Shedunnit and the Mysterious Dorothy Bowers


The Shedunnit podcast is a great favourite round here, highly recommended,  and featured on theblog – and I have been a guest on it before.

So I was delighted to join in again, as Caroline Crampton investigates lost author Dorothy Bowers – my specialist subject at the moment, after I gave a talk on her work at the Bodies From the Library conference in June 2022.

Caroline and I piece together what we know about her life (which is strangely little) and look at her five books – with regret that she died young and wasn’t able to write more.

 Click here to listen:

The Mysterious Dorothy Bowers - Shedunnit (

It’s a fascinating topic, and it is most encouraging that people have been caught up in her haunting story and are showing a lot of interest in her books. The bookshop at Bodies sold out of her work! – but the books  in print, are easily found, and are available for Kindle.

The two things I would most like to see are renewed interest in her, and maybe some more information about her life, some lost documents or pictures…. We can keep hoping. Let us know if you find out anything!

Already, since the podcast first went out last week, a listener found a signed copy of Bells of  Old Bailey in the London Library, with an intriguing dedication from the author. The book was signed for Anne and Fernand Renier ‘with the author’s salutations’. The Reniers were well-known in their day as collectors: their children’s books (80,000 of them!) form an archive held by  the V&A, while the British Museum has a collection of prints. Who knows how this book ended up at the London Library. This is a short clip of what the listener found – thank you very much!

The inscription seems to be in Latin, and says something like ‘this is a horrible and ?sacrilegious book to scare you‘ but it is hard to make out completely. 

Update: The listener who found the book knew the quotation: it is from a poem by Catullus (14) and the Latin reads:

Di magni, horribilem et sacrum libellum!
Quem tu scilicet ad tuum Catullum misti

English translation is roughly: 

Great gods, terrible and detestable little book!
Which you have evidently sent to your Catullus


Fernand Renier worked at the BBC World Service, so it is possibly Dorothy Bowers met him there.

I would  like to mention and thank the Random Genealogist, Matt Hall Random Genealogy ( who  did a huge amount of research on Bowers, and is generous in sharing it. Thanks also to Curtis Evans of the Passing Tramp blog, who has written about the scanty biographical details of Dorothy Bowers’ life. And also to Tom and Enid Schantz of the Rue Morgue Press who wrote an illuminating introduction when they republished the books in the early 2000s. And thanks to Martin Edwards, who - as always - shared what information he had, including more book inscriptions.

There are several more posts on Dorothy Bowers on the blog.


  1. How interesting, Moira! You're the perfect person to do that podcast, no doubt about that. And there's so much about Bowers that we don't know. You could do a scholarly thesis on that!

    1. Thanks Margot! It's a good topic because you can encompass what IS known, and still hope there might be more about there. I will be on the alert!
      My scholarly thesis will be on the role of teashops in detective fiction! Now there's a topic for you too Margot!

  2. I have all 5 of her books in electronic format, downloaded years ago from a free online site that doesn't seem to be in existence any more. I never warmed up to "Miss Betony" but I did find "Deed Without A Name" more enjoyable. I'll have to tackle the rest of them - we're in the middle of an ice-storm, so it's a good time to "... sit Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed In a tumultuous privacy of storm" as Emerson put it.

    1. Good luck with the ice storm, and yes, Bowers the ideal author for the situation.


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