by Carol Westron
In 1923, she published her first novel, Young Richard Mast: A Study of Temperament. This was followed by Hangingstone Farm (1924), Uncle Sabine (1925), Midsummer Night (1927) and in 1929, her first detective novel, The Studio Crime.
Dorothy L Sayers criticised the trend of detection novels that were involved only with solving the mystery without providing emotionally engaging characters and settings. In her first two detective novels, published in 1929 and 1930, Jerrold produces well-rounded novels with delightful characters, emotional tangles and exquisitely described settings. It is clear that she loved the countryside in which she settled, as in this beautifully observed description of the cyclists heading towards home: 'the sky was filled with the subdued golden light of a fine, windless August evening. The long grey tree-shadows lay perfectly still over the road, and the Welsh hills on the far horizon lying in the sun had a look of glassy fragility, as if they belonged to a distant fairy world.'
It is interesting that, just as Jerrold hit her stride in crime fiction and, indeed, was ahead of the game, she stopped writing detective stories and returned to literary and romantic fiction for the next decade, producing five books in this time. When she returned to crime fiction in 1940, she published a romantic thriller, Let Him Lie, under the pseudonym Geraldine Bridgeman.
Jeanie is drawn into investigating the crime. Her old loyalty to Agnes and her newly discovered affection for Peter make her wish to help them but her main motivation is the desire to protect Sarah, Robert Molyneux’s young niece and ward, a vulnerable and damaged child.
At the start of There May Be Danger, Lucy Mayhew is contemplating leaving war-time London and enlisting in the Women's Land Army. Lucy is not fleeing the bombs but is frustrated by the closing of most theatres, which means that she cannot get work as a stage manager. Lucy sees an advertisement appealing for help to find Sidney Brentwood, a twelve-year-old boy, evacuated to rural Wales and feels immediately drawn to discover what has happened to the boy. This desire increases when she seeks out Sidney's great-aunt and realises that she is a selfish, eccentric woman, more concerned with the welfare of her cats than the missing child. In Wales Lucy discovers a close-knit but mainly warm-hearted community who have searched the countryside for Sidney but believe that he had gone off on some adventure of his own and met with an accident in the wild countryside and, by now, must be dead. Lucy also encounters an old boyfriend, Colin Kemp, an archaeologist. Lucy wants to trust Colin but she cannot help wondering what an able-bodied young man is doing surveying archaeological sites when he should be fighting for his country. Despite the discouragement of those around her, Lucy refuses to give up her quest, and, with the help of one of Sidney's school-friends, she tries to think herself back into Sidney's mind and follow in his footsteps, even though she knows something sinister and dangerous may be happening in the quiet, rugged, Welsh countryside.
There May Be Danger is very different from Jerrold's other crime stories. It is far more of an adventure story, with the central character on a Quixotic and apparently hopeless quest. Again Jerrold's characterisation is excellent, her descriptions of the landscape are evocative and the tension she achieves as the danger draws closer is masterly.