Nannies & Governesses in Crime Fiction

From Nurse Matilda to Nanny McPhee to Mary Poppins to Jane Eyre, the governess or nanny has proved to be a fascinating character in literature, and mystery fiction has it’s share of them.  Interestingly, both Nurse Matilda and Nanny McPhee where created by mystery writer Christianna Brand (1907-1988), beloved by mystery readers for her Inspector Cockrill novels.  Here are a few of my “nanny” favorites.

Patricia Wentworth’s sleuth, Miss Sliver, is a former governess, so the lions’ share of governesses come from her pen. While Miss Silver is now a comfortably employed inquiry agent, she retains some of her governessy characteristics and appearance, a great advantage when she aspires to invisibility within a household where a murder has taken place. Two of my favorites are Wicked Uncle (a.k.a. Spotlight, 1947) where penniless Dorinda Brown takes a job as governess to a spoilt little boy. It’s rare to have the governess be the main protagonist, and this is one of the few examples. The suspense is provided by Dorinda’s fear of her “wicked uncle” who turns out to be her new employer’s neighbor. He is so unpleasant he is of course murdered, but this is one of the most charming of Wentworth’s books. read more

The Noir version of The ABC Murders

John Malovich as Poirot, Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome

When we closed the store and no longer felt Amazon breathing down our necks, we went ahead and subscribed to Amazon Prime so we could catch up on things like Bosch, which customers had been telling us frequently they enjoyed.  (And Bosch is excellent, very true to the books though not an exact replica).

Prime’s The ABC Murders is not an exact replica of Christie’s enjoyable, early serial killer novel either.  First there’s the casting of John Malkovich as Poirot.  He doesn’t look like everyone’s mental picture of Poirot – that would be David Suchet – he’s instead an older, defeated Poirot, scraping along without his faithful valet, George, and his nightly hot chocolate. read more

Our Eleven Favorite Christmas Mysteries

Duck the Halls, Donna Andrews (2013). Skunks loose in the choir loft a few days before Christmas, a missing boa constrictor – do I need to say more?  Donna Andrews at her witty best, which is saying a LOT.

The 12 Clues of Christmas, Rhys Bowen (2012).  The body count is high as Lady Georgie hosts a holiday party in tiny Tiddleton-under-Lovey. While Bowen herself denies any resemblance to And Then There Were None, there are really far fewer people in Tiddleton by the end of the book than there were at the beginning – and the deaths are so creative! Delightfully, Bowen includes a guide of English Christmas traditions at the end. read more