Christianna Brand's career as a crime writer began with Death in High Heels, first published in 1941. My copy is the American first edition, which didn't appear until 13 years later, by which time Brand was very well-established, thanks to books such as Green For Danger. She was a generation younger than the first Queens of Crime, but she worked very firmly within the Golden Age tradition. Like Edmund Crispin, she was swimming against the tide of fashion, given her interest in intricacy of plotting rather than psychological complexity and suspense, but again like Crispin, she has always had a loyal band of admirers.
I've been a fan of hers ever since I read Green For Danger, but it's taken me a long time to read her debut. I confess that I started reading a paperback edition some years ago and lost enthusiasm to such an extent that I never finished it. Second time around, I persevered, and was glad I did so. There's no doubt that it's an apprentice work. The story makes a bright start, and then sags. But there are many touches typical of Brand.
These include a 'closed circle' of suspects - people working in a dressmaking business. Famously, Brand worked in just such a business and (so it is said) based her victim on a colleague from real life. She also shows her ability to come up with a complex plot with the potential for multiple solutions. The detecting is undertaken by Inspector Charlesworth, who appeared in two later books.
In some ways, the best part of the book is the early description of life in the dress shop, before the complications are piled on. The less said about the characterisation of a gay member of staff and a charlady (patronisingly called Mrs 'Arris throughout) the better. But there are some neat plot twists. Brand would do better in her later books, but this one tells us quite a bit about the era in which it is set.