Forgotten Authors No 49: Dorothy Bowers

I have the excellent crime writer Martin Edwards to thank for this discovery. Dorothy Bowers was born in Leominster, Herefordshire in 1902. She was the daughter of a bakery owner, and after a short and not especially joyful life, died at 46 from tuberculosis. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that she had just been inducted into the Detection Club, a society formed in 1930 by a group of Golden Age mystery writers that included Agatha Christie and GK Chesterton, and it seemed she might have gone on to greater things but for the ill health that clearly affected her final novel.

After being one of the first women accepted into Oxford University, Bowers struggled for several years to find a job as a history tutor, supplementing her meagre income by compiling crossword puzzles. Keen to write, she found herself drawn to detective novels, but this was a career that usually attracted ladies of leisure. Still, she quickly found her feet in the field. Her first novel, Postscript to Poison, was well-received and inspired her to continue with the same leading characters, Inspector Dan Pardoe and Sergeant Salt, who featured in another three volumes. According to Rue Morgue Press, which has thankfully rescued her mysteries from obscurity, critics felt Bowers might have gone on to succeed Dorothy L Sayers, but her time was occupied by her teaching job and hampered by her delicate constitution.

Her crime thrillers were championed by the press as "fair play" mysteries, in which the clues are cunningly displayed within the context of the story, but in such a way that the reader is misdirected to disregard them. Postscript to Poison features a hateful victim, Cornelia Lackland, who constantly changes her will and terrorises her two grand-daughters before being dispatched by an unknown member of the household. Shadows Before also features poison – in the tea, of course.

Bowers' plots are intricate and her prose is thoughtfully crafted, with a certain amount of careful, eloquent wordplay integral to the solutions. If there's a criticism, it's that she coolly moves her characters like chess pieces, but this was a traditional approach in Golden Age crime. One of the most skilful wielders of the red herring, it's conceivable that Bowers would have gone on to produce a full body of work, for that is the best way to achieve a degree of artistic immortality.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before