She Shall Die by Anthony Gilbert

published 1961

[excerpts from the book]

It was ten o’clock before Hatty came down next day, and then she was dressed for the street, smart topcoat and a great white fur hat like a beehive. An absurd fashion thought Henrietta, but she had to admit the style hadn’t been invented that could make her look ridiculous or plain. “Oh, Hatty, you can’t go out without breakfast,” she protested. “Just some coffee,” said Hatty. She poured herself a cup from the pot on the hotplate.

Alison Sheridan was an elegant haggard figure of about fifty. She was dressed with her usual neatness in a hand-tailored suit of chestnut brown with a minute black fleck; she wore a black hat and shoes and carried an enormous black handbag. The effect was as striking as if she’d turned up swathed in crape.

Talking about a Patricia Moyes book recently, I said it was very soothing, ideal for a lockdown situation, and that I had to keep checking the date: ‘it was 1983, but it might as well have been 1963 or 1973.’

That would all apply to this Anthony Gilbert book, except the date is 1961 but could be 10 years either side.

I came across She Shall Die– where else? – on Kate’s Cross-Examining Crime blog: she made the book sound very interesting anyway, but actually picked out that white fur hat as being of interest – this is the picture she found for it: 

She liked the sound of the hat and so did I: and we both like the book too. Her post on the book is worth reading alongside this one - it is helpful and informative. 

The story plays out in a classic village, full of snobbery and class-consciousness and busybodies, and starts with a young man found dead in his bed the morning after having unsuccessfully proposed marriage to his girlfriend. Is it suicide, or what? Later, a different girlfriend turns up, and starts sliding into village life, social climbing on the back of blackmail and secrets untold. Everything is going to go badly wrong at a charitable lunch for the ladies of the village. When the wrong (?) person is accused, it is time bring in help.

I very much like series sleuth Arthur Crook – the slightly dodgy and very vulgar solicitor – and I always wish he arrived earlier in the books, because he cheers things up so much.

The plot was a good one, and although I kept feeling I knew where it was going, there were sufficient surprises to keep me happy. And a really good clothes/dress based clue. And it was  full of the life details that I really enjoy.

For example, there is mention of  ‘vases, the new kind that are made for flowers to fall out of’ and then again ‘modern vases, all lop-sided’. 

I spent a lot of time looking at mid-century ceramics, and decided that the vases under discussion are asymmetric, but would still work perfectly as flower-holders. Maybe like this?

Then there is this phrase:

“That girl may spend a fortune on her clothes,” Mrs. Addison reflected, “but it pays her handsome interest.”

- I am always fascinated by the idea of ‘pays for dressing’, a great favourite phrase from books of the era – I looked at it in this entry here.  (And I do feel really I could die happy knowing that I once legit had a blogpost called 'Miss Silver’s Knickers'.)

I liked the comparison between the two young women – Hatty, who as Kate says in her review isn’t your classic heroine, and Marguerite, who is a nasty piece of work but also
 had a much harder time in life than Hatty, nothing came easily for her. It is hard to be sympathetic to Marguerite, but you do think it would have benefited Hatty to struggle a bit more in life. 

And of course I had tremendous fun looking for a suit for Alison, and so have ended up with quite a few photos…

First woman in suit – too jaunty by half but has the look. Kristine’s photostream.

And another one – less jaunty. Same source.

The third one is widely featured on the Internet, but with no reliable credits.

There are many more Anthony Gilbert books on the blog – click on the label below.


  1. Gilbert's work places the reader quite effectively in place, time, and context, in my opinion. So I'm glad you felt that the village setting was done well here, Moira. And that hat! What a great piece. I also like the subtle wit in the way Gilbert writes. Some of the work I've read isn't quite as witty, but he does turn a phrase well. Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. I've read a lot of Gilbert (though possibly not in comparison with what she produced!) and there are few authors whose work varies so much in my view - I really enjoy some of them, others not so much. But I keep on reading her. And, yes, love the hat...

  2. Thanks for the mention and I love the hat pictures you found! It is probably not the most memorable of novels by Gilbert, but it is still an entertaining read.

    1. Thanks for the tipoff Kate. At one time we thought of having a dress code for the Tuesday Night bloggers, didn't we? I think huge fur hats (fake, obv) are going to be the proper thing if we ever have a winter meeting...

  3. Pretty sure I have something from him on the pile - not this one. I'm hoping to read more from the tubs going forward, so maybe one day! (Famous last words)

    As a side note - hope you and yours are keeping well during these current trying times.

    1. You too Col - we all struggle onwards and upwards...

      Gilbert not so much in your line, but read the one from the tubs and see how you get on.

  4. I will add this as another recommended book by Anthony Gilbert.

    1. I never feel any great need to get through all the Gilbert books, and so there will always be another one I haven't read for when I am in the mood for that kind of book. Most satisfactory. I liked this one, and think you might too. But she also wrote some great ones with a wartime setting - have you read those? Right up your street.


Post a Comment