The Summer School Mystery by Josephine Bell
[A dead body has been found in the tympanum used by a music school orchestra]
She was dressed in the universal young girl’s printed summer frock, with short sleeves and a full skirt…
Brenda took up the tale. ‘We wear black dresses, long ones mostly, for concerts, and the men wear dark suits. We change afterwards. Nobody would go home on a bus or train in a long black dress in the middle of a summer afternoon.’
‘No,’ agreed the Inspector. ‘They wouldn’t. So you saw Miss Power changing. What did she put on?’
‘Her ordinary dress. One of her summer ones…with a pattern on it. I’ve never noticed the pattern much; I couldn’t say exactly what it was— flowers of some sort.’
The other girls agreed. A … printed dress, either cotton or rayon, and sandals. No coat. ‘You are sure she had no coat with her?’ asked the Inspector.
‘She was going to pack up her timps. She said so. I think she had a coat and left it on her peg.’
Josephine Bell wrote a huge number of detective stories, while also working as a doctor – there is a House-like diagnosis in this book – and her occasional detective, David Wintringham, seems an amiable fellow. From this book you would guess she had some solid musical knowledge too.
Links up with: London Particular and Tiger in the Smoke are murder stories set in the same era and place. There is a minor trail in this book – a gang of spivs and deserters – which, like Tiger, gives a glimpse of the people who found it hard to settle after the war. Big drums feature in Cousin Teresa’s music-hall act. Clothes to play music in featured in this entry and its follow-up.
The photo is from the Smithsonian Archive of American Art and is of a woman called Katherine Schmidt, taken by her husband Yasuo Kuniyoshi.