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Wednesday, 25 March 2020

'Death in White Pyjamas and Death Knows No Calendar' by John Bude


Published by The British Library.
February 2020. 
ISBN: 978-0-7123-5316-8

Death in White Pyjamas combines one of Bude’s great enthusiasms, the theatre, with the traditional setting of a county house mystery.  Sam Richardson, a wealthy fan of the theatre, joins up with Basil Barnes, a producer and between them they establish a successful company based at the Beaumont Theatre.  The company begins to rehearse the coming season’s plays at Sam’s country house, Olde Knolle, (the aforementioned traditional setting) and it is here that the death in the title occurs.  Was the rivalry between the victim, Deirdre, and her colleagues Clara and Angela, sufficient to explain the crime and why was Deirdre wearing pyjamas?

Death Knows No Calendar uses another favourite device, the ‘locked room’ mystery.  Amateur sleuth, Major Tom Boddy, is a keen reader of detective fiction.  He also has the advantage of knowing the victim – Lydia Arundel, a rich, glamourous and successful artist, who is found shot in a locked studio.  Boddy, supported by his faithful retainer Syd Gammon, has to work out not one but two puzzling elements of the crime.  There is also room for some gentle romance.

These are two of Bude’s rarer novels.  The stories were written and published during the Second World War and Martin Edwards, in one of his usual informative introductions, suggests that ‘his main priority was to keep up the spirits of readers seeking a little comfort and relaxation during the hardest of times’.  Bude writes fondly of the English countryside and provides the sort of puzzle mystery which was (and still is) popular.  The writing is lively and light and the characters varied and the plots interesting – a satisfying read.

Other books by this author:  The Cornish Coast Murder, A Telegram from Le Touquet, Death on Paper, Murder in Monparnasse
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Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

John Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore (1901-1957). He was born in Maidstone Kent. He attended Mill Hill School until 1919, where he was a boarder. He attended a secretarial college in Cheltenham before becoming Games master at St Christopher Scool, Letchworth. While there he also assisted with the school's dramatic activities. His interest in dramatics led him to join the Lena Ashwell Players as stage manager, touring the country. Much of Elmore's early writing took place in dressing rooms during his spare time. He met his wife Betty in Maidstone. They married in 1933 and moved to Sussex, where he became a full-time author. Other John Bude crime titles available as British Library Crime Classics include The Cornish Coast Murder, The Lake District Murder, The Sussex Downs Murder --and Death on the Riviera.

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.
  

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