Saturday, March 9, 2019

Detective Book Club cover:
"Death Knocks Three Times"


  • Title: Death Knocks Three Times
  • Author: Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973), under her pen name Anthony Gilbert
  • Dust jacket artist: Unknown! Which is a bummer.
  • Publisher: Spine of the dust jacket says Random House. Back cover of the dust jacket says "The Detective Book Club." Title page says Walter J. Black.
  • Publication year: Book was first published in 1949. Not sure about this edition.
  • Original price: None listed on jacket.
  • Pages: 155
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Back cover rhymed marketing:
    "You'll find no better pick-me-up
    Wherever you may be...
    Than the latest triple volume
    From the DBC."
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "Novelist John Sherren's three elderly relatives were eccentric — and rich. And, by a curious quirk of fate all three died shortly after he visited them. The colonel, a recluse and conscientious objector to anything modern, went first. Then there was Aunt Isabel, a trusting, timid soul who believed in everything and everyone."
  • First sentence: Ever since midday the rain had poured down with such ferocity that the whole moor seemed awash.
  • Last sentence: [Redacted because of being a potential spoiler.]
  • Random sentence from middle #1: His arrogance aroused in her every atom of antagonism of which she was capable.
  • Random sentence from middle #2: Clara looked at him like a particularly vicious boa constrictor eyeing a particularly inferior rabbit.
  • Do boa constrictors actually eat bunny rabbits? Typically, only boas that are held in captivity eat rabbits.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.62 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon rating: 4.3 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Review excerpts: There are Awesome Blogs Galore (ABsG) about mystery novels, so here's a roundup of what some folks who are well-versed in this genre say about Death Knocks Three Times. I encourage you to check out their full reviews and their blogs.
    • J.F. Norris of Pretty Sinister Books: "Death Knocks Three Times (1949) is almost unclassifiable. It's a Gothic send-up, a satire on the art of novel writing, a treatise on detective novels, a 'badass biddy' (my own name for a certain type of subgenre featuring nefarious and murderous senior citizen women) suspense thriller, and [in] the end a fair play mystery novel."
    • Martin Edwards of "Do You Write Under Your Own Name?": "The [publication] date [of 1949] is significant, because a key element of the story is the period setting: we really get a feel of life in post-war austerity Britain, although some of the political comments seem a bit delphic to a modern reader."
    • Armchairreviewer (Kate) of Crossexamingcrime: "So not only does the story keep throwing up surprises, but it is also enjoyable for the depth of personality it produces in its characters, all of which is intricately bound up with the mystery plot itself. Not to be missed and unsurprisingly strongly recommended."
    • Neer of A Hot Cup of Pleasure: "I also loved how Gilbert weaves other literary characters in her novel. There are references to Father Brown, Lord Peter Whimsey, and Albert Campion. And I wonder whether J.K. Rowling had read this book because there are both a Potter and a Pettigrew in the book."
    • Aidan of Mysteries Ahoy!: "Death Knocks Three Times is not an inverted mystery although you may be forgiven for thinking you know who the killer is the whole time you are reading it. This is because Gilbert structures this book cleverly to lead the reader at all times to feel that they know where this is headed but because we are never definitively told what happened we have to remain open-minded to other possibilities."
    • Bev Hankins of My Reader's Block: "[Gilbert's] primary detective is Arthur Crook — a lawyer whose clients are always innocent. Always. Crook is a likable rogue who cheerfully says that he doesn't mind who he sets up as the murderer — provided he can get his client off."

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