Thursday, June 01, 2006

Some of the best news in book publishing these days is the emergence of several paperback houses specializing in bringing to readers out-of-print or otherwise unavailable crime novels. New York bookseller Maggie Topkis has launched another one while my attention was diverted, and one of her early effort turns out to be a rare treasure.
From its understated, eloquent design (with a 1923 photograph of a titled British lady on the cover) through its description and dialogue which ring as true as a silver spoon on a Royal Doulton teacup, Death in the Garden is a wonderfully original mystery set in the world of the British aristocracy - – which received some wise reviews and became the favorite mystery of readers who never quite got over the retirement from crime writing of Dorothy L. Sayers.
There are touches of Sayers in Ironside’s story: some bitterly ironic overtones from World War One that clouded the years between the wars later recalled as “the long English summer.” The book starts with a young woman named Diana Pollexfen hearing the verdict on charges that she poisoned her husband at her 30th birthday party in 1925; then moves ahead 60 years to introduce Diana’s grand-niece, Helena – a London lawyer who is also just turning thirty, and who becomes the heir to both Diana’s country estate and the mysteries of her life.