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J. J. Connington Locked Room Titles

conningtonAlfred Walter Stewart (September 1880 – 1 July 1947) was a British chemist and part-time novelist who wrote seventeen detective novels and a pioneering science fiction work between 1923 and 1947 under the pseudonym of JJ Connington. He created several fictional detectives, including Superintendent Ross and Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield.

Born in Glasgow in 1880, Stewart was the youngest of three sons of the Reverend Dr. Stewart, Clerk to the University Senate and Professor of Divinity. After attending Glasgow High School he entered Glasgow University, graduating 1907, taking chemistry as his major. His outstanding performance earned him the Mackay-Smith scholarship.

After spending a year in Marburg engaging in research under Theodor Zincke, he was elected to an Exhibition Scholarship and in 1903 entered University College, London. Here he began independent research. His work, which formed part of his thesis, gained him a DSc degree from Glasgow University and he was soon elected to a Carnegie Research Fellowship (1905–1908).

He decided to pursue an academic career and in 1908 wrote Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry which proved to be a popular textbook whose success encouraged him to write a companion volume on Inorganic and Physical Chemistry in 1909.

In 1909 Stewart was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast and in 1914 was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity at the University of Glasgow. During World War I he worked for the Admiralty. In 1918 he drew attention to the result of a beta particle change in a radioactive element and suggested the term isobar as complementary to isotope.

He retired from his academic work in 1944 following recurrent heart problems.

Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr were both great admirers of Stewart’s mysteries, and Carr’s first novel in 1930 mentioned two of Stewart’s earlier novels – Murder in the Maze & The Nine Wrong Answers.

Edited from Wikipedia

Gadetection Notes: Sources: Nick Fuller and Mike Grost

The Detective Fiction of J.J. Connington
“Mr. Connington has established his name in the front rank of detective story writers. His particular strength lies in his respect for his readers’ intelligence, and his stories are essentially puzzles with honestly worked out solutions. He does not make it as difficult as he can for the reader to detect the murderer very early on, and does not load his stage with dummies, for he has realised that a story is just as good reading when the reader feels he is no befogged Watson but worthy to join in the hunt, and that establishing the evidence against a criminal may be as exciting as finding out who he is.” – Times Literary Supplement, 8th November 1928

J.J. Connington has suffered from the unfortunate belief that he was a highly ingenious deviser of puzzles but that his stories lacked any human warmth. It is certainly true that his murder methods often rely on scientific principles – e.g. agoraphobia, “twilight sleep” and bends. On the other hand, the county whose chief town is Ambledown and whose chief constable, Sir Clinton Driffield, invariably finds himself involved in murder, comes across as a real place, offering the modern reader a picture of rural life among the upper middle classes between the wars, and in certain books – e.g. The Dangerfield Talisman, Murder in the Maze and Jack-in-the-Box – one feels an interest in the characters stronger than wondering which of them did it. Yet it is always to Connington’s ingenious, carefully thought out and complicated problems that one returns.

Notes: Unfortunately, Stewart wrote only one locked room title, but most are truly great classic mystery reads. See our page on all J J Connington mysteries at 

masters humdrum

Alfred Walter Stewart is one of the “Humdrum” mystery writers, along with Cecil Street (AKA John Rhode & Miles Burton) and Freeman Wills Crofts. This was a title given by critic Julian Symons, but they are not really boring at all. See Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961 by Curtis J. Evans 

J.J. Connington Locked Room Novels

dim shadowIn Whose Dim Shadow (1939)
AKA: The Tau Cross Mystery
Detective: Sir Clinton Driffield

Locked Room Review

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Note: A great puzzle plot writer who wrote only one locked room!

In this Clinton Driffield mystery, the action moves away from a country setting to the English suburbs, inhabited by a cast of unusual diversity: an ambitious young policeman, a naive journalist, an elderly clerk with dreams of foreign travel and an unhappily married Frenchwoman.

This meticulously clued mystery shows Connington at his compelling best and ends with a satisfying flourish. J J Connington wrote many great puzzle plots, but this is his only locked room mystery!

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More on In Whose Dim Shadow – Pietro de Palma (translation)

Complete J.J Connington Mystery Bibliography

Locked Room 101: The Masters

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