I thought that for today's Forgotten Book I'd adopt a seasonal approach. A Christmas crime story, and one that is easy to buy as a present, or for yourself. (I'm assuming, of course, that you're already stocked up with The Golden Age of Murder, Crimson Snow, Silent Nights, and the other Brtish Library Crime Classics,and...well, you get the picture!) So I was rather pleased to receive a new paperback with an appropriately snow-covered cover from Sphere -also the excellent publishers, I should say, of Motives for Murder, another book you really ought to treat yourself to!
The book in question is called Another Little Christmas Murder, and the author is Lorna NIcholl Morgan. She is, like Francis Duncan, author of a republished vintage Yuletide mystery that came out a year ago, someone whose work has long been forgotten. There's a difference between Morgan and Duncan on the one hand, and J.Jefferson Farjeon, author of Mystery in White, on the other: Farjeon was highly regarded in his day, whereas Duncan and Morgan never made much impression even when they were publishing new books.
In Morgan's case, that's partly because she only published four books - in a concentrated burst between 1944 and 1947. This was the last of them to appear - under the title Another Little Murder. There's no information about Morgan's life or other books in this edition, and I do think that's a pity. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like that: countless people have contacted me from all around the world saying they've loved learning more about the likes of John Bude and company in the BL Crime Classics.
The massive success of Mystery in White created a bandwagon effect, and this year there are lots of books in the shops with Christmassy titles and cover artwork ,quite apart from the BL titles. Yet despite the change to the title of this book, the story does not actually take place at Christmas, which hasn't even arrived by the time the story comes to an end! This was a disappointment.
So what of the story itself? Well, I liked Dilys, the feisty young commercial traveller whose car gets stuck in the snow in a remote bit of Yorkshire, and who is offered refuge in a country house where there are plenty of mysterious goings-on. The book starts well, but the plot is weak, and my enthusiasm began to fade after fifty pages or so. In particular the criminal conspiracy at the heart of the plot is one that the author seems not to have really believed in herself, and I certainly didn't. I'm afraid I may be able to guess why this was her last published book. But never mind, this is the season of goodwill, and I want to end on a positive note. Morgan could write well, and she had a good sense of humour. I particularly liked the character who is an odious health fanatic. And Dilys is so engaging that it's a shame that she never had any more recorded adventures.