Posts Tagged ‘Molly Clavering’

One thing that #DeanStreetDecember gave me the chance to do was to explore the work of two new to me authors. First was Molly Clavering, a Scottish middlebrow writer who was a great friend of DSP favourite D E Stevenson. DSP have reissued eight of her novels. The second new to me author was Basil Thomson, a mystery writer (among many other things) in that Golden Age style. He was a man of many hats, having worked in the foreign service, then later alongside the Prime Minister of Tonga and then as Police Commissioner to the Metropolitain police. DSP have also published eight of his novels featuring his character Inspector Richardson. I was lucky enough to stumble upon five of them together in a charity shop a year or so ago, I found nos 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 and having now started with number 2 as the earliest I doubt it matters much which order they are read in.  

Near Neighbours by Molly Clavering 

Near Neighbours is an unashamedly delightful read – without being in way sugary or silly. Molly Clavering has created a cast of characters her readers can become immediately invested in. Her central character Dorothea Balfour in particular is a wonderful character – her back story is somewhat sad, and the reader can delight in her late blossoming and happiness.  

“For as long as she could remember, Dorothea had lived in a continual state of giving-in: to Papa at first, and after he died, to Belle. It had not been so bad while Mamma was alive to share this bondage, but during the last ten years, alone with Belle in the big gloomy house except for Edna far below in the basement, life had become almost unbearable.”  

Dorothea Balfour we are told early on is closer to seventy than sixty. The novel opens on the day of her sister’s funeral. Dorothea had been totally dominated by first her father then her sister – and now suddenly at the age of sixty-eight she is alone in the Edinburgh family home, save for her servant who is clearly happy to see Miss Balfour freed from her domination.  

Next door to Miss Balfour lives the Lenox family, who Dorothea has secretly rather enjoyed hearing through the walls and watching from the third-floor window. Her sister had strongly disapproved of their neighbours and so Dorothea was never able to get to know them. The Lenox family is made up of the widowed Mrs Lenox, and her five grown up, or very nearly grown-up children. Four daughters, all named after trees, Willow, Hazel, Rowan and Holly and a son Murray (pleased to have escaped the tree names). Willow is quite newly married, her young husband is living with her and the rest of the family in the house next door to Miss Balfour – though as he is away at sea, he isn’t there much and Willow sometimes finds that lonely. Mrs Lennox thinks Willow and her husband should be moving out and living on their own. Holly the youngest is coming to the end of her time at school.  

When, on the very day of her sister’s funeral Miss Balfour is visited by Rowan Lenox expressing her condolences, Dorothea seizes the chance to finally get to know her neighbours. She is soon embroiled in their busy, chaotic lives and the Lenox family can barely remember a time when dear Miss Dorothea – as they come to call her – wasn’t a big part of their lives. She is further surprised when her sister’s former husband turns up on her doorstep, and she finds he isn’t quite what she thought he would be.  

There are domestic difficulties to be negotiated, romantic dilemmas and an artist’s abandoned family to be contended with – and although not everything is tidied away completley (which always seems more realistic) there’s plenty to satisfy those hoping for positive outcomes. Near Neighbours is a very cheerful and hopeful novel. Certainly, an author I shall read more of in the future.  

Richardson Scores Again by Basil Thomson 

Richardson Scores Again is the second of Basil Thomson’s Inspector Richardson novels – though Richardson is still a Seargent and has yet to ascend to the dizzying heights of inspectorship. Still, it is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. I can’t see it matters much what order these books are read in, however the progression of Richardson’s career would make more sense if the novels were read in order I suppose.  

“In the hall he found the body of his maidservant, Helen Dunn, aged about fifty, lying on the floor near the telephone. She had bled profusely from a wound in the head and her body was cold.”  

The case starts with a murder and robbery at a house in Laburnum Road in London. It certainly doesn’t end there however, strangely enough it goes on to include an escaped parrot, a man impersonating a policeman, a stolen car, a political rabble rouser and the almost unbelievable story of the nephew of the Laburnum Road householder.  

To begin with some of Richardson’s superiors aren’t convinced all these things are connected – but Richardson is dogged in his pursuit, an intelligent investigator, who leaves no stone unturned.  

No doubt Thomson’s experience in the world of policing, help to make the police procedural element of this mystery feel very authentic. His characters are well drawn, with good dialogue and some humour. There is a lot to enjoy in this pacy mystery and I will definitely read more.  

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