Wednesday 16 March 2016

The Annie Haynes Mystery

"Continuation novels", where a writer adopts another writer's character - such as Sophie Hannah's The Monogram Murders -have long interested me. But even more fascinating, though less common,are books which are begun by one author and completed by another, and it was this fascination that led me to finish the late Bill Knox's The Lazarus Widow. Recently, a Golden Age example of this type of novel has come my way, thanks to the valiant efforts of Dean Street Press,who have reprinted the complete crime fiction of Annie Haynes, who until recently was a very obscure writer indeed..

She was in very poor health when she started writing her last book, The Crystal Beads Murder, and she died with it still unfinished. Another author took over - but here is the really interesting thing: we don't know who it was. The original introduction, by Ada Heather-Bigg (with whom Haynes lived for many years) simply describes her as one of Haynes' friends, and adds that she "also a writer of this type of popular says much for her skill that she has independently arrived at Miss Haynes' own solution of the mystery, which was known only to myself."

In an interesting new intro to the book, Curtis Evans speculates about who completed the book, listing prominent women crime writers of the time as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Malleson), A.Fielding, Molly Thynne and Margaret Cole. I feel sure that Christie, Sayers, and Cole can be ruled out, and I don't know anything about Thynne, and little about Fielding. Curt suggests Anthony Gilbert is the likeliest candidate, though I think that if that were so, she would be likely to have discussed the book, and Haynes,in her memoir, and she didn't. It's also perhaps doubtful that they moved in the same social circles. One name that occurred to me is Jessie Rickard, who was a minor crime writer who became a somewhat peripheral member of the Detection Club, but I don't know enough to say whether there's any similarity between her writing and Haynes', or any other connection.

Curt says, and I agree, that the completion is professionally accomplished. It's quite hard to see the join. The main problem with the story is that it's a tired effort, no doubt because of Haynes' poor health. I couldn't interest myself in the fate of the dastardly Robert Saunderson; the detective puzzle is very much secondary in appeal to the authorship mystery. But Inspector Stoddart is quite an appealing cop,and I look forward to reading some of his earlier cases. Dean Street Press have also reprinted Haynes' non-series mysteries,and I hope to review The Bungalow Mystery in due course..


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Look forward to reading some of her work, thanks Martin. Amazing that it is still unclear who finished the last one. One always imagines that these sorts of contracts would remain with the publishers, but it was a long while ago ...

Martin Edwards said...

Very good point, Sergio. Interestingly, the publisher was The Bodley Head, so there might be an outside chance that they have kept something about AH.