The Belgrave Manor Crime by Moray Dalton

The Belgrave Manor Crime by Moray Dalton

published 1935


It was difficult to guess at her age. She was wearing a dress of black lace with long, transparent sleeves. Diamonds gleamed through the net that veiled her throat, and on her fingers.



My friend Lucy Fisher (@richmondie) introduced me to this one.

This was her description:

Just finished Moray Dalton The Belgrave Manor Crime. Yes of course they're Satanists: the crow-like heiress, the superannuated deb, the struck-off doctor, the pallid art expert, the butch sculptress. Various innocents are in their toils and there's a lot of Boy's Own action. "I just happen to have this coil of thin rope with a grappling hook - invented by one of my customers - I persuaded him to patent it - he's in Dartmoor now." Rather high body count of people we like, and an interesting character, Cosmo Thor, spends most of the action in a coma in a nursing home. "Time for a nice cup of tea, dear!" And the leader of the Satanists is... now read on. All a bit Dennis Wheatley and AEW Mason.

I cannot improve on this as a description of the book.

So it has been republished by Dean St Press – about whom I sayI really should get one of those template keys on my computer, such that when I press F6, say, up come the words ‘how marvellous that the Dean St Press has brought this book back into print.’ Save me typing them yet again.’

And it has an introduction from my good friend Curtis Evans (of Passing Tramp), the doyen of crime fiction critics.

So – Lucy, Dean St, Curt all working together: impossible to resist.

I downloaded it to my Kindle immediately, and raced through it – tremendous fun, though as Lucy says, the death count is high and a bit cheerless. There is some attempt to give an air of mystery to what the basic crime is in this crime story – smugglers? Spies? – but really we are not in any doubt, the occult is hammered home. But people come and go and race round the country, and it isn’t clear exactly what is going on, and it IS very sinister.

 The dual location in Sussex and Devon was a bit strange (“she could go to Brighton and get a train from there to Salisbury and change there”) and unnecessary – the kind of thing US authors put into their books set in the UK.

Belgrave Manor is an old country house (oh you guessed that?) and is flat-out malign.

“We tried to find someone in the village to keep the place aired, but they won’t go near it.”

“What’s to be will be on Belgrave Down, and tain’t no good interfering.”

And then there is the man sitting on the church roof:

Thor was looking about him in a puzzled way. “What about the other chap?” he asked.

“Which other, sir?”

“The one who was sitting astride on the roof.”

“There was only me and Charlie.”

“I see,” said Thor. “My mistake. It must have been an effect of light, an illusion. Queer, though. I could have sworn—”

-       This has the genuine frisson, especially as a cross has been smashed.

And the opening scene is startlingly good: standard 30s-style chap, Cosmo Thor (investigator of psychic occurrences) is on a train and sees an old acquaintance, Madame Luna, who has just got out of prison – guilty of reading palms. Honestly who wouldn’t want to carry on reading from that point? Of all unlikely comparisons, it reminded me of Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black, with the professional medium pursued by demons round the M25. Mantel is one of my all-time favourite authors, (and you can read here the tribute I wrote in the I newspaper on her death), and I’m not putting Dalton in the same category, but she is certainly good on atmosphere.

Lucy justifiably mentions Dennis Wheatley: he comes up on the blog occasionally, and has one post devoted to him for his book The Golden Spaniard. This is one of my all-time favourites of my blogposts, so naturally I will send you to read it if you would like to – I always felt it should have a wider audience:

 Dress Down Sunday: Oh You Spanish Ladies.... (

Moray Dalton has had two previous books on the blog (I was astonished to find from Curt’s introduction just how many she wrote):  

The Strange Case of Harriet Hall – with some great clothes.


The Night of Fear – which is about to feature in my forthcoming talk at Bodies from the Library on fancy dress parties in Golden Age crime. It features Fancy Dress Hide and Seek (peak costume party) and what I consider to be a truly excellent matchup of picture and text.

All published – of course! – by Dean St Press.

Top picture from Vogue.

The colour picture shows a fortune teller, from the Library of Congress, and is doubtless much more glamorous than poor Madame Luna ever gets, but I felt sorry for her so have given her this image…


  1. This does sound like eerie fun, Moira, if I can put it that way. And I've been wanting to read some Dalton (ashamed to say I've not yet done so). You've also got me thinking now of setting. There is a difference between books set in an author's own country, and books set in another country. Must think that through....

    1. Lots of possible post ideas for you there I think! and Lucy's right, you'll love her.

  2. You'll love her. (Lucy speaking)

  3. Such good news that Dean Street Press will soon be back in business, following the sad death of Rupert Heath.


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