Saturday, December 6, 2014

Scene of the Crime: Watson's Choice

The commonest refrain that I heard about Gladys Mitchell in the blogosphere was that "She was an acquired taste." Now, I don't know what "acquired taste" means but there is something off-putting about the phrase, so it was with trepidation that I picked up my first Mitchell: Watson's Choice.

I needn't have worried though because the novel turned out to be fairly interesting. Rich, eccentric Sir Bohun Chantrey throws up a party, Being a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, he asks all his guests to turn up as characters from the Holmes canon. Among the guests are Dame Beatrice Bradley, her loyal secretary Laura Menzies, and Laura's beau Inspector Robert Gavin who go dressed up as Miss Farintosh, Mrs. Grant Munro, and Inspector Lestrade respectively. However, not all guests at the party are that well-disposed towards Sir Chantrey. There is first, his son Manoel Lupez who quite hates his father, estranged couple Brenda and Toby Dance, grudging actor Charlie Mildern who thinks his career would have progressed much better had Sir Bohn offered him a role when he was young and his long-suffering wife Ethel Mildren. Add to this a few relatives, a harassed secretary, a neurotic tutor, and a hard as nails governess and you have a recipe for disaster.

Sir Bohun first shocks his guest by announcing his engagement to the governess who is much younger in years and then suddenly from the fog springs the Hound (of Baskervilles), then the governess Linda Campbell disappears and then returns with a cock-and -bull story about being kidnapped. Even as Sir Bohun fears for his life, the murderer strikes...

The edition that I read was a Scene of the Crime edition.

This is what the penultimate page had to say:

Scene of the crime is the renowned bookshop located in Sherman oaks, California. complete with turn-of-the-century decor. it specializes in literature of crime, detection, intrigue, and mystery. Watson's Choice has been selected by Mrs. Ruth Windfeldt, proprietor of Scene of the Crime and editorial consultant for the Dell Scene of the Crime mystery series.

Intrigued by this, I searched the net about Scene of the Crime - both the shop and the series. The shop, I found, has now unfortunately closed down (though there are efforts to reopen it) and regrading the series, I found this illuminating post @ Killer Covers.

For those interested in such things, here is a list given in the book containing a few of the titles.

Murder Ink mysteries:

1. Death in the Morning, Sheila Radley
3. The Brandenburg Hotel, Pauline Glen Winslow
5. McGarr and the Sienese Conspiracy, Bartholomew Gill
7. The Red House mystery A.A. Milne
9. The Minuteman Murder, Jane Langton
11. My Foe Outstretch'd Beneath the Tree, V.C. Clinton-Baddeley

Scene of the Crime mysteries:

2. A Medium for Murder, Mignon Warner
4. Death of a Mystery Writer, Robert Barnard
6. Death After Breakfast, Hugh Pentecost
8. The Poisoned Chocolate Case, Anthony Berkeley
10. A Sprig of Sea Lavender, J.R.L. Anderson
12. Watson's Choice, Gladys Mitchell


First Line: 'So it is the Great Anniversary,' remarked Mrs Bradley one dingy autumn morning.

Title: Watson's Choice
Author: Gladys Mitchell
Publication Details: NY: Dell, 1981
First Published: 1955
Pages: 256
Source: H.M. Library [F.M.E. 55]
Other books read of the same author: None


  1. Neeru - I'm very glad you enjoyed your first introduction to Gladys Mitchell and Mrs. Bradly. Mrs. Bradley isn't your 'typical' sort of sleuth, but I think she brings a lot to the genre.

  2. Glad this went well - her output was certainly variable.

    1. Thanks Sergio. It certainly didn't put me off Mitchell.

  3. I have only read one in this series. This is one I want to try, so I am glad you liked it.

    1. If you are fond of Holmes, you'll like it even more, Tracy.

  4. I've had this one for ages, but keep reachign out for the elusive titles. Luckily nearly everything she ever wrote is now available in eBooks and goodly portion in new paperback reprints both in the US and UK and of course via the internet for nearly everyone. Gladys survived into the digital age! When she's good I enjoy her books, but she when she's bad she's pretty darn awful. I'd avoid FAINTLEY SPEAKING if I were you. ;^)

    The Murder Ink series was also named after a book store. The first mystery bookstore in the US, in fact. It was in New York City in the W 80s just off Broadway if I remember correctly. I managed to visit Murder Ink several times before it too closed down sometime around 2005.

    1. Thanks for the info on Murder Ink, John. So sad when such landmarks which are part of a nation's cultural history have to close down.

      I'd definitely avoid FAINTLEY SPEAKING. :)