Francis Beeding: The Norwich Victims

Elizabeth Orme: Who held a final clue to the mystery without being aware of it.

Elizabeth Orme: Who held a final clue to the mystery without being aware of it.

The Norwich Victims
Francis Beeding
First published in the UK 1931
This edition Arcturus Publishing, 2013
ISBN: 9781782124429
254 pages
Source: Publisher review copy – thanks Arcturus!

 

‘If Miss Haslett left her money in Paris, why on earth should she have been murdered on her return with empty pockets to London?’
Martin nodded gravely.
‘That sir, is a bit of a facer, and the going doesn’t look any too good at  the moment.’
The Chief Inspector held up a warning hand.
‘There is just one thing I don’t want you to tell me about the Brighton truck mystery.’ he said. ‘I’ve heard it too often of late.’
‘Meaning, sir?’
‘Don’t come back and tell me that this is the perfect crime.’

The opening to The Norwich Victims is a bit of a joy – a collection of photos of some of the principle players. Hermione Taylor, ‘prepared to commit murder, but not to make a habit of it’. John Throgmorton, ‘whose crimes are obvious, but not easily detected.’ Not a feature I’ve ever seen in a book before.

Miss Veronica Haslett, the spinsterish housekeeper at a Norwich prep school, ‘neat grey hair strained almost to breaking point to form a hard bun at the back of the head’, wins 750,000 francs in the French lottery. Ignoring the prudent advice of the school’s headteacher, Robert Hedlam, she falls straight into the hands of a dodgy investment advisor named John Throgmorton.

The Norwich VictimsNo sooner has she arrived in London and anxiously chartered her first taxi than Throgmorton and his live-in ‘secretary’ Hermione Taylor have done her in. Taylor disguises herself as Miss Haslett, flies to Paris and collects the poor old dear’s winnings. Miss Haslett ends up in a sack on a railway truck bound for Brighton. Meanwhile, Throgmorton rigs up a convincing alibi that proves all-but-unbreakable when Scotland Yard gets on the case.

Coincidentally, Inspector Martin of the Yard is stepping out with Elizabeth Orme, niece of Robert Hedlam. The relationship takes him up to Norwich regularly and he picks ups the investigation thanks to his local connections. Martin (in his photo, he’s unfortunately reminiscent of a certain politician at his most ham-faced) is a fast worker and soon has his suspicions about Throgmorton. But the ‘crimes are obvious, but not easily detected‘ – remember?

The plot is thickened by Greening, a teacher at the prep school with an unfortunate taste for the London high life which leads him into the hands of Throgmorton in his secondary capacity as a moneylender.

This is a mix of inverted mystery – we are privy to all of Throgmorton’s machinations and follow Inspector Martin’s investigation as it progresses – and suspense. The crimes are far from over and there is no knowing how far the evil stockbroker will go.

The style is warm and readable, and the book was finished almost before I knew it – always a great recommendation. Definitely one to check out.


‘Francis Beeding’ was actually two people – Hilary St George Saunders and John Palmer – who together wrote more than 30 novels 1925 and 1946, including The House of Dr. Edwardes which was adapted by Hitchcock as Spellbound. This book was also filmed, as Dead Men Tell No Tales in 1939, but I can’t find much information online.

See also: Martin Edwards on The Norwich Victims

Final destination: A keeper


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Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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21 Responses to Francis Beeding: The Norwich Victims

  1. John says:

    Hmm… My US edition doe not have those photos you talk about. Is it something that Arcturus added, I wonder? Do all of their editions have that feature? I’ve only ever owned the US edition of NORWICH VICTIMS and I’m holding one in my hands right now. Not only no photos, no illustrations at all — except the one on the nifty DJ. Never seen the original UK. Maybe it came from the UK 1st. But somehow…I doubt it.

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    • westwoodrich says:

      Hmm, some detective work is called for. They *look* authentic to me. I’ve asked Arcturus for a scan to share as I’m away from home at the moment.

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      • John says:

        Sheer coincindence — I happened to come across a copy of the Hodder & Stoughton edition (a later printing as it turns out) of THE NORWICH VICTIMS and those photos are inside. So they were part of the first edition of Beeding’s book and all subsequent H & S reprints. A shame the US edition dispensed with them. I like them a lot. I wonder who all those people were? Models or employees of the publishing company?

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  2. I have always liked the Beeding novels but have not read this one so will be leaping at the chance now, thanks chum. I still think their DEATH WALKS IN EASTREPPS is a masterpiece of sorts!

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  3. This one was on my radar, but your review has turned it into a must-read. Photos to match! That’s my area! Got to go and check that out….

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  4. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I’m fond of these Arcturus books, as they seem to be bringing some worthy novels back into print. Alas, several have turned up in my local Works branch – which is good for me, as they cost less, but doesn’t indicate their titles are selling so well…. Shame!

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  5. I can confirm that the photos did appeal in the original book, and they definitely contribute to the pleasure of the book (to say more would be a spoiler.) I urged Arcturus – an excellent publisher – to consider this book, and to include the photos if they did so, and I’m really glad they have made it widely available again. I much enjoyed re-reading it even though I knew the clever plot twist.

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  6. westwoodrich says:

    I’ve added one of the photos above. Moira, would you call that a duffel-coat-button dress with Peter Pan collar?

    And to echo Martin – they do add something at the end as well as the beginning. I’m glad they’re authentic.

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    • You’re good on buttons, Rich, and less so on collars. Too pointy to be Peter Pan, but nice try. I have now read this book, and will be blogging on it soon, and can only reinforce what you and Martin say: great book, must-read.

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  7. westwoodrich says:

    And I’m happy to report the Arcturus website is back up. Their crime classics list can be found here:
    http://www.arcturuspublishing.com/files/catalogues/Adult_2013.pdf

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  8. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have just finished reading another book by the author “Death Walks in Eastrepps”. This is a really superb book of suspense and mystery involving a serial killer. A page turner with a clever solution. ( I borrowed the eBook version from the Open Library)

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  9. Keishon says:

    I found another one her novels to try since this one is hard to find. And “Death Walks in Eastrepps” (from above comment) sounds intriguing. I must hunt that one down.

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  10. TracyK says:

    Sorry I came to this so late. It sounds very interesting and the photos sound great. Can’t get it here now, but someday…

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  11. mikeripley says:

    I just assumed the photos in “The Norwich Victims” were genuinely from the original edition when I used two of them in my column in Shots Magazine (http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/column_view.aspx?COLUMNIST_ID=1). Arcturus are indeed to be praised for producing some splendid books by excellent writers, not just Beeding but also Victor Canning and Francis Iles. Getting advance information of them (let alone review copies!) is a bit like pulling teeth though.

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    • westwoodrich says:

      I should have linked to that! It was in your column that I first heard of Francis Beeding – the title caught my eye as I’m a Norwich resident. Thanks for the lead – I really enjoyed it and it seems others are too.

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  12. mikeripley says:

    I realised your resided in that FIne City (as once, did I) but refrained from commenting on the fortunes of the Canaries. However, since Saturday things are looking up… If you let me have an email address I’ll let you know when the next column’s due. (mikeripley [at] virginmedia.com)

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  13. Pingback: Crime fiction pick of the month: February 2014 | Past Offences

  14. Santosh Iyer says:

    Both The Norwich Victims and Death Walks in Eastrepps are superb books and should be read by mystery fans.
    I have just read another book The House of Dr. Edwardes, but I did not like it. It is more a thriller than a mystery. It is said that the Hitchcock film Spellbound is based on it, but I found that the two stories are totally different.

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  15. Pingback: The Norwich Victims (1931): A Stupendous Read by Francis Beeding | crossexaminingcrime

  16. Pingback: ‘A full account of how to make a jam omelette’: The #1930book round-up | Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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