I was sorry to learn that Celia Fremlin, a British suspense novelist of genuine distinction, died earlier this summer. I only found out because I read an obituary notice by Rebecca Tope in the CWA’s private members’ newsletter. If her passing has been discussed in the newspapers, or online (and surely it must have been?) then I have missed it.
One thing is for sure – Fremlin’s work is not talked about too much these days. But it deserves to be, because she was a class act. To my regret, I only met her once, very briefly, at a CWA conference in the early nineties. Her sixteenth and last novel appeared not long after, in 1994, when she was 78.
The lack of attention paid to Fremlin’s work is all the more sobering when one reflects on the immediate impact she made when her first novel, The Hours Before Dawn, appeared in 1958. It’s a good title and an even better book – it went on to win an Edgar. My copy is a 1988 reprint, which benefits from a pithy preface by Fremlin. The story involves a harassed mother, Louise Henderson, who lives in suburbia and who takes in a lodger with unexpected consequences. The domestic milieu is very well drawn, and Fremlin was one of those who led the way in developing the psychological suspense set in recognisable everyday surroundings.
It’s a long time since I read Fremlin, but although I can’t remember much about them, I do know that The Spider-Orchid and Appointment with Yesterday were good books, written by a novelist both sensitive and intelligent. Are any readers of this blog Fremlin fans? I hope so, for she should not be forgotten.