Three Black Mysteries: Black Corridors (1940), Black Thumb (1942), and Black Curl (1953)

Australian sisters, Constance and Gwenyth (or Conyth, as they were collectively called) are on the list of my favourite authors and it is always wonderful to come across their books. Earlier, this year, I read The Black Dream and here are three more of their mysteries that I read this year (in the order I read them):

The Black Curl: The last of the twenty-one mysteries published by the authors, this one is distinct from their earlier works that I have read: it has a male character as its protagonist and the story is narrated from his point-of-view.

Bill Runson is already tense when he receives a telegram from his stepmother informing him about her arrival, along with her daughter, Madeleine, who had bullied Bill when young. His bad mood is aggravated when his cousin Eliot declares that he is overreacting. And then his maid, Mrs. Goodhue, puts in her notice as she wasn’t informed in advance about the arrival of the guests. Usually, Bill pleads with Mrs. Goodhue to stay but this time, he stays firm and instead hires another woman, Mrs. Reilly, in her place. But then Mrs. Goodhue returns and Bill has to contend with two maids at logger-heads. Further, Mrs. Reilly has a son who drops in often and as often as that drops dead in a faint. Add to it that somebody puts water in Bill’s hair lotion and clips a curl off his head when he is asleep. And all that before a corpse is discovered…

This was a fun read but the criminal’s plan was very weak.

First Line: Bill Runson was frowning at a telegram when his cousin Eliot Runson walked into his office.

Publication Details: 1953. Lyons: Rue Morgue Press, 2007

Pages: 160

Source: Open Library


Black Corridors: Jessie Warren, the narrator of the story, is in a bad mood because she has to accompany her wealthy, hypochondriac aunt to the hospital. At regular intervals, Aunt Isabelle becomes convinced that she is very ill and takes off to the hospital. This time, Isabelle finds that the room she usually occupies has been given to another patient, Ames Baker. At this, she creates such a ruckus that finally the hospital staff shift the sleeping Baker to another room. Only when he wakes up, he makes a big noise about his wallet which he claims he had kept in the bureau of the room he was in earlier. Everybody- Baker’s family members, nurses, doctors, Jessie…get into the act of searching for the wallet which keeps appearing and disappearing. The wallet remains elusive but Jessie does find a number of corpses…

I know the Little mysteries are screwball comedies but this one took it too far. I cannot believe the police can be as incompetent as this. The rooms cannot even be latched but there is no proper lighting and the police don’t seem to take the murder seriously. The cop who is put on guard after the second murder goes off to sleep in a spare room. For the first time, I found myself getting irritated at the Littles.

First line: A long, low, dark blue ambulance turned in at the gate and purred expensively up at the gravelled drive.

Publication Details: 1940. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1941

Pages: 252

Other Opinions: Crossexamining Crime


Black Thumb: This too has a hospital setting but thankfully reads much better than the previous one. Trainee nurse, Norma Gale, is horrified when a wicker chair is chopped up when she has her duty. The suspicion falls on patient Jason Caddock, who is supposed to be slightly crazy and he is promptly removed from the ward. However, soon patient Agnes Dana, who has the habit of singing ‘John Brown’s Body’ at odd intervals, ends up like the wicker chair. Soon another patient too is brutally chopped. Who is the person behind all these vicious killings? This, despite the macabre way of killing, was a much better read and the relations between the various nurses, doctors, policemen, and patients were described humorously. Also there were moments of delicious terror. I enjoyed this though couldn’t understand the significance of the black thumb.

First line: Heat pressed in thru the high screened windows like damp wool and lay against my throat and face with an unpleasant smothering effect.

Publication Details: 1942. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1943

Pages: 160

Other Opinions: Crossexamining Crime; My Reader’s Block


So glad to have read these three but none could surpass what is my favourite read of theirs so far: The Black Lady. Have you read the sisters? Which one is your favourite?


7 thoughts on “Three Black Mysteries: Black Corridors (1940), Black Thumb (1942), and Black Curl (1953)

  1. These so sound like such interesting authors, Neeru. Even though their work’s not perfect, it sounds as though they create solid atmospheres, and I do like wit in a book. I may have to look them up sometime.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.