Death in White Pyjamas / Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude – Review
By Sarah Morgan
There is always a certain joy in discovering a new author – and there must be thousands of people across the land doing just that via the British Library’s excellent Crime Classics collection.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of them, and none have hit a bum note so far. The latest is an impressive two-novel volume from Ernest Elmore, a sickeningly talented individual.
He was a theatre producer and director, but under the pseudonym John Bude penned a series of crime novels, often featuring Inspector William Meredith. His first three books – The Cornish Coast Murder, The Lake District Murder and The Sussex Downs Murder, published in 1935 and 1936 – have already been reissued by the British Library and proved very popular. As a result, Death in White Pyjamas, along with Death Knows No Calendar, are also now available in a combined edition.
The story takes place largely at the country home of a well-meaning millionaire businessman-turned-theatrical impresario. Staying with him are members of the repertory company he bankrolls, both cast and crew.
Unlike many crime novels, the murder doesn’t occur until around halfway through the tale. Bude takes his time introducing the characters, setting up their relationships with each other before killing one of them off. It’s an intriguing approach and rather refreshing.
Apart from that one quirk, it’s rather lightweight but still hugely enjoyable, as is the other mystery in the volume.
In Death Knows No Calendar, there is little preamble before wealthy artist Lydia Arundel dies in what initially appears to be a suicide. However, her friend and neighbour, Major Boddy, suspects foul play, and soon several suspects emerge. Blustering Boddy then uses the knowledge he’s gleaned from reading various crime novels to investigate.
Both stories were published in the 1940s during the Second World War, and perhaps their lightness of tone was designed to offer some respite from the horrors of the conflict. Despite having murder at their heart, neither could be described as hard-hitting or disturbing in any way.
Since reading them, I’ve been wondering if they may even have inspired the later work of Edmund Crispin, a particular favourite of mine, who also penned beautifully plotted mysteries without ever weighing down his reader with ideas of psychological torment.
Series editor Martin Edwards doesn’t mention the possibility in his excellent introduction; perhaps he may explore the idea should more of Bude’s work be republished.
‘Death in White Pyjamas / Death Knows No Calendar’ by John Bude is published by the British Library,