breathing, cursing at her, terrifying her with words alone. Tonight, though, it isn’t the phone that rings, but the doorbell. A man has come to inquire about buying her dresser, but as soon as he opens his mouth, she knows he is the man who has been tormenting her—and they are all alone in the house.

Though best known for intricately plotted mysteries starring the brilliant Inspector Cockrill, Christianna Brand was equally adept at crafting short fiction. These eighteen tales run the gamut of genre and mood. There are stories of travel, crime, and desire—and even a depiction of the birth of an infamous historical figure. Throughout, Brand’s talent illuminates the darkness that lies coiled within daily life.

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Included in ‘Brand X’

The Niece from Scotland
A Miracle in Montepulciano
Such A Nice Man
I Will Repay
How the Unicorn Became Extinct
The Kite
Charm Farm
A Bit of Bovver
The Blackthorn
The Hilltop
How Green is My Valley!
Bless This House
Spring 1941
Murder Hath Charms
An Apple for The Teacher
Pigeon Pie
Madame Think Quick
The Scapegoat

Buffet UnwelcomeBuffet for Unwelcome Guests (1983)



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Included in ‘Buffet for Unwelcome Guests’

The format is that of a meal, with the following sections:

Introduction: The World of Christianna Brand,
Part One: Cockrill Cocktails,
After the Event,
Blood Brothers,
The Hornet’s Nest,
Poison in the Cup,
Part Two: Choice of Entrées,
Murder Game,
The Scapegoat,
No More A-Maying …,
Part Three: Something to Clear the Palate,
The Niece from Scotland,
Part Four: Petits Fours,
Hic Jacet …,
The Merry-Go-Round,
Upon Reflection,
From the Balcony …,
Part Five: Black Coffee,
Bless This House,
Such a Nice Man,
The Whispering,
The Hand of God,

spottedcatThe Spotted Cat and Other Mysteries



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The ‘Spotted Cat’ includes:

*Inspector Cockrill – Brand provides an amusing biographical sketch of her most famous detective.
*After the Event – Cockrill takes on a very cold case of Shakespearian murder!
*Blood Brothers – Two identical twins and a pregnant girl set the scene for another Cockrill murder.
*The Hornet’s Nest – Cockrill investigates a poising with multiple solutions!
*Poison in the Cup – A love quadrangle leads to a fake suicide turning into murder.
*The Telephone Call – a young man plots against his wealthy aunt and tries to lay the murder on his cousin to scoop the lot.
*The Kissing Cousin – Aunt Adela had millions – until she was found dead!
*The Rocking-Chair – The women murdered at a village fete – the laid out like a three leaf clover.
*Alleybi – An odd story about doubtful alibis.
*The Spotted Cat: A Play in Three Acts – sometimes bad luck is really a conspiracy.

Christianna Brand Bibliography

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