By Dean (aka Miranda) James
For the second in my series of glances backwards at notable Femmes Fatales of times past, I settled on the American detective story writer Elizabeth Daly (1878-1967). Born in New York City and educated at Bryn Mawr and Columbia University, she was said to have had a lifelong interest in puzzles and detective stories. Her series of sixteen detective stories, beginning in 1940 with Unexpected Night, all feature bibliophile and amateur sleuth Henry Gamadge.
Gamadge is an urbane and well-educated man who grew up in the East Sixties of New York City. Always interested in books, he works as a rare book and manuscript expert, and indeed some of his cases are connected with obscure volumes. During the course of the series he meets an attractive young damsel-in-distress, Clara Dawson, who becomes Mrs. Gamadge. They have a son, a cat named Martin (who is not a pet, merely a cat who came and stayed), and an assistant.
In her sixties when she began her career as a mystery writer, Daly quickly became a favorite of readers for her clear prose and superbly plotted and crafted novels. No less a writer than Agatha Christie was said to have named Daly as her favorite American detective story writer. Daly is a big favorite of mine as well. I love the atmosphere of New York in the 1940s in her books, and Gamadge is a most attractive sleuth. Felony & Mayhem Press is reprinting many of the series, and for the true detective story fan, these books are a must read.