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Christianna Brand Locked Room Titles

Christianna_brandBorn Mary Christianna Milne in Malaya in 1907, Christianna went on to write ‘The Nurse Matilda’ books for children, as well as three mystery series and ten other novels. Her best known mystery is probably ‘Green for Danger’ (1944), which was made into a film, while her most famous locked room titles are also from the same Inspector Cockrill Series. ‘Death of Jezebel’ and ‘Suddenly at His Residence’ (US title: The Crooked Wreath) are both on Edward D. Hoch’s list of top locked room mysteries, but are often difficult to find these days in paperback or hardcover formats. Fortunately, some of these titles have recently been re-released in ebook formats.

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Christianna Brand Locked Room Novels

Heads You Lose

Heads You Lose (1941)
Inspector Cockrill Series



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Note: I wouldn’t be caught dead in that thing?  

War rages across Europe, as the citizens of London flee to the country. At Pigeonsford, a group of guests pass the time with games and tea, but strong emotions are just below the polite chatter. Grace Morland fas fallen head over heels in love with Stephen Pendock, the local squire, but Pendock’s eyes are on young Francesca Hart. Grace’s jealousy gets the better of her when Fran parades in a new hat. “I wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in a thing like that!” she claims, shortly before she is found dead with the hat on her head – a head no longer connected to her neck. Inspector Cockrill soon discovers that this horrid  murder is not as simple as it first appeared. 

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Crooked Wreath

Suddenly at His Residence (1945)
US Title: The Crooked Wreath
Inspector Cockrill Series


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Note: Another from Hoch’s locked room list!

Sir Richard’s family has waited many years  for his death, but the old man just keeps on living and making their lives miserable, despite a bad heart. His favourite game is changing wills to the advantage of his current favourite. Things reach a climax when he decides to disinherit the whole family, but before  he can  sign the papers – he’s dead. Inspector Cockrill soon discovers that they all had good motive, but which one actually plunged the syringe full of poison into his heart and how was this even possible?

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jezebelDeath of Jezebel (1948)
Inspector Cockrill Series



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Note: A great top ten locked room mystery!

Johnny Wise died seven years ago, but emotions still run high. The past finally comes back to claim revenge at a medieval pageant with eleven knights hidden behind their armour and Jezebel perched high above, all alone in a sealed room – where she is strangled – before she crashes onto the stage. Inspector Cockrill is in the audience, but still unable to account for this impossible murder!

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Tour de ForceTour de Force (1955)
Inspector Cockrill Series



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Note: Cockrill’s working vacation

Inspector Cockrill is not impressed by the group of fellow travellers on his tour and soon abandons all hope of a good vacation. He finally retreats to the safety of a good mystery novel, until the group arrives at the craggy isle of San Juan el Pirata,  where real murder replaces fiction. The body of a woman is found laid out on her bed, in a pool of blood, with fingers clutching the dagger that ended her life. The  local police make Cockrill the primary suspect, meaning he must either solve the murder or face an Italian hangman. Not a true locked room puzzle, but impossibly killed in front of multiple witnesses.

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Christianna Brand Locked Room Short Stories

Buffet UnwelcomeMurder Game (1968)
AKA: The Gemminy Crickets Case
Detective: The Old Man
Collection: Buffet for Unwelcome Guests


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Note: Death by strangulation in a locked office!

Thomas Gemminy is found, strangled, bound, and stabbed in the shoulder, in his locked study. The office is in great disorder and engulfed in flames, with only a single broken window, fifteen above the ground.  The weapon, a letter opener, was taken from the desktop. The police station is located right in front of the house of the lawyer, and was alerted by a phone call from Gemminy, speaking in a desperate voice,  of “something that disappears into thin air.. something strange in the window..  two long arms.”

Originally published in the Brand collection ‘What Dread Hand’ (1968) and EQMM August 1968

Also included in ‘Buffet for Unwelcome Guests’

The format is that of a meal, with the following sections:

Introduction: The World of Christianna Brand,
Part One: Cockrill Cocktails,
After the Event,
Blood Brothers,
The Hornet’s Nest,
Poison in the Cup,
Part Two: Choice of Entrées,
Murder Game,
The Scapegoat,
No More A-Maying …,
Part Three: Something to Clear the Palate,
The Niece from Scotland,
Part Four: Petits Fours,
Hic Jacet …,
The Merry-Go-Round,
Upon Reflection,
From the Balcony …,
Part Five: Black Coffee,
Bless This House,
Such a Nice Man,
The Whispering,
The Hand of God,

Buffet UnwelcomeThe Scapegoat
Inspector Block
Collection:Buffet for Unwanted Guests


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Notes:Gunshot fired from a guarded roof and no murderer found

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“Mr. Mysterioso, a great magician and a cripple, has been invited to lay the cornerstone for a new hospital. He cannot do without his manservant Tom, on whose strong arms he balances himself while walking and standing. And the magician has been receiving threatening letters. There has been a policeman placed on the first floor (the hospital is still under construction and the top floor rooms doesn’t have doors or any other furniture in them) to keep an eye. A photographer has been allowed to take pictures from the roof of the building opposite the stage. During the function, a shot is heard; Tom goes down uttering that he is glad that they killed the wrong man, the photographer has captured everything – Tom going down & Mysterioso looking up towards from where the shot must have been fired, the policeman runs towards the first floor room where the shot was heard only to find a rifle neatly arranged overlooking the cornerstone and no sign of the murderer!”

Also included in the Christianna Brand short story collect ‘Brand X’, and EQMM August 1970.

Buffet UnwelcomeUpon Reflection (1977)
Detective: Mrs. Dorinda Jones
Collection:Buffet for Unwanted Guests


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Note: Murderer disappears inside a Rolls!

This locked room case deals with the impossible disappearance from a Rolls Royce of a man who had apparently stabbed to death the other occupant in the car – a wealthy Arab sheik

Originally published in EQMM August 1977

Also included in ‘Buffet for Unwelcome Guests’ (See ‘Murder Game’)

spottedcatThe Man on The Roof (1984)
Inspector Cockrill 
Collection: Spotted Cat and Other Mysteries


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Note: A locked room story, missed by most lists!

Not included in Lacourbe or Adey, this story first appeared in EQMM in October 1984, and is noted by John Pugmire in More Locked Rooms, and by Mike Tooney in his review of ‘The Spotted Cat and other Mysteries”: Tooney notes:

“English village life is normally uneventful, but not today: The much-despised and suicidal Duke of Hawksmere seems at long last to have followed through with his oft-delayed promise to do himself in: “a good, straight-forward suicide,” thinks Chief Inspector Cockrill, “heralded by the gentleman himself….”

If only it were that simple. The dearly deceased, consistent with the burdensome pattern of his life, has managed to die under most perplexing circumstances that suggest he was murdered; to wit, he seems to have expired in a classic “locked room.”

The ‘Spotted Cat’ also includes:

*Inspector Cockrill – Brand provides an amusing biographical sketch of her most famous detective.
*After the Event – Cockrill takes on a very cold case of Shakespearian murder!
*Blood Brothers – Two identical twins and a pregnant girl set the scene for another Cockrill murder.
*The Hornet’s Nest – Cockrill investigates a poising with multiple solutions!
*Poison in the Cup – A love quadrangle leads to a fake suicide turning into murder.
*The Telephone Call – a young man plots against his wealthy aunt and tries to lay the murder on his cousin to scoop the lot.
*The Kissing Cousin – Aunt Adela had millions – until she was found dead!
*The Rocking-Chair – The women murdered at a village fete – the laid out like a three leaf clover.
*Alleybi – An odd story about doubtful alibis.
*The Spotted Cat: A Play in Three Acts – sometimes bad luck is really a conspiracy.

More Inspector Cockrill Mysteries at – Christianna Brand

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