Murder in MESS: The Crimson Cat by Francis Grierson (1944)

Like Cecil Freeman Gregg whom I read recently, Francis Grierson is another prolific writer who is virtually unknown today. Here is an informative post on him:

Grierson’s series character, Superintendent George Muir is at the Ministry of Estimates and Social Service (MESS) when the novel opens. He is there to investigate the leaks that the Minister fears has led to financial speculation and profit. As Muir is getting the facts from the Minister Sir Thomas Barny, the Controller Mr. Horatio Primble, and the Director Roger Aboyne, a woman’s high-pitched scream interrupts the meeting:

“What the devil was that?” Sir Thomas demanded.

“Hysterics, probably,” Mr. Primble opined sourly: he had never approved of the admission of women to Government service.

Realising it is not hysterics, the four men rush outside to find a woman sobbing wildly and gesticulating at a partially open door:

“He’s dead,” she whimpered. “In there. Someone must have killed him. It- it couldn’t have been the cat.”

With these enigmatic words, begins the investigation into the murder of the Assistant Controller, Oscar Troon.

George Muir is a likeable hero who is good to his men. It was also nice to read about his loving relationship with his wife, Gloria. The mystery too was okay and I liked it though the author devotes a little too much time to describing food and drinks and general silly talk. That was entertaining at first but soon the description of dishes and drinks became repetitive and the frivolous talk started getting on my nerves. Had the author cut all that out, it’d have shortened the book and made it more interesting. And if I hear about one more restaurant in London that was known for its exclusivity and where one could hardly get a table but where the hero and his wife were always welcome, I’ll scream! Was dining out such a status symbol during the thirties and the forties?


First Line: “In plain words, Mr. Muir,” concluded Sir Thomas Barly, Minister of Estimates and Social Service, “the position is so serious that if the leakage of information is not stopped this Ministry may as well close its doors.”

Publication Details: London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1944

First published: 1944

Pages: 271

7 thoughts on “Murder in MESS: The Crimson Cat by Francis Grierson (1944)

  1. I love it that you find so many forgotten authors to share, Neeru. Even if this one wasn’t outstanding or stellar, it still sounds like a decent mystery and a look at that era. That’s an interesting point about restaurants, too. There are, of course, plenty of very exclusive restaurants today, but I don’t read a lot of novels in which the characters make much of them (only two or three that I can think of). Interesting change over time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love reading forgotten authors, Margot. The book was very engrossing in the beginning but unfortunately turned repetitive later on. The identity of the murderer was also a let-down. Lately, I seem to have been reading a lot of books where a restaurant occupies an important space and am quite tired of it:) Interesting point you make of modern novels. Next time I read one, I will pay attention whether there is an important restaurant in it or not:)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “Was dining out such a status symbol during the thirties and the forties?”
    No, but in 1944 people had food rations – limited, healthy and very boring – for what they could eat at home. Restaurants were limited as to how much they could charge, but they could produce more exciting food.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to the blog, Rawdon Crawley. Thanks for the reply. Never thought of equating the restaurant scene with the food shortages so am glad you have pointed it out. Aspects of history that are revealed unexpectedly are so interesting.

      Would love you to visit regularly.


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