The Femme of the Past for this month is Dorothy Bowers (1902-1948). This young Englishwoman had a short career as a mystery writer; she died from tuberculosis at the age of 46. She published only five novels, and they are not nearly as well known as they should be. I believe that, had she lived longer and continued to produce work of the same quality, she would have been as well known today as some of her peers -- Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie.
Four of the novels feature as a secondary character Inspector Dan Pardoe, but he is never the centerpiece of the books. Her fifth and final novel, The Bells of Old Bailey, was not part of the series. The Rue Morgue Press reprinted the books, and it is thanks to these reprints that I was able to discover a writer who has become one of my favorite of all the Golden Age detective story writers.
Why do I admire Bowers so much, and rank her alongside the great ladies of the era? The quality of the writing, her ability to create memorable characters and interesting situations, and the psychological acuity she demonstrates in her portrayal of human nature -- these are the reasons I find her so outstanding. Two of the books I consider classics of the genre: the fourth Pardoe book, Fear and Miss Betony (known as Fear for Miss Betony in the UK), and her final novel, The Bells of Old Bailey (known as The Bells at Old Bailey in the UK). Miss Betony is a fascinating story of an older woman who finds herself in a difficult, even terrifying, situation, and Old Bailey is a shrewd examination of the psychology of the English village where the writer of poison pen letters is at work.
If you love Golden Age detection fiction and have yet to discover Dorothy Bowers, you have quite a treat awaiting you.