Monday, June 28, 2021

Mystery Monday: The Indomitable Mrs. Bradley

Mystery Monday: The Indomitable Mrs. Bradley 

Despite publishing nearly eighty novels, crime fiction author Gladys Mitchell and her books have fallen into oblivion. Sixty-six of her books feature Dame Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, a medical doctor and psychoanalyst, and advisor to the British Home Office. Her career began in the 1929 book Speedy Death and ended in 1984 with The Crozier Pharaohs. 
Author Mitchell was born in Oxford in 1901, and she appears to have had an uneventful childhood. Upon graduation from college she became a history and English teacher. Over the course of her career, she worked at several schools and retired in 1961. She wrote one to two novels per year until her death. 
Part of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, amateur sleuth Mrs. Bradley appears a full year before Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, but seven years after Christie’s Tuppence Beresford, and is diametrically to the two. Whereas Miss Marple is elderly and sweet, and Tuppence is young and pretty, Mrs. Bradley is described in Speedy Death as: 

“dry without being shriveled, and bird-like without being pretty. She reminded Alastair Bing...of the
reconstruction of a pterodactyl he had once seen in a German museum. There was the same inhuman malignity in her expression as in that of the defunct bird, and, like it, she had a cynical smirk about her mouth even when her face was in repose...Strange to say, her voice belied her appearance, for, instead of the birdlike twitter one might have expected to hear issuing from those beaked lips, her utterance was slow, mellifluous, and slightly drawled; unctuous, rich, and reminiscent of dark, smooth treacle.”
Isn’t that a fantastic description? 
According to scholars, Mrs. Bradley’s views and those of her assistant, about the social and philosophical issues of the time reflect those of her creator, giving readers a self-portrait of Mitchell and a feel for the postwar era of the 1920s. 
Mrs. Bradley solves her investigations with a mixture of psychoanalysis, common sense, humor, and a heavy dose of sarcasm. The husband of her assistant, Laura, is conveniently a detective with Scotland Yard. 
Rather than dump Mrs. Bradley’s entire biography and skillset in one book, Mitchell sprinkles information about the character throughout the series. As readers partake of the novels, they find the indomitable sleuth to highly literate, and a better bridge player than Burns or Sir William, and adept at pool and snooker. She is a “brilliant darts player” and can throw a knife as well as being a “dead shot with an air gun. She was nonplussed when being attacked by a would-be murderer. Her outlandish outfits, often combinations of “bright velvet, sulphur and orange,” and “sulphur, tartan and odd shades of blue” indicate her indifference to what other people think. 
Unlike most authors who either stick to a timeline and age their character accordingly or never age their characters, Gladys Mitchell appeared to pay no attention to a timeline. A study of her books indicate that Mrs. Bradley was 130 years old by the end of the series! She was portrayed on television by Diana Rigg, and on radio by Margaret Yarde and Mary Wimbush. 
Have you read any of the Mrs. Bradley books? 

Murder at Madison Square Garden

The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare. 
Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit? 
Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?

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