The Strange Case Of Harriet Hall (1936) by Moray Dalton

Amy Steer is down on her luck when an amazing opportunity presents itself. She is contacted by a previous unknown aunt, Harriet Hall, who invites her to come and live with her in the village of Larnwood, in the North Lodge at Lennor Park. The park is owned and inhabited by the Dene family, a family who Hall seems to have a strange hold over.

On the way to the Lodge, she bumps into Tony Dene, and there is an instant attraction until he discovers the relationship between her and Hall, at which point he disappears. And when Amy arrives at the lodge, there is no sign of Aunt Harriet… until the next day when Tony opens the well at the bottom of the garden…

Exactly how many authors out there who most people have never heard of from the Golden Age? Just when you think you heard of everyone out there, another one pops up. I thought Brian Flynn was the only prolific unknown author out there, but Moray Dalton (actually Katherine Renoir) wrote 29 mystery novels between 1924 to 1951. And those nice folks at Dean Street Press have just released five of them, including this one. Oh, and three E & M A Radford titles, two Joan A Cowdrey titles, two Gordon Meyrick titles and another Francis Vivian title. We are spoiled – and they’re only 99p on Kindle at the moment!

Is this one worth it? Well, it’s hard not to be at that price, but I’m pleased to say that this is an outstanding piece of crime fiction. The tension between the protagonists as suspicion circle creates a dark atmosphere and while the police’s suspicion (apart from series regular Inspector Collier) focuses on Tony Dene, the good Inspector has other ideas.

It’s hard to talk about the plot too much without spoiling the central idea – an idea which has appeared at least twice in books that I’ve reviewed on the blog – so forgive my vagueness about the plot. There is some exceptional character work here, with a nice set of suspects, but I did find the revelation of the murderer to be a little underwhelming.

Still, a strong classic mystery novel with a strong emotional core, with much to recommend it. Another recovered lost author to add to the list – excuse me while I head to the ebook store and stock up…

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHAT – Person’s Name In The Title


  1. I can see your problem with the resolution, of course, but I really found this one engrossing. It seems this title is being used as a review copy by several bloggers, but I tend to think puzzle purists might prefer Death in the Cup or The Night of Fear, though the latter is a Christmas mystery. Or perhaps even The Body in the Road, though that has some thrillerish elements, as does One by One They Disappeared. Harriet Hall is definitely moving on to the legit modern “crime novel,” though there is detection.


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