[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.
comments: 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’.
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.