“The Golden Age of Mystery” dates from the 1920 publication of Agatha Christie’s first Hercule Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, through World War II. The era’s gilding arose from the number of excellent mysteries produced and the increased popularity of a genre deemed by the educated as a “natural recreation of noble minds.” After all, it is during this period that a number of writers began to adopt the “fair play rule” in which the story contained all the clues needed to solve the puzzle, thus permitting the reader to match his wits against the fictional detective.
In Elizabeth Hughes Holloway's Cobweb House, Anna Sue Yancy visits her grandfather for the first time at his Pass Christian home (“you pronounce it as if it were spelled Christyan with the accent on the last syllable. Queer and foreign-sounding isn’t it?”). The novel begins in an epistolary fashion in letters sent by Anna to her scientist fiancé in which she describes tense familial relationships and a Voodoo-practicing servant. The missives culminate in a telegram announcing the old man’s death. The fiancé joins Anna on the Gulf Coast and proceeds to prove the death was unnatural and then pinpoints the murderer. Elizabeth Hughes Holloway’s novel first appeared in 1931 as a Dutton Clue Mystery.
Leslie Ford was one of two pseudonyms used by Zenith Jones Brown of Anapolis, Maryland, the author of over sixty novels. Under the name David Frome, she wrote a mystery series set in London, while she reserved Ford for three other series and a run of stand-alone books with American settings. Published by Scribner’s in 1942, Murder with Southern Hospitality takes place in Natchez during the annual tourist pilgrimage of antebellum homes and gardens. Adopting Mary Roberts Rinehart’s “had-I-but-known” retrospective narrative style, the plot revolves around a visiting clubwoman who falls victim to a feud between two old Natchez families.
Dell later reprinted both Cobweb House (#133 in 1946) and Murder with Southern Hospitality (#505 in 1951) in 25-cent paperbacks with maps of the crime scene or locale on the back covers. Such “mapbacks” are now a favorite of collectors.