Murder Among Friends by Lange Lewis


published 1942




I really enjoyed another book by this author – The Birthday Murder, 1945, blog entry here -  and this one had all the same pull factors including fabulous clothes throughout. The Birthday Murder had an excellent setting in the  Hollywood film world, while this one has an academic setting, always a favourite round here.

We’re following Kathryn Farr, who has taken a job as secretary to the Dean of the Medical Faculty, and finds that the opening has arisen because of the mysterious disappearance of her predecessor. The beautiful Garnet was very popular with the male students, and also seemed to have some burden from her earlier life, and some slightly strange views. Well there’s a setup isn’t it? You can settle in to enjoy this book, no problem.

There are nice details of the time – for instance an assumption that a young woman will ditch her friend if a date turns up, and that the friend will have no problem with that. Our heroine Kate allows the policeman into her roominghouse while ‘wearing a housecoat and several curlers’. If a male student got a girl pregnant, the Dean of the Faculty thinks it would be part of his role to insist they get married: ‘I’ve done that twice since I’ve been Dean here.’

Kate goes on a date, and then is very put out because her beau does not notice her ‘new black date dress and hat’ - that's my version above – but later he tells her it is not the right dress for her ‘It’s a wise dress, and you’re sweet. I liked that blue taffeta thing much better.’ I’m not sure I liked the sound of him (all crime-related plotlines aside).

The book has a very unusual and thought-provoking solution and is quite affecting – and there is an interesting response to it from the policeman. But of course I can’t discuss any of that...

My friend John over at Pretty Sinister Books reviewed this one a few years back in his usual insightful way.

Date dress and hat from Kristine’s photostream.

Comments

  1. Absolutely one for me, Moira!

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  2. This one does sound like a really interesting look at the times, Moira. And it's an engaging premise, too. I can definitely see how it appealed to you. That quote about the dress is staying with me: what, exactly, is a 'wise' dress? Hmmm...not sure how I feel about that police officer...

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  3. I loved The Birthday Murder when I read it, and at the time intended to get another book by this author. But I haven't yet, I hope this post will remind me to look for some more of his books online.

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  4. To Tracy (and I guess everyone else) Lange Lewis is not a man. It's the pen name for a women writer - Jane de Lange Lewis, aka Jane Benyon. For a brief time she was married to a pulp magazine short story writer name Malcolm Bissel. She wrote only five mystery novels and a few other mainstream novels as Jane Benyon.

    This is a book I wish some enterprising publisher would reprint. I think it's much better than The Birthday Murder and any of her other mystery novels, for that matter. All of her mysteries are worth reading for her writing alone and her observations about wartime and young people's reactions to war. This one -- her first mystery -- has a very modern motive. VERY! I'm sure it was shocking for its original audience. There are only a handful of detective novels or murder mysteries that moved me so deeply. Candidate for Lilies by Roger East has a similarly affecting ending.

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    Replies
    1. John, thanks for straightening that out. At one time I knew it was a pseudonym, but I forgot in the meantime. I had that information in my post on The birthday murder, but I said the real name was Jane Lewis Brandt, based on information at http://gadetection.pbworks.com/w/page/7930948/Lewis%2C%20Lange.

      Anyway, I am eager to find more of the books...

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    2. Some enterprising has reprinted it, it seems. I ordered what I think is a brand new copy from Amazon, published by Wildside Press.

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  5. Daniel Milford-Cottam3 March 2021 at 04:48

    Ooh, a Garnet!

    The ONLY other character called Garnet I've ever encountered is the heroine of a children's book called Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, although Google tells me it's also the name of one of the twins in Jacqueline Wilson's "Double Act" which I'm aware of but haven't read.

    I bet there's a Garnet knocking around in one of the Miss Silvers too, along with Lisle, Fawn, Gusset, and whatever else Patricia Wentworth liked calling her gels...

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  6. What a clod! The dress and hat are alluring, quite stylish, sensuous even but not wise in any way. After that tart look I hope she dispatched the condescending pretentious (you pick the inappropriate for publication word of your preference) to the oblivion he deserved.

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  7. Not an author I have ever come across before, but she sounds right up my street. I have a fondness for Old Hollywood, so The Birthday Murder definitely appeals - similarly the faculty milieu here. (It's one of the things I love about Barbra Pym, her sharp eye for the foibles of academia...)

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  8. Hmm... Date dress and hat? I thought she was wearing her hard hat for her war job, and Vogue was indicating, with the tulips and lipstick, that a Lady War Worker could still look feminine.

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  9. I will look for this author too although when I checked WorldCat there is nothing closer than Yale (I always tell my sister she should have spent more time in the library). Daniel, there is "a bleached blond carhop named Garnet Storm" who causes trouble in the Beany Malone books by Lenora Mattingly Weber when she arouses the sympathies of Beany's gullible brother.

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  10. Keep doing good work and I enjoyed when I read your article.... thanks for sharing..

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  11. I really impressed, great article. I love to read new new books daily, thanks for sharing,

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  12. One I can give a wide berth to thanks.

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  13. I enjoyed this very much (despite some annoying mistakes in the Kindle edition). The campus setting was very well described I thought. I was shocked by the idea that the hospital wouldn't automatically report the sudden death of a 22 year old to the coroner, but would put it down to "heart attack"!
    Also I'm guessing that it's set slightly earlier than the publication date, since although the German characters have escaped the Nazis, the USA doesn't seem to be at war yet.

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  14. I am really impressed and eager to read more books written by you. Now, I am anxiously waiting.

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