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J. J. Connington Mystery Titles
Alfred Walter Stewart (1880 – 1947) was a prominent British chemist and part-time novelist who wrote seventeen detective novels and a pioneering science fiction work between 1923 and 1947 under the pseudonym JJ Connington. He created several fictional detectives, including Superintendent Ross and Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield.
Born in Glasgow in 1880, Stewart was the youngest of three sons of the Reverend Dr. Stewart, Clerk to the University Senate and Professor of Divinity. After attending Glasgow High School he entered Glasgow University, graduating 1907, taking chemistry as his major. His outstanding performance earned him the Mackay-Smith scholarship.
After spending a year in Marburg engaging in research under Theodor Zincke, he was elected to an Exhibition Scholarship and in 1903 entered University College, London. Here he began independent research. His work, which formed part of his thesis, gained him a DSc degree from Glasgow University and he was soon elected to a Carnegie Research Fellowship (1905–1908).
He decided to pursue an academic career and in 1908 wrote Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry which proved to be a popular textbook whose success encouraged him to write a companion volume on Inorganic and Physical Chemistry in 1909.
In 1909 Stewart was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast and in 1914 was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity at the University of Glasgow. During World War I he worked for the Admiralty. In 1918 he drew attention to the result of a beta particle change in a radioactive element and suggested the term isobar as complementary to isotope.
He retired from his academic work in 1944 following recurrent heart problems.
Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr were both great admirers of Stewart’s mysteries, and Carr’s first novel in 1930 mentioned two of Stewart’s earlier novels – Murder in the Maze & The Nine Wrong Answers.
The Detective Fiction of J.J. Connington – Nick Fuller and Mike Grost
“Mr. Connington has established his name in the front rank of detective story writers. His particular strength lies in his respect for his readers’ intelligence, and his stories are essentially puzzles with honestly worked out solutions. He does not make it as difficult as he can for the reader to detect the murderer very early on, and does not load his stage with dummies, for he has realised that a story is just as good reading when the reader feels he is no befogged Watson but worthy to join in the hunt, and that establishing the evidence against a criminal may be as exciting as finding out who he is.” – Times Literary Supplement, 8th November 1928
J.J. Connington has suffered from the unfortunate belief that he was a highly ingenious deviser of puzzles but that his stories lacked any human warmth. It is certainly true that his murder methods often rely on scientific principles – e.g. agoraphobia, “twilight sleep” and bends. On the other hand, the county whose chief town is Ambledown and whose chief constable, Sir Clinton Driffield, invariably finds himself involved in murder, comes across as a real place, offering the modern reader a picture of rural life among the upper middle classes between the wars, and in certain books – e.g. The Dangerfield Talisman, Murder in the Maze and Jack-in-the-Box – one feels an interest in the characters stronger than wondering which of them did it. Yet it is always to Connington’s ingenious, carefully thought out and complicated problems that one returns.
Notes: Though J J Connington wrote many great puzzle plots, he only wrote one locked room title, In Whose Dim Shadow, which can be found on this page, and at his author page on TheLockedRoomMystery.com
Alfred Walter Stewart is one of the “Humdrum” mystery writers, along with Cecil Street (AKA John Rhode & Miles Burton) and Freeman Wills Crofts. This was a title given by critic Julian Symons, but they are not really boring at all. See Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961 by Curtis J. Evans
J. J. Connington Novels
Available only in used paperback and hardcover editions.
Note: An early Sci-Fi novel
A still quite popular piece of classic science fiction. Denitrifying bacteria inimical to plant growth is spreading around the world, causing agricultural blight. British car manufacturer, Jack Flint, is invited to become director of operations at a huge survivalist colony located in England’s Clyde Valley.
Almighty Gold (1924)
Available only in a rare used paperback edition. No image available.
Note: A true mystery!!
There is simply no information on this title, never reprinted, not even sure it is a mystery!
Note: Murder by common consent?
The first real Connington mystery. In the quiet village of Femhurst Parva, one Hubbard, a wealthy, lisping, butterfly collector and blackmailer, has committed suicide – at least that’s what the coroner’s jury decided, but no one really cares who killed him! Still, there are far too many unanswered questions! Who stabbed him after he poisoned himself, if that is the case? Who used a candle in a well-lighted room? And Who stole a butterfly? Colonel Sanderstead finally decides it his duty to probe the affair, since people are talking, and his nephew’s best friends had a very good reason to wish Hubbard dead. His investigation never actually solves the case, but it does leads to an amazing confession!
Note: No murder or police!
First there was the Dangerfield Talisman, an ancient golden armlet set with diamonds and valued at £50,000 – an unguarded treasure, which, although stolen more than once, always came back. Second there was the Dangerfield Secret.
The last thief of the talisman has been found on the lawn of Old Rollo Dangerfield’s home, dead of a heart attack. And in unearthing the mystery a whole series of bewildering complications begin to unfold.
Note: Sir Clinton Driffield’s debut novel!
When twin brothers Roger and Neville Shandon are murdered by poisoned darts in Whistlefield’s famous hedge maze, Sir Clinton Driffield arrives to restore order. He finds two terrified witnesses – visitors to the estate – and clues aplenty in this brilliantly conceived and meticulously realized country-house mystery.
Note: A tangled web!
Sir Clinton’s second case presents him with a tangled situation: two robberies (one a practical joke), two murders and a disappearance – not to mention a family curse, and a less than sympathetic victim.
Note: Secret marriages & accidental bigamy?
In this Sir Clinton Driffield mystery, the detective finds himself up against a missing heir, an accidental bigamist, a series of secret marriages and impersonations and an ingenious scientific murder. Aided by his wit and powers of reasoning, as well as Wendover, his very own Watson, Sir Clinton once again succeeds in piecing together a solution.
Available only in used paperback editions.
Note: The case of the missing ebook???
When a locum doctor is called out one foggy night to a case of scarlet fever, he mistakes one house for another and discovers a young man lying in a pool of blood, who manages to choke out a dying message.
This intriguing clue-laden case for Sir Clinton Driffield has its origin in a dark scheme that reveals as much about the means for murder as its motivation.
Do not understand why only this volume of the Sir Clinton mysteries is not available in ebook edition. Hopefully this will soon be corrected!
Note: A family visit gets complicated!
When Sir Clinton Driffield travels to the village of Raynham Parva to visit his sister, he little imagines that his latest case will involve his own family. His niece has married an Argentinian, and the village is soon filled with exotic incomers, one of whom appears to have been a foreign agent.
This unusual case presents Sir Clinton with three interlocking mysteries, which lead to a startling conclusion.
Note: The first Superintendent Ross mystery!
The terms of her father’s will tie Joyce to her Aunt Evelyn until she is 25 – or Evelyn will inherit the entire estate. But Joyce wants to marry Leslie, and the money she will eventually inherit would be a considerable help to him in his career.
Aunt Evelyn is a violent drunk, and one evening Joyce speculates to Leslie that if she fended of one of her aunt’s violent attacks and her aunt died of ‘one of her heart attacks’ she could hardly be held accountable – could she?
Leslie isn’t really sure. And the next day Aunt Evelyn dies suddenly.
Note: A Superintendent Ross Mystery – despite Amazon page!
A Dorothy Sayers favourite! She borrowed the ticket trick for Five Red Herrings, with full credit given to Stewart/Connington.
When Oswald F. Preston is shot dead on the 10.35 local train from Horston, two obvious suspects are immediately in the frame: his wife’s lover and an employer with a grudge. With red herrings a-plenty, and a number of other contenders for murderer, including a young heiress, Superintendant Ross has his work cut out for him.
Note: Strange goings-on in the boathouse!
When Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield goes to stay with his friend Wendover, mysterious goings-on in the boathouse he owns soon attract the duo’s attention. Lights go on and off, strangers come in and out, and a game warden is found murdered nearby.
And as they work to solve the crime, a second body is dredged up from the lake!
Note: A clean sweep?
Nine men formed a sweepstake syndicate. One man died. To forestall legal argument they agreed that only living members should share any winnings. They won £241,920. And then the deadly arithmetic began.
Nine less one left eight shares worth £30,240; Eight less one left seven shares worth £34,560; Seven less one left six shares worth £40,320; Six less one left five shares worth £48,384. Who was killing for profit? And who would be left to collect?
Note: A death in the family!
Philip Castleford was more than worried. Were all those years he had spent attending to Winifred’s whims, enduring her habits, to count for nothing? He hadn’t minded it too much for he thought that his daughter Hilary would have security – but now he found her shabbily treated and his own position undermined by his wife’s grasping brothers.
Such were the affairs at Carron Hill one fine morning when Winifred was discovered murdered in the deserted summer house.
Another one of those 30’s mysteries about an elderly wealthy person who is always threatening to cut people out of their will – then ends up murdered!
Note: Where is all the gold from?
A young couple, the Trents, arrive on the lonely islet of Ruffa – where a large house has been lent to them for part of their honeymoon – and stumble upon a mystery.
Gold is being exported from Ruffa in quantity. Where does it come from? From the Armada wreck in the bay? Or from some old Norseman’s hoard like the Traprain Law treasure. Or has the other tenant discovered the secret of making gold?
More of an adventure novel than a mystery!
Note: Happy Birthday?
It was at the hidden stone wall in the spinney that Johnnie Brandon, rabbit shooting with a party of guests, was instantly killed by a shotgun charge. That day he had attained his majority, but the night before he had been discovered in a compromising situation with the wife of the man who had been his mentor.
The inquest ruled ‘accidental death’, but Inspector Hinton soon discovered that it was murder.
Locked Room Review
Note: J.J. Connington with a locked room twist!
In this Clinton Driffield mystery, the action moves away from a country setting to the English suburbs, inhabited by a cast of unusual diversity: an ambitious young policeman, a naive journalist, an elderly clerk with dreams of foreign travel and an unhappily married Frenchwoman.
This meticulously clued mystery shows Connington at his compelling best and ends with a satisfying flourish. J J Connington wrote many great puzzle plots, but this is his only locked room mystery!
Note: A very odd disappearance!
There was blood on the drawing-room floor and Hazel Deerhurst had disappeared wearing slippers over walking shoes, two pairs of stockings and a bright silk kimono.
First investigations shed interesting light on Hazel. A mysterious machine is found at her home, some paintings and a cryptic telegram. She was also secretary to a man whose secrets involved the future of the empire. Is she victim or villainess?
Note: A bit of a mystery title – no reviews!
When two corpses are found in a small English village, all who have a go at solving the crime are completely baffled, and spur the local Chief Constable into investigating. Local gossip, blackmail and a family feud are all ingredients of the investigation.
Note: Murder or suicide?
Thief, criminal and probably a coward, would Hyson have had the courage to kill himself or did someone catch up with him? Did his death have anything to do with Mrs Telford, who committed suicide shortly before?
The Inspector, anticipating a routine investigation, finds conflicting stories, poison pen letters, and damning information about Hyson. It takes Sir Clinton Driffield to untangle the case and prove that the cast-iron alibi is the one which should arouse suspicion.
Note: Just ask a question?
Every Sunday on Radio Ardennes, the Counsellor had his hour. His voice clear, expressive and sympathetic as it answered a selection of the queries that crowded his post-bag. ‘Just ask a question’ was his motto. But even he did not expect Wallace Whatgift to ask for his help in solving the mysterious disappearance of a young woman. A complex kidnapping and murder plot involving a counterfeit gang and a hophead club.
Note: The Counsellor investigates a fake accident!
An unidentified body is found in a blazing car. A man in the locality is missing. But the corpse in the car is not that of the missing man, though someone has made an uncommonly thorough job of faking it to seem so.
And just because his unknown opponent had gone to such lengths to prevent an investigation going further, Detective Mark Brand, aka The Counsellor, is getting very curious.
Note: Suicide or murder? Again?
The Constable was content to call it a suicide pact. All the evidence was there. The bodies of John Barratt and Mrs Callis were discovered in a lovers’ nook among some bracken.
Beside them was a pistol with Barratt’s fingerprints on it, and torn up letters in the handwriting of Barratt and Mrs Callis were scattered around. Arrangements for the elopement had apparently been complete. Why had their plans fallen through? Why had they turned their backs on the railway station with tickets to London in their pockets?
Sir Clinton Driffield is not so sure that the obvious solution is the right one.
Note: A ‘not altogether surprising’ murder?
It was not altogether surprising that Ambrose Brenthurst was found brutally murdered outside Fountain Court the night he had presided over the dinner meeting of the ‘Hernshaw Thirteen Club’.
Many were the potential murderers – some of them guests at the diner. But when a second murder takes place it precipitates a crisis in which investigator Sir Clinton Driffield must penetrate a maze of conflicting evidence to spot the murderer.
Note: A case of split reviews!
This novel has a reputation for differing reviews. Some view it as “Connington’s masterpiece”, while others say it is “not a good Connington” – take your pick! (See Best Review above)
When recently exhumed church relics are stolen from a small English village the theft is quickly followed by four murders.
The joint inheritance of a piece of property supplies a motive but the cause of death is mystery. Cue Sir Clinton Driffield, who investigates and makes an on-the-spot arrest of the culprits and their super-scientific death machine.
Note: Another suicide vs murder?
When Pickford’s body was found hanging from a beam in his garage, Inspector Loxton was sure that it was a case of suicide following a series of financial and domestic worries.
Then came the criminologist with his slogan, ‘Common sense is all you need’, and in ten minutes he upset the inspector’s hypothesis. Further evidence pointed so clearly in one direction that the arrest and the conviction of the criminal seemed almost a matter of form.
But both the Inspector and the expert are way off course, and it is left to the Chief Constable to clear up the mystery.
J.J. Connington Short Fiction
After Death the Doctor (1934)
Detectives: Sir Clinton Driffield
Collection: The First Class Omnibus: Including After Death the Doctor (Connington) Hodder & Stoughton, (1934)
Available only in a hard to find used hardcover editions. No image available
Comments: No further information found.
Beyond Insulin (1935)
Collection: Fifty Masterpieces of Mystery (1937)
Available only in used hardcover edition.
Comments: No further information found.
The Thinking Machine (1939)
Detective: No Detective
Collection: Weird Tales, May 1939, Volume 33, Issue 5
Available only in original magazine edition.
Comments: No further information available. Believe this may be Sci-Fi.
The Criminologist’s Bookshelf (1939)
Series: Detection Club Anthology
Collection: Detection Medley (1939)
Available only in used hardcover editions.