Arthur G. Crook

Created by Anthony Gilbert
Pseudonym of Lucy Beatrice Malleson
(1899-1973)

“My clients are never guilty.”
— Arthur’s motto

The aptly-named ARTHUR G. CROOK is a rather shifty, but charming London lawyer-detective who doesn’t seem to know much law, but is apparently more than willing to do just about anything or go just about anywhere for his clients. That includes faking evidence and brow-beating witnesses. He doesn’t so much solve crimes as bash things around until he gets the outcome he desires.

Part of Crook’s appeal (and that’s surely what it is — you don’t write that many books if nobody’s reading them) is surely that he’s so clearly not just one of the people, but so for the people. No snooty Lord Mucky-muck pretensions here — he’s a lower-class Cockney, a legal grunt with questionable taste in clothing, and a weakness for vulgar, gaudy cars and beer. He’s loud, obnoxious and cheerfully sexist, but clearly devoted to his clients. One wag describes him as “a bright red face, bright red hair and a bright red car,” and that about sums him up.

In the course of his adventures, Arthur travels all over England, from the most fog-shrouded and gloomiest of moors and most high-faluting of country estates to the seediest mean streets and dark alleys and cutthroat pubs London can offer. Don’t Open the Door! (1945) is supposedly one of the better books in the series, with a good depiction of England during the war. But the entire series has been noted for its skillful plotting, lively supporting characters, entertaining dialogue, and clever action — without exaggerating violence.

Anthony Gilbert was actually Lucy Beatrice Malleson. For many years her gender was kept secret, and most readers assumed that the author was a man. She also wrote straight fiction, often with a Victorian flavour, under a variety of pen names, including J. Keith, J. Kilmeny Keith and Anne Meredith, but she was best known for her crime novels, particularly those featuring Crook, who appeared in fifty-one books.

RIYL

NOVELS

  • Murder by Experts (1936)Buy this book
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There (1937)
  • Murder Has No Tongue (1937)
  • Treason in My Breast (1938)
  • The Bell of Death (1939)
  • The Clock in the Hatbox (1939) Buy this book
  • Dear Dead Woman (1940)
  • The Vanishing Corpse (1941)
  • The Woman in Red (1941)
  • The Case of the Tea-Cosy’s Aunt (1942)
  • Something Nasty in the Woodshed (1942)
  • The Mouse Who Wouldn’t Play Ball (1943)
  • He Came by Night (1944)
  • The Scarlet Button (1944)
  • A Spy for Mr. Crook (1944)
  • The Black Stage (1945)
  • Don’t Open the Door! (1945; aka “Death Lifts the Latch”)
  • Lift Up the Lid (1945)
  • The Spinster’s Secret (1946)
  • Death in the Wrong Room (1947)
  • Die in the Dark (1947)
  • Death Knocks Three Times (1949)
  • Murder Comes Home (1950)
  • A Nice Cup of Tea (1950)
  • Lady Killer (1951)
  • Miss Pinnegar Disappears (1952)
  • Footsteps Behind Me (1953)
  • Snake in the Grass (1954)
  • Is She Dead Too? (1955)
  • And Death Came Too (1956)
  • Riddle of a Lady (1956)
  • Give Death a Name (1957)
  • Death Against the Clock (1958)
  • Death Takes a Wife (1959)
  • Third Crime Lucky (1959)
  • Out for the Kill (1960) Buy this book
  • She Shall Die (1961)
  • Uncertain Death (1961)
  • No Dust in the Attic (1962)
  • Ring for a Noose (1963)
  • The Fingerprint (1964)
  • Knock, Knock, Who’s There? (1964)
  • Passenger to Nowhere (1965)
  • The Looking Glass Murder (1966)
  • The Visitor (1967)
  • Night Encounter (1968)
  • Missing from Her Home (1969)
  • Death Wears a Mask (1970)
  • Tenant for the Tomb (1971)
  • Murder’s a Waiting Game (1972)
  • A Nice Little Killing (1974)

SHORT STORIES

  • “You Can’t Hang Twice” (November 1946, EQMM; also 1996, Murder Most British)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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