Shadows Before (Golden Age Detective Novels) Paperback – 15 Jul 2005
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About the Author
Compared to Dorothy L. Sayers, Bowers wrote five detective novels before her untimely death from TB at the age of 46.
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Professor Matthew Weir stood trial for the poisoning of his sister-in-law in 1937 and was declared not guilty. But suspicion lingered, so he packed up his family and moved to a house near Oxford. His wife is ailing, and a "companion" is called in to assist. Mrs. Weir enjoys picking herbs and preparing her own tea. But she is poisoned by her own tea, which brings Chief Inspector Dan Pardoe and Detective Sergeant Salt from Scotland Yard to investigate. They don't think that Professor Weir killed his wife and sister-in-law, but someone did, and just who benefits becomes the unifying factor:
"'Since we've aired the dangerous subject or murder,' Augustus went on, 'there are one or two things I would remind you of, Mr. Pardoe. After that, perhaps I may be left in peace to finish the octave of my sonnet. The first thing,' he placed one elegant forefinger against the other, 'is that with the death of Mrs. Weir my brother becomes a poor man and will undoubtedly be compelled to leave Spanwater. Therefore his dependents also become poor. Secondly, it might be both humane and expedient to discover why my nephew is a passionate upholder of euthanasia. He is an orphan..."
Authors from the "Golden Age" of mystery writing are known for two characteristics: the exquisite flow of their writing, and the 'whodunit' factor. Dorothy Bowers was a master in both areas. Her writing is sublime, and as soon as the reader fixes upon a suspect, deftly introduced by Ms. Bowers, that suspect is debunked either by becoming a victim, either alive or dead.
Ms. Bower's use of character and setting is also masterful, and the setting itself becomes part of the execution of the murder. She doesn't shy away from using the elements to build suspense, and of course this puts Scotland Yard to the test. It is a shame that Ms. Bowers couldn't have lived longer and given us more of a collection. But the little that she did will endure for those readers who appreciate the masters of crime. This whodunit should be made into a television movie!