in Golden Age Detection.
by Carol Westron
Nevertheless, it did not take long for the more enterprising authors to spot the potential of trains and boats, especially cruise ships, as settings for their fictional crimes. This article is not a definitive list of all the times Golden Age writers used trains, boats and planes in detective fiction, but rather a whistle stop tour (forgive the pun) of some of the more interesting and inventive uses of these vehicles.
In Tey’s last novel, The Singing Sands, published posthumously in 1953, she uses a train as the anonymous, transitory place in which a body is discovered. It is interesting to note that this final journey for Grant is in the reverse direction from the one described in his first chronicled adventure, this time travelling from London to Scotland.
Boats in all their sizes and guises have been used as a convenient place for murder. The smallest of which must be the canoe that features as the scene of crime in Mavis Doriel Hay’s Death on the Cherwell (1935). The drifting canoe is secured by four young female students of Persephone College, who swiftly realise that the occupant is their bursar.
Fortunately for Vereker, a recreation that is far more to his taste soon becomes available and he is occupied in investigating a murder on board ship.
Benvenuto Brown is a compassionate and imaginative man, who feels great pity for the unfortunate victim, but the more selfish part of his mind objects to having his pleasant interlude interrupted: ‘Why, indeed, he thought peevishly, couldn’t people murder each other on dry land instead of intruding upon this pleasant and highly artificial board-ship life with their personal feuds? It seemed to him at the moment like a breach of manners.' Nevertheless, of course, Brown investigates.
Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the first Golden Age authors to capture the perils of Transatlantic flight in the 1920s. In Clouds of Witness (1926) she enlivened the court scenes in which Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother is on trial for murder by his barrister describing Wimsey’s desperate race to get vital evidence to the court in time. ‘“I will explain to your lordships at once that I may be obliged to ask for an adjournment, since we are at present without an important witness and decisive piece of evidence. My lords, I hold here in my hand a cablegram from this witness – I will tell you his name; it is Lord Peter Wimsey, the brother of the accused. It was handed in yesterday at New York. I will read it to you.
convincing novels. It is a stand-alone political thriller, featuring the diplomat Sir Stafford Nye. The story opens in an airport, but this has none of the excitement and feeling of a dventure that are apparent in Christie’s earlier novels.