Authors: Gladys Mitchell
THE FIRST MRS BRADLEY MYSTERY
Alastair Bing’s guests gather around his dining table at Chaynings, a charming country manor. But one seat, belonging to the legendary explorer Everard Mountjoy, remains empty. When the other guests search the house, a body is discovered in a bath, drowned. The body is that of a woman, but could the corpse in fact be Mountjoy? A peculiar and sinister sequence of events has only just begun...
This is Gladys Mitchell’s first book and it marks the entrance of the inimitable Mrs Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, psychoanalyst and unorthodox amateur sleuth, into the world of detective fiction. But instead of leading the police to the murderer, she begins as their chief suspect.
Gladys Maude Winifred Mitchell – or ‘The Great Gladys’ as Philip Larkin called her – was born in 1901, in Cowley in Oxfordshire. She graduated in history from University College London and in 1921 began her long career as a teacher. She studied the works of Sigmund Freud and attributed her interest in witchcraft to the influence of her friend the detective novelist Helen Simpson.
Her first novel,
, was published in 1929 and introduced readers to Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, the heroine of a further sixty-six crime novels. She wrote at least one novel a year throughout her career and was an early member of the Detection Club, alongside Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers. In 1961 she retired from teaching and, from her home in Dorset, continued to write, receiving the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger in 1976. Gladys Mitchell died in 1983.
The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop
The Longer Bodies
The Saltmarsh Murders
Death at the Opera
The Devil at Saxon Wall
Dead Men’s Morris
Come Away, Death
St Peter’s Finger
When Last I Died
Laurels Are Poison
The Worsted Viper
Sunset Over Soho
My Father Sleeps
The Rising of the Moon
Here Comes a Chopper
Death and the Maiden
Tom Brown’s Body
The Devil’s Elbow
The Echoing Strangers
Twelve Horses and the Hangman’s Noose
The Twenty-Third Man
The Man Who Grew Tomatoes
Say It With Flowers
The Nodding Canaries
My Bones Will Keep
Adders on the Heath
Death of a Delft Blue
Pageant of Murder
The Croaking Raven
Three Quick and Five Dead
Dance to Your Daddy
Lament for Leto
A Hearse on May-Day
The Murder of Busy Lizzie
Winking at the Brim
A Javelin for Jonah
Convent on Styx
Late, Late in the Evening
Noonday and Night
Fault in the Structure
Wraiths and Changelings
Mingled With Venom
The Mudflats of the Dead
Nest of Vipers
The Whispering Knights
Lovers, Make Moan
The Death-Cap Dancers
The Death of a Burrowing Mole
Here Lies Gloria Mundy
Cold, Lone and Still
The Greenstone Griffins
The Crozier Pharaohs
THE TWO YOUNG
men had been waiting exactly two hours and three minutes.
‘If she isn’t on the six-fifteen,’ remarked the younger, larger, more utterly-bored-annoyed-and-anxious young man, ‘I am damned well going back without her. That’s the worst of girls, especially when you’re going to marry them! Always think they can turn up late. There’s going to be a row over this!’
‘Be of good cheer, comrade,’ said the other, ‘for, behold, the six-fifteen approaches, and she is bound to be on it.’
She was on it.
‘And I’m last, I suppose!’ she cried, radiant with blushes and laughter, and beautiful beyond all telling (particularly in the eyes of the two young men, who were both in love with her) from the top of her chic new hat to the buckles of her twinkling shoes.
There was more artless satisfaction than resignation, apology, or fearfulness in her voice, but the two young men had been waiting exactly two hours and four minutes, and they hurried her along to the waiting car.
‘Get in, Dorothy, for goodness’ sake!’ urged the big young man aggressively. ‘Here, porter! In here! Buck up, man! Here you are!’
Having tipped and dismissed the baggage-bearer, he turned again to the girl.
‘Couldn’t finish our round in time to meet the four-thirty! And here it is, nearly half-past six! Dinner at seven-thirty, of all ungodly hours! House full of idiotic people, and the old man in a devil of a temper if he’s kept waiting for his beastly food, and the road covered with loose flints, so I expect we’re bound to pick up a puncture because, like a fool, I’ve forgotten the spare wheel, and you’re a little devil to keep us waiting like this, and the animals went in two by two, and here endeth the first lesson.’
Dorothy laughed as she entered the car, and the speaker, with a vicious scowl, took his seat at the wheel, while the other young man, slight, short, and with black hair and very red cheeks, squeezed in beside her and slammed the door.
‘Right away, Captain,’ he remarked cheerfully.
‘It’s very nice to see you again, Bertie,’ observed Dorothy, as the car took the road. ‘What have you been doing with yourself since I saw you last?’
‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Bertie Philipson knitted his brows. ‘I’ve been out and about, you know.’
She surveyed him quizzically.
‘Still the little lounge lizard? Why don’t you get something to do?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I mean, not much point, is there? Of course, if you—if things had been different—you know what I mean——’
Dorothy’s slim fingers found his wrist and pressed it gently.
‘I know. And I’m sorry, Bertie. I can’t help it. You see, I do like you ever so much, but with Garde—it’s different. There’s something about him——’
‘Yes, there is. His size and his beastly temper,’ grinned Bertie, contemplating the wide shoulders which blocked his view of the road. ‘You’ll have to be a good kid when you’re married.’
‘I know. You can’t think how exciting it is to be scared stiff of your future husband. But he’s an awful dud, isn’t he? Twenty-six and still taking his examinations!’
‘Oh, well, it’s a stiff proposition,’ said Bertie. ‘There’s one comfort, he won’t need to depend upon his patients for his living. Old Bing hates the doctor idea, doesn’t he? But it won’t make any difference to Garde’s share of the family fortunes.’
‘It’s a nice name—Garde,’ said Dorothy.
The young man in front turned his head for the fraction of a second.
‘What are you saying about me, woman?’ he demanded.
‘Darling, nothing. Do be careful. I’m sure the driver ought not to take notice of what people
behind are saying. We nearly sent a chicken to heaven then.’
She turned again to her companion and smiled mischievously.
‘And now tell me all about everybody who is invited this year,’ she commanded him. ‘Are they as awful as usual? And am I to be the only lovelorn female, as I was last time, or are some more girls coming?’
Bertie decided to fall in with her mood.
‘Let me see,’ he said, and ruminated a moment. ‘I think everybody but yourself had arrived when we came away. Incidentally—I hesitate to mention it—but when you say you’ll come by the four-thirty, why do you turn up on the six-fifteen? Our brother in the front row has been trying to get through to Paddington to find out whether you’d been rendered dead in the buffet through eating one of their ham sandwiches, or something. What happened?’
‘Oh, I thought I was on the four-thirty and it was a bit late,’ said Dorothy, quite seriously, as she settled herself a little more comfortably against the upholstery. ‘I suppose Garde is frightfully cross with me, then? I always notice that when people have been scared they are frightfully cross afterwards. And we shall be late for dinner, and dinner will be spoilt, and Mr Bing will swear, and the cook will give notice, and they will never be able to get another one, and Eleanor will be sweetly charming to me, and I shall be so unhappy that I expect I shall fall into a decline
and die. As it is, I think I am going to burst into tears.’
‘Do take a deep breath,’ pleaded Bertie, grinning.
‘Yes, I will, while you describe all the people. Fire away. Is there anyone I know?’
‘I don’t think so. Let me see. Do you know a fellow called Mountjoy?’
‘The explorer? No, but of course I’ve heard of him. A large, hairy, loud-voiced, primitive sort of creature, with a red tie and black beard.’
‘Oh, rot!’ laughed Bertie. ‘He is a little, slim, cleanshaven, shy sort of fellow, with hardly a word to say.’
‘Oh, I’d pictured him so differently. And isn’t he even a sheik?’
‘Sheik be hanged! The chap seems terrified out of his life if anybody comes up and speaks to him. Just growls out any old answer, and gets away as soon as ever he can. He may get on well with lions and elephants, but I’m hanged if he’s any catch as a fellow-guest. He doesn’t golf or motor or walk or ride or swim or tennis or anything. And the only person who seems to be able to get two words out of him is—whom do you think?’
‘Not Eleanor?’ asked Dorothy, chuckling maliciously.
‘Eleanor it is,’ said Bertie, solemnly nodding his head. ‘Who but our good sister Eleanor!’
‘Pull yourself together,’ said Dorothy severely. ‘I have
seen anything so—so wildly improbable as Eleanor’s behaviour with young, youngish, and
middle-aged men. She might as well go straight into a nunnery and have done with it, I think.’