The Saltmarsh Murders

Gladys Mitchell

Bradley 04


A 3S digital back-up edition 1.0

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CHAPTER I: Mrs. Coutts’ Maggot

CHAPTER II: Maggots At The Moat House And Bats At The Bungalow

CHAPTER III: Sir William’s Large Maggot And Daphne’s Small One

CHAPTER IV: maggots in the church porch and public house maggots

CHAPTER V: The Village FEte

CHAPTER VI: A Student Of Dickens

CHAPTER VII: Edwy David Burt—his Maggot

CHAPTER VIII: Bob Candy’s Bank Holiday

CHAPTER IX: The Village Speaks Its Mind

CHAPTER X: Sundry Alibis, And A Regular Facer

CHAPTER XI: Reappearance Of Cora

CHAPTER XII: Permutations And Combinations

CHAPTER XIII: Bats In The Jury Box

CHAPTER XIV: Twentieth-Century Usage Of A Smugglers’ Hole

CHAPTER XV: Black Man’s Maggot

CHAPTER XVI: Mrs. Gatty Falls From Grace, And Mrs. Bradley Leads Us Up The Garden

CHAPTER XVII: Mrs. Bradley Sticks Her Pig


APPENDIX: Mrs. Bradley’s Notebook

The Saltmarsh Murders

Gladys Mitchell

New Introduction by Patricia Craig and Mary Cadogan


Published in 1984 by

The Hogarth Press

40 William IV Street, London wc2n 4df

First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz 1932

Hogarth edition offset from original Gollancz edition

Copyright the Executors of the Estate of Gladys Mitchell

Introduction copyright © Patricia Craig and Mary Cadogan 1984

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America


‘Gladys Mitchell’s classic The Saltmarsh Murders’ (Nicholas Blake’s description) was first published in 1932. It was the fourth detective novel in a series of sixty-six; Gladys Mitchell (1901-83) increased her output from one to two books a year in the final period of her life. All her detective fiction features the same central character, the redoubtable Mrs Bradley (later Dame Beatrice), a distinguished psychiatrist who, for maximum effect as an investigator, combines ‘extraordinary pothouse accomplishments’ with an old-fashioned elegance of speech.

There is nothing ordinary about Mrs Bradley or the way she goes about her investigations. She looks like a reconstituted pterodactyl and behaves like the Cumaean Sibyl. It is her habit to keep suspects on the alert by poking them in the ribs. Her percipience is frightening and her humour prodigious. From the moment of her first appearance, in Speedy Death (1929), she imposed herself on author and audience alike. Gladys Mitchell, actually, had intended to create a male detective but in the course of writing this novel she found herself vanquished by Mrs Bradley. The irresistible old lady moved to the forefront of the action and has stayed there ever since.

The Saltmarsh Murders, like everything in the earliest group of detective novels by Gladys Mitchell, is an exceptionally stylish and high-spirited piece of work, with strong comic overtones. One of the author’s practices is to poke fun at a minor convention of detective fiction by pushing it to an extreme; in this novel she has a go at the cosy village setting from which so many detective writers gained their most pointed effects. The village of Saltmarsh, where Gladys Mitchell’s clergyman-narrator has his first unfortunate curacy, is peculiarly prone to disturbance. It is a place where the vicar may be taken for a goat and tethered to a stake in the ancient pound, while his wife remains in a state of outrage over various licentious goings-on. In certain respects it bears a resemblance to the Cold Comfort hamlet of Howling. Adultery, high jinks, horseplay, an illegitimate birth, a hidden baby, rumours of infanticide, exhibitions of lunacy, a couple of murders, a lost corpse, an illicit trade in pornography, even a spot of incest all keep things lively for Gladys Mitchell’s benighted villagers before Mrs Bradley gets to the bottom of the imbroglio.

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