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Cyril Hare – Mallett & Pettigrew Mysteries
Gordon Clark was born in Mickleham, Surrey, the third son of Henry Herbert Gordon Clark of Mickleham Hall, a merchant in the wine and spirit trade, Matthew Clark & Sons being the family firm. The socialist politician Susan Lawrence was his aunt. He was educated at St Aubyn’s, Rottingdean and Rugby. He read History at New College, Oxford and graduated with a First. He then studied law and was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1924.
Gordon Clark’s pseudonym was a mixture of Hare Court, where he worked in the chambers of Roland Oliver, and Cyril Mansions, Battersea, where he lived after marrying Mary Barbara Lawrence in 1933. As a young man and during the early days of the Second World War, Gordon Clark toured as a judge’s marshal, an experience he used in ‘Tragedy at Law’. Between 1942 and 1945 he worked at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. At the beginning of the war he served a short time at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and the wartime civil service with many temporary members appears in ‘With a Bare Bodkin’. In 1950 he was appointed county court judge in Surrey. His best-known novel is ‘Tragedy at Law’, in which he drew on his legal expertise and in which he introduced Francis Pettigrew, a not very successful barrister who in this and four other novels just happens to elucidate aspects of the crime. His professional detective (they appeared together in three novels, and only one has neither of them present) was a large and realistic police officer, Inspector Mallett, with a vast appetite.
‘Tragedy at Law’ has never been out of print, and Marcel Berlins described it in 1999 as “still among the best whodunnits set in the legal world.” P. D. James went further and wrote that it “is generally acknowledged to be the best detective story set in that fascinating world.” Of his other full length novels, ‘Suicide Excepted’ shows a man committing an almost perfect murder, only to find that a quirk of the insurance laws deprives him of the reward.
Among the more outstanding of “Hare’s” literary contributions are his short stories, mostly written for the London Evening Standard. ‘The Story of Hermione’, in which the eponymous character grows rich from the all too convenient deaths of several relatives, has been called one of the most chilling short stories ever written; ‘Sister Bessie’ describes vividly the agonies of a blackmail victim and the desperate crimes he commits in the hope of freeing himself from his tormentor. ‘Miss Burnside’s Dilemma’ describes the predicament of a person who uncovers a piece of unscrupulous, but entirely legal chicanery by someone she had previously admired.
Having suffered from tuberculosis shortly after the Second World War, Gordon Clark was never again in full health and died at his home near Box Hill, Surrey at the age of only 57.
Inspector Mallett & Francis Pettigrew Novels
Note: An introduction to Mallett
Two young estate agent’s clerks are sent to check an inventory on a house in Daylesford Gardens, South Kensington. Upon arrival, they find an unlisted item – a corpse. Furthermore, the mysterious tenant, Colin James, has disappeared. In a tale which uncovers many of the seedier aspects of the world of high finance, Hare also introduces his readers to the formidable Inspector Mallett of Scotland Yard. Upon first publication the Times Literary Supplement praised ‘Tenant for Death’ as ‘a most ingenious story’ while the Spectator celebrated its ‘wit, fair play, and characterization’ and also declared that ‘a new star has risen’.
Note: May be Hare’s best!
Was the old man’s death an accident, suicide, or cold-blooded murder? A celebrated classic whodunit that fuses a baffling puzzle, a wire-taut thriller, and a panorama of English life into one ingenious tale, enriched by the author’s profound knowledge of English law. Culminates in a stunning surprise ending.
Note: Poisoned chocolates!
Tragedy at Law follows a rather self-important High Court judge, Mr Justice Barber, as he moves from town to town presiding over cases in the Southern England circuit. When an anonymous letter arrives for Barber, warning of imminent revenge, he dismisses it as the work of a harmless lunatic. But then a second letter appears, followed by a poisoned box of the judge’s favourite chocolates, and he begins to fear for his life. Enter barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew, a man who was once in love with Barber’s wife and has never quite succeeded in his profession – can he find out who is threatening Barber before it is too late?
Note: A bureaucratic plot?
A charming mystery set in WWII England, centered around Government employees who have been forced to evacuate to the countryside from London. Spending their days amidst Byzantine bureaucracy in a remote Great House, and their nights at a guesthouse during blackout hours, the characters become steadily more enmeshed with each other, and addicted to what they call “The Plot,” a group attempt to write a mystery novel, which naturally ends up with one of the characters dead. Francis Pettigrew investigates.
Note: Orchestrated murder?
Famous solo violinist Lucy Carless is making a guest appearance with the provincial Markshire Orchestra, only to be found strangled with a silk stocking part-way through the concert. Everyone in the orchestra had access to the scene of the crime, and the police officer in charge, Inspector Trimble, has no idea where to start. Luckily retired barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew has been acting as an honorary treasurer to the Markshire Orchestral Society, and he is soon on his way to finding the murderer.
Note: Mrs Pink is not in the pink of health!
Francis Pettigrew has recently retired from a legal career which seems to have been something of a disappointment, and has moved to a new home near the village of Yewbury. Although he acts as deputy to the Judge of the local County Court, the judicial needs of the local area seem fairly slight, and he passes much of his time contemplating the view of Yew Hill from his study window, field glasses in hand, noting the daily changes to the landscape, the blossoming of the trees, and the many sightseers attracted by the beauty of the hill and its literary associations. In this way he becomes the last person, other than the attacker, to see Mrs Pink as she descends into the woods while walking home from delivering the parish newsletter to the residence on the summit. She is found the next day, close-by the giant Yew known locally as Archdruid’s, metres from where the various paths through the woods converge.
Note: The ghosts of childhood?
Francis Pettigrew travels to Exmoor for a holiday with his wife – an area where he spent many vacations as a boy. It was also the place where he was traumatized by coming across a dead body on the moor. In an attempt to gain closure to this trauma, Pettigrew walks across the moor to the place where the incident occurred – only to find another dead body. When he returns to the scene with the police, the body is gone.
Did he really see a body – or is it a hallucination conjured up by his return to the scene of the crime that has haunted him since childhood? In “Untimely Death”, Cyril Hare conjures up an intriguing puzzle whose twists and turns will keep the reader turning the pages until the final surprising resolution.
Cyril Hare Non-Series Novels
Note: Fishing for trouble?
Four businessmen have formed a syndicate and bought the fishing rights of a reach of the River Didder. Their unofficial headquarters is the Polworthy Arms. Against the idyllic backdrop however run local passions, rivalries and then murder. It is up to Inspector Mallet to resolve the case.
Note: A classic Christmas mystery!
A group of family and friends come together for Christmas at a country house, Warbeck Hall. The house is owned by Lord Warbeck, a dying and impoverished peer who wants to be among loved ones for what he thinks will be his last Christmas. The holiday decorations are up and snow is falling fast outside. The guests range from the Lord’s difficult son to a visiting Czech historian. There is, of course, a faithful butler and his ambitious daughter. But when the murders begin, there is nothing at all conventional about them – or the manner of their detection. This ingenious detective story gleefully plays with all of our expectations about what an ‘English murder’ might be and offers enough twists and turns to keep us reading into the night.
Detective Short Stories
Available in paperback and ebook editions.
Part 1: Legal
Where there’s a will
Miss Burnside’s dilemma
Name of Smith- Frances Pettigrew
The tragedy of young MacIntyre
Part 2: Murder
Weight and see – Inspector Mallett
It takes two …
Death of a black-mailer
The old flame
As the inspector said …
Death among friends
The story of Hermione
A surprise for Christmas
The ruling passion – Frances Pettigrew
The death of Amy Robsart – Inspector Mallett
Part 3: Other Crimes
I never forget a face
A life for a life
The markhampton miracle
A very useful relationship
Line out of order
Part 4: The Children