Death and

the Maiden





‘But howsoever it be (gentle reader), I pray thee take it in good part, considering that for thee I have taken this pain, to the intent that thou mayst read the same with pleasure’ William Adlington—To the Reader of the Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius


and to the


‘From all diseases that arise,

From all disposed crudities;

From too much study, too much pain,

From laziness and from a strain;

From any humour doing harm,

Be it dry, or moist, or cold, or warm.

Then come to me, whate’er you feel,

Within, without, from head to heel.’

Anonymous (Early 17th century)—from the later editions of SIR THOMAS OVERBURY’S MISCELLANY


Gladys Maude Winifred Mitchell – or ‘The Great Gladys’ as Philip Larkin described her – was born in 1901, in Cowley in Oxfordshire. She graduated in history from University College London and in 1921 began her long career as a teacher. She studied the works of Sigmund Freud and attributed her interest in witchcraft to the influence of her friend, the detective novelist Helen Simpson.

Her first novel, Speedy Death, was published in 1929 and introduced readers to Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, the heroine of a further sixty-six crime novels. She wrote at least one novel a year throughout her career and was an early member of the Detection Club along with G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. In 1961 she retired from teaching and, from her home in Dorset, continued to write, receiving the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger Award in 1976. Gladys Mitchell died in 1983.

Chapter One

‘Nothing happened till nearly half-past eight, and then pale watery began to trickle down, followed by tall blue-winged olives, and a fish or two rose tentatively. As I worked my way up, I saw, round a corner through the long grasses, such a commotion as must assuredly be a rat or a waterhen: but, no, it was not . . .’

J. W. HILLS (A Summer on the Test)

‘IT BEARS investigation,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘It bears investigation, my dear Prissie.’

‘Very well, Edris. Investigate by all means, as long as it isn’t too expensive,’ said Miss Carmody; and she smiled at the eager little man.

Among the numerous persons washed into her life by the irresponsible tides of consanguinity, Mr Tidson was a late but interesting piece of flotsam. He was the elderly Miss Carmody’s second cousin, and had been living in Tenerife since his marriage. The fortunes of war had put off until late his retirement from his business, which was that of a banana grower, but he and his wife had at last come to England to live. It had transpired that they purposed to live with Miss Carmody, an arrangement which, she had confided to Connie Carmody, her niece and ward, she hoped would be readjusted.

Connie concurred in this hope. She had watched, with growing jealousy and alarm, the gradual settling-down

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