Death of Jezebel by Christianna Brand

Armchair detectives who love those “impossible crime” mysteries or enjoy taking a step back into the 1940’s, will relish the British Library Crime Classic, Death of Jezebel by Christianna Brand.

The book opens with the suicide of a young soldier named Johnny Wise. It’s sad and tragic. But no one could foresee the impact his suicide would have in the years to come. Fast forward to 7 years later in postwar London to Elysian Hall, where there’s a grand exhibition being planned including a medieval-themed pageant show.

The pageant is deemed to be a grand event. Trumpets will be blaring while knights in velvet cloaks ride through on chargers. Their eyes will be focusing up at a window where the Queen of England makes an appearance on the balcony – a homage to England.

Among the cast members is the beautiful Isabel Drew and her close long-time friend, Earl Anderson. The manager of the pageant is Edgar Port, also a friend of Ms. Drew. Susan Betchely is a middle age spinster helping out on the set. Perpetua, the late Johnny Wise’s fiance, is also working with the stage settings and costumes. Hanging on the wall are 12 suits of amour, each suit with a different color velvet cape. Even though they were only able to find 11 actors to fill them, the choreography will still work out beautifully.

But someone has planned and carried out a cold, calculated murder during the pageant! Appalled spectators have all witnessed an impossible murder. The local police and Inspector Cockrill, are baffled. But as investigation continues, they can’t help but notice the cast members’ subtle finger pointing at each other.

Death of Jezebel is one of those quiet mysteries that builds up slowly. And while there’s 11 people with opportunity, the motive is elusive and the bizarre manner of death just leads to more questions. As the authorities dig deep, they realize that several members of the cast were friends of the late Johnny Wise. They wonder: Is there a connection? And then, one by one, for no apparent reason, some of the suspects start receiving hard-core death threats.

As the suspect list gets whittled down to just a few, you’re locked into a game of musical chairs – going around and around. And every time you think you’ve got your suspect firmly nailed down, you’ll have your chair pulled out from under you – time and time again!

This complex and tricky British Crime Classic originally published in the UK in 1949, will have the best armchair detectives thoroughly baffled. While times have changed radically since the 1940s, a good mystery is timeless – and Death of Jezebel is no exception.

A copy of this book and photo were provided by Poisoned Pen Press.

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