'It was not until the fifth death in Long Greeting that Miss Tidy made up her mind to go to the police.'
The owner of the Minerva, a combination hat, tea, and beauty shop, Miss Tidy is a tiny, white-haired lady whose Dresden-doll daintiness conceals a cold and calculating heart. As everyone in the village is quick to point out, she is not a person who inspires affection in others.
Five people had died in Long Greeting and its environs in the past months, all by their own hands, and their deaths are the talk of the small village. Although Miss Tidy doesn't realize it until she makes her statement to the police, Detective-Inspector Raikes of Scotland Yard has already been called down to Long Greeting to work with the local constabulary, in particular Superintendent Lecky. The villagers don't take kindly at first to an outsider in their midst, but as poison-pen letters and then murder follow upon the inexplicable suicides, they gradually begin sharing their secrets with Raikes and Lecky, until finally the sharp-witted detectives are able to make some sense of the puzzling events.
A superb example of the classic English village mystery, The Bells of Old Bailey is the last book Dorothy Bowers published. She died at the age of 46 of tuberculosis the following year, 1948, shortly after her induction into England's prestigious Detection Club. (back book cover)
This was an excellent read! Many red herrings, very convincing ones too that make you uncertain when you think you have it all figured out. The village of Ravenchurch was a typical English village and it's Superintendent Lecky was loath to think any of 'his' people could do such terrible things. But in reality Ravenchurch became a pool of hateful, mean people!
Delicious secrets, blackmail, nymphomania (yes, in a 1947 book!) greed, hatred and murder. Two of the quirky characters were Mrs. Weaver the bookshop owner and Miss Beaton the mystery novelist, my favorite character of course!
Here's a quote from Mrs. Weaver when Inspector Raikes was trying to get information about Edith Drakes from her...
"Dear me, people are very indifferent, though I don't suppose they mean to be. 'Laugh, and the world laughs with you.' I am myself, if it come to that - seemingly indifferent, you know, though not callous. It comes not so much from not caring as from being unobservant. I just can't see what goes on under my nose. Books segregate one a good deal, I'm afraid. So I don't know that I can help much. Edith Drake spent a long time with my books, but she didn't confide in me."
Dear Anthony Trollope got a mention too...
'Raikes studied her. "Such remarkable precision of habit makes for longevity." was his assurance. "And Mr. Greatorex? Is his practice as regular?"
"Of course. That is the foundation of his success. He has a great respect for Anthony Trollope, who, he tells me, was very careful to observe a timetable of work and relaxation."
This is my second Dorothy Bowers mystery and I enjoyed it even better than the first. It's a shame it was her last. I have one more on my shelf to read. Rue Morgue republished several of her books. I adore Rue Morgue books!
This book counts for Bev's Scavenger Hunt 2016 Gold, published before 1960 and fulfills a skull on the cover. The dinger on the bell is a skull!