After seeing the Mrs. Bradley series by PBS/BBC The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries - Series 1 (Speedy Death / The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries) I was intrigued enough to seek out the author of the character. The name Gladys Mitchell sounded vaguely familiar to me, but I could not remember the character at all from my previous exposure to the classic murder mysteries of the 1920s-1950s. I found a list of some of the works by the author and began reading them. The first and earliest Speedy Death (Black Dagger Crime Series), written in the late 1920s, I felt was so poorly written and constructed that I almost decided to give up on them. After reading her book St. Peter's Finger, which was written almost a decade later, I realized that her ability to craft her work had vastly improved, so I undertook to seek out others by the author. The penning of Death at the Opera lies between the two above mentioned books. Written in 1934 it reveals how quickly the author's style improved even before 1940. Though I had been familiar with the title from the Dianna Riggs Mrs. Bradley series, the book bears little in common with the series version other than the title and the involvement of a crime during a school opera. That being the case if you've seen the TV version, you will still enjoy the book, since neither gives the other away. Ms Mitchell's style has improved. She is able to provide a strong narrative presence and very good characterizations. She still has difficulty with conveying the venue, but this may be because there is very little to say about a grade school that is particularly impressive or memorable. Her characters are varied and unique enough to have their own reasons for doing what they do, but they are still a little confusing at times, perhaps because there are so many of them. Given the venue, however, this is almost inevitable. Again the author has chosen death by water; in fact she has an absolute orgy of death by water in this book. Probably more than anything the author has developed a flair for "slight of hands" management of her clues. While she introduces the murderer to the reader, she does so in such a manner as to totally misdirect the reader's attention. She doesn't "cheat," however. If the book is read carefully, the clues are there.
An engrossing whodunit that is suitable for a nice day at the beach or for translation into a PBS mo
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 15 years ago
Charged with the mission of capturing mystery writers from the Golden Age, the Rue Morgue Press has now reprinted such greats as Dorothy Bowers, Constance & Gwenyth Little, Maureen Sarsfield, Margaret Scherf and many others. Gladys Mitchell is among those greats, having been compared to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Mitchell's output was 66 mysteries featuring Mrs. Bradley, a dashing and colorful woman with knowledge of both psychology and the law. DEATH AT THE OPERA was filmed for British television, although details of the book were changed. Diana Rigg portrayed Mrs. Bradley. Calma Ferris, the unassuming arithmetic teacher in Hillmaston Coeducational Day School, has decided to underwrite the school's latest production, THE MIKADO. She is pressed into service as Katisha, a part for which she is woefully unprepared. Ferris has an uncanny knack of offending people, and thus ends up murdered before the second act of the opera. Enter Mrs. Beatrice Lestrange Bradley, called in by the publicity-minded headmaster to ascertain just who killed the quiet and virtuous Miss Ferris. But first, Mrs. Bradley has to take matters in hand: "'It seems to me,' Mrs. Bradley remarked, 'that the evidence in support of the theory that Miss Ferris was murdered in the lobby is sufficiently strong to warrant further investigation, but not sufficiently tangible to offer to the authorities. I have reason to believe'-she took out her notebook-'that, as the result of a collision in the corridor, Miss Ferris had her glasses broken and sustained a small deep cut just beneath one eye. She went into the water lobby to bathe the cut, and I have not found out yet that anyone went with her.'" Mitchell's style of writing is quite formal and extremely articulate, and her command of the plot and facts points to an exacting and logical mind. Mrs. Bradley is a kind woman who has no time for fools, and her character is at once a little repulsive (with claw type of hands and a beak like face) and fascinating. She puts her suspects at their ease until they reveal themselves. DEATH AT THE OPERA is an engrossing whodunit that is suitable for a nice day at the beach or for translation into a PBS movie. Angela Lansbury might be a great Mrs. Bradley! Shelley Glodowski Senior Reviewer
Despite "Death in the Wet," Not Wet Behind the Ears
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
The first Gladys Mitchell I ever read, and, again, one of her best. The plot involves three separate strands, both built around the various notions of death by drowning: the death of a snooping schoolmistress in the bathroom at the performance of The Mikado; the death of a madwoman in an asylum who fell into an ornamental pond; and an acquitted wife killer, George Bryan Cutler, based on George Joseph Smith, murdering two other people, and attempting to murder Mrs. Bradley. The ending is ingenious, with one of the most incredible motives ever to grace a detective fiction novel, though the book shares some similarities with "Speedy Death" and "St. Peter's Finger," in the scene of the crime and the method.
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