Which Way Came Death? written by Faith Wolseley, and published by John Murray in 1936, is my Forgotten Book for today, and it really is forgotten. I'd be very surprised if more than one or two of my readers have come across it. And yet it was, in its day, a very well regarded and well reviewed novel. With some justice, I should say, as the writing is elegant and often witty.
The book is presented as a first novel, yet although it was the first under the Wolseley name, it was not really a debut, for the author had previously dipped a toe into the waters of detection with two books under what was, I understand, her real name, Stella Tower. Dumb Vengeance, which really was her first novel, was one of my Forgotten Books recently.
The Tower book was set in a country house. The Wolseley novel is set against another background that was popular in Golden Age detective fiction: the public school. Anthony Berkeley, James Hilton, Nicholas Blake, Christopher Bush and Gladys Mitchell were among those who made good use of school setting in the Thirties, but the wit and insight into school life in this book calls to mind R.C. Woodthorpe's The Public School Murder. Wolseley's writing did not have the political edge of Woodthorpe's, but is none the worse for that.
It becomes clear early on that a schoolmaster called Stoner is the likely murder victim, and we are led to believe that poison may be the murder weapon - but how will it be administered? The head teacher's wife is a memorable character who plays a central role in the story, and I was not surprised to discover that the author was herself the wife of a public school teacher. The story flags a bit in the middle, as in Dumb Vengeance, before perking up again. The plot is nothing special, but the quality of the writing lifts this one out of the ordinary.