Cover image for Death in fancy dress
Death in fancy dress
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections
Physical Description:
xii, 249 pages ; 20 cm.
General Note:
"Death in fancy dress" originally published in 1933. "Horseshoes for luck" and "The cockroach and the tortoise" first published in Detection Medley in 1939.
Death in fancy dress -- Horseshoes for luck -- The cockroach and the tortoise.
Corporate Subject:
"The British Secret Service, working to uncover a large-scale blackmail ring and catch its mastermind 'The Spider,' find themselves at the country residence Feltham Abbey, where a fancy-dress ball is in full swing. In the chaos of celebration, Sir Ralph Feltham is discovered dead and Tony, a bewildered yet curious guest, sets out to make sense of the night's activities as well as the motives of the other benevolent-appearing partygoers. This classic country house mystery, first published in 1933, contrasts the frivolities of the English upper classes with the impact of the First World War"--


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Mystery crime fiction written in the Golden Age of Murder

At a soirée like this, anyone can be the life--or death--of the party.

The British Secret Service, working to uncover a large-scale blackmail ring and catch its mysterious mastermind 'The Spider', find themselves at the country residence Feltham Abbey where a fancy-dress ball is in full swing.

In the tumult of revelry, Sir Ralph Feltham is found dead. Not the atmosphere bewildered guest Tony was expecting, he sets out make sense of the night's activities and the motives of the other guests. Among them is Hilary, an independently minded socialite still in her costume of vivid silk pyjamas and accompanying teddy bear.

This classic country house mystery contrasts the splendours and frivolities of the English upper classes with the sombre over-hang of the First World War and the irresistible complications of deadly familial relationships.

Includes an introduction by Martin Edwards and featuring the short stories 'Horseshoes for Luck' and 'The Cockroach and the Tortoise'

Author Notes

ANTHONY GILBERT is a pen name of Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973) and Death in A Fancy Dress is one of her finest works. It appeared just before Malleson introduced the mystery readership to her famed, unconventional, and magnificently named, detective Arthur Crook.Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer best known for two series of novels set in Liverpool and the Lake District. He is series consultant for British Library Crime Classics, the Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' Association, and President of the Detection Club. The Golden Age of Murder, his study of the Detection Club, was published in 2015 to international acclaim, and has been nominated for both the Edgar and Agatha awards for the year's best book about the genre.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this standout entry in the British Library Crime Classics series from Gilbert (a pseudonym of Lucy Malleson, 1899--1973), first published in 1933, lawyer Tony Keith and his friend Jeremy Freyne travel to Feltham Abbey at the request of the Home Office, which is unsettled by a baffling rash of suicides of people who had either money or "rank and position." That each of the dead raised large sums of money for various unstated purposes leads officials to believe that a sophisticated blackmailer known as the Spider was responsible for the suicides. Hilary Feltham, the fiancée of a Foreign Office employee, is believed to be the Spider's next target, and Keith and Freyne hope their presence at Feltham Abbey will avert disaster. A murder occurs, despite their best efforts. The ingenious story line is enhanced by ample doses of wit (of Freyne, Keith states, "when you heard of some white man with the reputation of a lunatic, doing anything particularly futile in some obscure British protectorate, you could bet your boots Jeremy wasn't far off"). Gilbert neatly combines Wodehousian humor with a fair play puzzle. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

Did your New Year's Eve leave you feeling underwhelmed? Tuck into this reprint from 1933 whose centerpiece is a country-house party complete with everything from costumes to a corpse.The pseudonymous Gilbertreal name Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973)spins a web whose center, according to Edward Philpotts of the Home Office, is the Spider, a well-placed blackmailer he suspects is behind a recent rash of upper-class suicides. So he's eager to have solicitor Tony Keith root around in his relatives' home, Feltham Abbey, where Philpotts thinks Tony's cousin Hilary Feltham is the latest blackmailing victim. That suits Tony, who's received a frantic summons to Feltham by Lady Eleanor Nunn, the widow of Hilary's father, Sir Percy Feltham, who topped himself over a family financial scandal back in 1917, leaving her to rescue her own fortunes by marrying Sir James Nunn. And it suits Tony's old school friend Jeremy Freyne, who's just learned that Hilary, the woman he loves, has become engaged to Arthur Dennis, of the Foreign Office. While Tony looks for signs of the Spider, Jeremy will tag along, elbow this interloper Dennis aside, and sweep Hilary off her feet once more. Other interested parties turn out to have plans of their own. Sir James and Lady Eleanor want to throw a party for Hilary's 21st birthday, when she's due to come into the 10,000 pounds her father salvaged from the general wreck of his estate. Sir Ralph Feltham, Hilary's cousin, seems intent on blackmailing everyone he meets. Arthur Dennis rather winningly suggests killing Ralph. And when Ralph fails to turn up at Hilary's party, it's for the best reason in the world. The result is a country-house whodunit on steroids, with hyperextended expository paragraphs, gossip on tap 24/7, endless blather, and a meticulously detailed explanation at the end. As a bonus, readers can enjoy a pair of short stories from 1939 that show how much sharper the author's voice became in the interval.The fey main event couldn't be more different from Gilbert's tales of scalawag solicitor Arthur Crook. Retro fans rejoice. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

The long shadow of WWI hangs over this inventive country-house mystery, first published in 1933 and now reissued as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. The central mystery centers on a string of suicides committed by aristocrats and the very well-off, starting with a toff putting a bullet in his head in 1917 and including "Sir Vere Porter, who pitched himself out of a window"; a girl "who strangled herself with her own silk stockings"; and any number of suspicious hunting, boating and swimming accidents. A government agent, working with the CID, recruits two young men (both served in the trenches), one a lawyer (who serves as the tale's narrator) and the other his playboy buddy. The commonality among the suicides is that all the victims received a phone call or letter beforehand that shook them up. A blackmail ring is suspected, and the young recruits are asked to attend a country-house party at Feltham Abbey, where a young woman (the playboy's girlfriend) has received disturbing phone calls. A bold murder is committed at a masked ball that weekend, reminiscent of Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death." The narrator's jaunty tone, very like a '30s movie, is a perfect vehicle for delivering wicked social commentary and a complicated, unnerving plot. Everything you could wish for in a country-house mystery. "Anthony Gilbert" was the pen name of Lucy Beatrice Malleson.