I first became aware of the detective novels of Nap Lombard thanks to Julian Symons' Bloody Murder. In the fascinating section towards the end of his book in which he mentions a whole range of oddments in the crime genre, he referred to the two books which Pamela Hansford Johnson wrote with her first husband, Neil Stewart under the Lombard pen-name. I don't know what the significance of 'Lombard' was, but I presume that 'Nap' was short for Neil and Pamela. Unfortunately, the books have never been reprinted, and I have never been able to track them down.
Until recently, that is, and I'm pleased to say that the second novel, Murder's a Swine, also known as The Grinning Pig, will be published next year as a British Library Crime Classic. Today, however, I want to focus on the first book, Tidy Death, which appeared in 1940. By that time Johnson had already published several novels. She'd married Stewart, an Australian journalist, and they amused themselves with a short-lived literary collaboration.
Tidy Death is a thriller rather than a Golden Age-style whodunit (Murder's a Swine is a more conventional detective story, and is more elaborately plotted.) I'd describe this story as a romp which introduces Andrew Kinghof to his future wife Agnes - in the second novel, they are a married couple. Agnes' aunt, Miss Brick, is one of a number of victims in a bizarre murder case which also involves Lord Whitestone, a senior official at Scotland Yard and affectionately known to Andrew as Pig.
This is a breezy story which doesn't take itself too seriously and is none the worse for that. The prose is light and pacy. Not surprisingly, given Johnson's later literary successes, its quality is a cut above the average. I don't think this is as strong a book as its successor, but Agnes and Andrew are a lively pairing in the same mould as Christie's Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. It's a shame that the separations enforced by war led to the break-up of the authors' marriage, but I'm glad that at least one of their joint efforts is being revived at long last.