Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: SHE SHALL HAVE MURDER (1949) by Delano Ames

Kind of a beat-up old cover, but best I could find online of the cover I actually have.

Today it's a combo: SHE SHALL HAVE MURDER is my Friday Forgotten post as well as my entry in Bev's VINTAGE MYSTERY READING CHALLENGE.

Don't forget to check in at Patti Abbot's website, PATTINASE, to see what other forgotten books other bloggers are talking about today.

I was not familiar with this author, though his name rings some sort of bell - maybe it's just that the Delano part reminds me of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Anyway, I read a review of this book on one of the blogs (can't remember which one) and decided to take a look. I mean, how could I resist reading a book in which the hero's first name is Dagobert? And what's more, no one in the cast of characters seems to think this is a odd name. So maybe it wasn't - way back when.

I wonder how it's pronounced? I'm assuming - Dago-Bear. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Dagobert Brown is a guy who avoids work as best he can (one wonders how he pays his rent) and is currently determined to have his girlfriend Jane write a mystery set in her office, featuring characters similar to her work-mates. He would write the book himself but he's too busy (doing what - who knows?) and besides, someone has to think up the plot.

Jane Hamish is a very tolerant working girl - a law clerk in an office run by an elderly type named Playfair, an attorney who thinks nothing of postponing work in favor of crossword puzzles. In fact, he prefers to treat his employees as members of one happy family. He's kind of engaging, really. I have to say that of all the characters, Mr. Playfair won me over immediately.

Jane narrates the story and turns an almost blind eye to Dagobert's wilder inclinations and mental leaps of fancy.

Anyway, the law-office has its fair share of typicals with typical problems, including a Lothario named (for reasons I can't figure) Major Jimmy Stewart (no one appears to notice that the name is the same as a famous movie star, but perhaps it's  old news ) who's dated every woman on staff. Besides Jane there's Sarah, the young typist and Rosemary, the older chief clerk who has delusions of romance. There's also a six foot tall weisenheimer office boy who's not above chicanery and a spot of blackmail.

When Mr. Playfair's elderly client, Mrs. Robjohn - a muddle-headed eccentric - dies suddenly of natural causes after first having declared over and over that she was being stalked by killers, Dagobert Brown suspects murder. Though only the day before he'd stated that Mrs. Robjohn was hardly the type to get murdered, it would just be too obvious.

No one else suspects the old lady was done in, but Dagobert will have his way.

Working independently of the cops and with the not-so-willing Jane as his sleuthing partner, Dagobert begins the search for clues - anything that will involve anyone and everyone at the office. He also advises Jane to write every thing down as it happens - for their manuscript's sake.

That's the gist of the plot and the fun, I think, of this mystery is in the personalities of the various characters, as well as the often snappy dialogue. There's also the fun, I think, that Ames obviously had in writing this story.

I'm going to try and locate a couple more Delano Ames books just to see what's what with Dagobert and Jane.

To get a list of all Delano Ames titles, please use this link.


  1. Hi Yvette - this author is a complete stranger to me but it certainly sounds like very eccentric fun! According to Wikipedia he had an interest in French and Spanich history and culture so presumably the detective's name came from the Frankish King of the same name. Fascinating.

  2. It's been quite a while since I read this one. (Long before blogging days, so I have no real reveiw). But I do remember loving it. Thanks for reminding me of it.

  3. Ah, Sergio, so you did your ressearch. Thanks for the info. It is a head scratching name - for sure. But I grew used to it. :)

  4. You're welcome, Bev. It was a welcome discovery for me. :)

  5. I enjoyed this book, too Yvette. I couldn't find much on the author, but apparently he had a sense of humor. In his tongue-in-cheek autobiography, he said he "translated an erudite history of keyboard instruments from the French and believes that at least 100 copies were sold." Unfortunately, our library doesn't have many copies of his works.

  6. Yvette, you may have read my review of "She Shall Have Murder," a couple of years back (!) and/or of "Murder Begins at Home," another Jane-and-Dagobert book, a year or so back. Both have been republished by the Rue Morgue Press. Like you, I enjoy the light touch, though there's nothing light about some of the murders. I think you'd enjoy "Murder Begins at Home"; perhaps you can figure out why Dagobert and Jane, newly arrived in the US, decide to drive from NY to Detroit by way of the American southwest... ;-)

  7. BV: Thanks for dropping by. I found this copy online, very much used. I think the secondary market is the way to go. Libraries have just run out of storage, especially for out of print authors.

    I'm definitely going to look around for more of his work, though.

  8. Maybe I did, Les. I honestly can't remember, but I did think I'd read the review in just the past couple of months. Who knows. I must remember to write these things down. :)

    Rue Morgue is the way to go then if you can't find a good used copy.

  9. First of all I must say that I enjoy the names the author assigns, they crack me up. Sounds like a lot of fun, I will have to check it out.

  10. Ryan, I think you'll enjoy this book. I can't wait to see what I can find of his next.

    I mean, really, Dagobert Brown. Love it.


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