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Authors: Gladys Mitchell

Speedy Death

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Gladys Mitchell

Title Page

1. The Guest Who Had No Dinner

2. Accident? Suicide? Murder?

3. The Missing Clue

4. Interval

5. The Inquisitors

6. The Key to the Mystery

7. Investigation

8. The Murderer?

9. Signs and Portents

10. A Troubled Night

11. Another Mystery

12. Interrogation

13. Revelations

14. Mrs Bradley Explains

15. A Confession

16. Night Alarms

17. The Inquest

18. An Arrest

19. The Sleuth

20. The Case for the Crown

21. The Defence

22. Points of View

Extract from
The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop

Copyright

About the Book

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.

About the Author

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,
Speedy Death
, 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.

ALSO BY GLADYS MITCHELL

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

Printer’s Error

Brazen Tongue

Hangman’s Curfew

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

Groaning Spinney

The Devil’s Elbow

The Echoing Strangers

Merlin’s Furlong

Watson’s Choice

Faintley Speaking

Twelve Horses and the Hangman’s Noose

The Twenty-Third Man

Spotted Hemlock

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

Skeleton Island

Three Quick and Five Dead

Dance to Your Daddy

Gory Dew

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

Uncoffin’d Clay

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

No Winding-Sheet

GLADYS MITCHELL
Speedy Death
Chapter One
The Guest Who Had No Dinner

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.’

Dorothy gurgled.

‘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
never
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.’

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