Nothing can rescue me by Elizabeth Daly

published 1945 – date on my copy. I believe this is UK date, first published in US 1943

The thing we all know about Elizabeth Daly is that she was one of Agatha Christie’s favourite authors. It is never quite clear where that ringing endorsement came from – I have never seen its primary source, but it is repeated over and over again.

It seems quite possible: and Christie would have found enough similarities and enough differences with her own work to make for a good read for her. There’s a kind of very balanced look at the characters which reminded me of the Blessed A:

‘I’m not taking orders from you, Hutter,’ Mason clenched and unclenched his fists. ‘You’re not the master of this house.’

‘Perhaps not; but while I live in it there’ll be decent behaviour in it.’ Sylvanus was magnificent.

‘If this kind of thing goes on I’ll leave myself.’ Mason plunged from the room, and, apparently, straight from the house; the front door was immediately heard to slam with a noise like thunder.

After a dead silence lasting for thirty seconds at least, Gamadge asked faintly: ‘Won’t he catch his death of cold with no hat or coat?’

This passage to me is gently poking fun, but without taking sides, and making some relationships clear, in an economical and entertaining way. Definite shades of Agatha.

Nothing Can Rescue Me (and isn’t that a brilliant title?) takes place in upstate New York – a setting that has something like the role the Home Counties has in UK books of the era: it’s where the rich people get out of town. Daly’s regular sleuth, Henry Gamadge, goes there to visit a family he has known for years, who are having troubles.

A disparate set of people are in the country house, relations from a complicated family tree, and there is an equally complicated inheritance line. The rich old bossyboots is writing a novel, and on recent nights, something has been added to the day’s endearingly dreadful typescript:

Roy held her closer. ‘I won’t go,’ he said huskily, ‘until you listen to me.’


Well! A splendid setup, we can all agree. I’m very fond of books where people wander the house late at night ready to snaffle the secret plans while pretending to be looking for a book to read or a biscuit. Here they are looking for a book to copy from, and doing some freelance typing - excellent.

Henry investigates – though truly is not very good at preventing heinous murders.

So the story is packed to bursting point with classic features, which could be cliched or parodic, but aren’t. One of the murders is committed with a Chinese bronze statue from the mantelpiece; the garden is big enough to lose people in, and someone walking beyond the hedge with a hat on could be anyone. No woman has EVER been seen in this house wearing ‘slex’ as the French maid says – and this is 1942 remember – but that doesn’t mean the murderer’s trousers might not be female, does it? [See here for my important past work on trousers on females in 20th century books… ] 

There are two particular favourite features for me:

1) The staff (‘obviously none of them are guilty’) flit in and out, and indeed the French maid above is straight from The Servant Registry for Crime Novels. But then it turns out that one of the housemaids has a car and is offering to drive people around.

It’s hard to explain the extent to which this would have been unthinkable in a GA housemaid in UK, it literally makes me laugh out loud to think of it. Imagine, say, in a Georgette Heyer crime novel if the housemaid suddenly started saying she could give everyone a lift up to London. This idea is pure bliss to me.

2) The second is a scene in which Florence (the rich bossyboots) is confined to bed:

prettily dressed in a pink bed-jacket and wearing a lace cap with lace strings, she was working hard at planchette; the board which supported it was propped across her knees.

Regular readers know that if there are two things I enjoy in a book, they are bedjackets and any form of seances or attempts to contact the spirits. [A planchette, for those who don’t share my fascination , " is a small board on wheels with a pencil used to facilitate automatic writing. ‘The use of planchettes to produce mysterious written messages gave rise to the belief that the devices foster communication with spirits as a form of mediumship.’]

And here we have them both in the same sentence! Good times.

If you want any further encouragement to read this, then here are some of the chapter titles:

Some Silly Game



Lull in the Storm

All Nice Folks

Percy Rejects an Alibi

Last Will


Yew Hedges


End of Planchette

If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

And I’ve scarcely mentioned this, but Daly properly tells us what everyone is wearing, and the women’s outfits are matched to their role in life. Women looking superior while still changing for dinner – these are matchless pictures from Kristine’s photostream. I used them for a wartime Patricia Wentworth with similar setup, and honestly thought I couldn’t do better than repeat them. (Do I need to say that maids in Miss Silver World do not know how to drive?)

Lady in trousers is another long-time blog favourite, from the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr.

I did another Elizabeth Daly, The Book of the Dead, a while back on the blog.

There is frequent mention in the book of a villainous family of drunks ‘up the valley’, whom obviously everyone is hoping to blame (like they’ll be breaking in at night to add neatly typed apposite quotations from the classics to the manuscript) . Eventually they are named as the Jukes, which rang a bell with me: tracked down to this reference in a post on Paul Gallico’s Mrs Harris goes to New York:

Mrs Harris mentions in passing that the villainous family next door were like the Jukes family – a reference that meant nothing to me, so I looked it up, and I highly recommend that everyone should do so – it’s a fascinating, mind-bending, real-life story about sociological research, nature vs nurture, genetics, and eugenics


  1. Well, Gamadge may not be good at preventing heinous murders, Moira, but I do like him as a protagonist. It's really nice to pay him a visit in this post. I've always understood that Christie was a fan of Daly's , 'though like you, I don't know what the original source of that was. It wouldn't surprise me, though, since they do seem to have some real commonalities in the way they look at the world and write about it. As you say, there are differences, too, and that makes for a really interesting set of comparisons. A great post, as ever! Now, if you'll excuse me, Yvette has brought the car around and is ready to drive me into the city to do some shopping...

    1. Oh that made me laugh Margot! I am definitely keen to read more of Elizabeth Daly: I read a few of them years back, and am now tempted to fill in the gaps and read them in order where possible. I so much enjoy the milieu, and Gamadge is splendid. If a few more people die than necessary - well.... 😉😉😉

  2. The Jukes/Kallikaks story is told in Ashley Montagu's Human Heredity which I read and reread as a teenager. A bit stodgy, but gives you the facts. Other titles: The Fallacy of Race, The Superiority of Women.

    Now where can I get a pair of those "slex"?

    1. Oh thanks - it was obviously a well-known and horribly fascinating story in its day. You need a French maid to run up a pair for you Lucy. (You could probably do it yourself of course.) She can drive to John Lewis to pick up the fabric.

  3. I am glad you enjoyed this. So many reviews of Elizabeth Daly's books that I see are mostly negative. I haven't read all of them, and a lot of them I read so long ago I don't remember much about them.

    1. I think you would enjoy Tracy - you should give them another go? (I shouldnt' be telling you that, when you have so many books already on the TBR!) The setting seems right up your street.

  4. Blimey, Moira - sounds almost too good to be true. It's got just about everything. Plus the mobile maid. Bliss.

    1. Exactly - it could have been generated by a computer for my happiness!

    2. Had to read it - and now I have. Great stuff - and I didn't guess whodunnit.

    3. Excellent - so glad you liked it. I am looking forward to reading more of her.

  5. I've never read Ms. Daly's works (no relation) nor heard much about her, so this might be a treat to track down (even though I know already the only copies in the Toronto Public Library will be carefully guarded in the reference stacks).

    As for the make-up of the staff at mansions in upstate New York, I have only my first mystery love to go by: Trixie Belden. The first 6 books, by Julie Campbell. Trixie lived on a small farm with her brothers, but her best friend Honey lived next door at The Manor House. The staff there were wonderful, and drove the kids everywhere at the drop of a hat (when they weren't out riding, that is.) They included Tom the chauffeur, Celia the maid, Regan the groom and Miss Trask, ex-governess and all-round manager of the estate. Sheer bliss. I may have assumed all household staff were like that in the 1950s.

    1. Ah! A bunch of ebooks in the library. So I can proceed to discover Cousin Elizabeth.

    2. A woman after my own heart when it comes to dissecting the staffing arrangements! Would anyone write a book like that for young people now? Mind you, I always say I rely on Agatha Christie - if a household in a book has 2 maids and a cook, I think you could believe that was fairly accurate.

      Who's to say Elizabeth isn't a dear relation? Definitely claim her.

  6. Susanna Tayler10 May 2021 at 22:09

    I had never heard of the Jukes family. The only person I've come across called Jukes is the former college porter in Gaudy Night, who was dismissed for pilfering. I wouldn't have thought there'd be a connection, except for the references to eugenics in Gaudy Night - Miss Schuster-Slatt and her Campaign for the Propagation of the Fit.

    1. Excellent connection, Susanna, well-remembered. It might have been subconscious, you never know. It's not a common name at all.

  7. Maybe I'll get a copy. Might come in handy in I ever have trouble sleeping.

    1. There you go - even the books you don't like can come in handy!

  8. Daly's books are genteel and unapologetically erudite, and now that I'm old enough to appreciate the virtues of the quiet, bookish type, Henry Gamadge is what I consider ideal husband material.

    If you're interested sampling, try The Open Library.

    1. Thanks Shay, very helpful, and I totally agree. I think I first read her many years ago, and did NOT appreciate them as much as I should have. In this case, old age brings wisdom.

    2. Plus he has a ginger cat.


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