Friday, 3 February 2012

Forgotten Book - The Division Bell Mystery

My Forgotten Book today is a book by a Forgotten Politician. But she was a political figure, and a writer, who certainly doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Her name was Ellen Wilkinson, who was known as “Red Ellen” because of both her hair colour and her left-wing views, and The Division Bell Mystery, which dates back to 1935, was her one and only mystery.

A financier is found shot in the House of Commons. Is it suicide or murder? Well, we know the answer to that, don’t we? A young parliamentary private secretary turns amateur sleuth, and becomes smitten by the dead man’s gorgeous but enigmatic daughter. The solution to the puzzle isn’t a masterpiece of fair play, and assumes the crime scene was investigated by incompetents, but this doesn’t detract from the highly agreeable nature of the story.

There are countless entertaining touches, as well as some points that made me think many of the issues we face in the current economic crisis are eerily reminiscent of those of the 30s. The bankers of today are rather like the financiers of that era, it seems. Despite her political views, Wilkinson is not didactic, and makes her points neatly and gently.

I thoroughly recommend this book, but Wilkinson wrote it after losing her seat, and once she returned to the House of Commons, as MP for Jarrow, she focused on more serious issues than whodunits. She was a prime mover in the Jarrow March, and later became a Minister for Education, but died in mysterious circumstances. Suicide was suspected, because of her fading affair with Herbert Morrison, but the inquest verdict was accidental death. A sad end to a life of great accomplishment.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting story! Too bad it was her only mystery...and too bad about her own mysterious end.

Jessica Mann said...

How fascinating, Martin, I had no idea that Ellen Wilkinson ever wrote a crime novel.Shall immediately try to get hold of a copy!

Dea Parkin said...

I didn't know she'd written a crime novel until I read The Golden Age of Murder! Thank you, Martin. Fascinated as she's a favourite politician of mine. Can't think why...
Will try and find a copy.