So I want it noted for the record that I love Gladys Mitchell, and have done so for years. I read my first one (The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop – my old paperback has an absolutely hideous cover) in 1991 and was sad to see them go out of print, despite quite a good BBC adaptation starring Diana Rigg, who was brilliant in the main role despite being far too glamorous for the character.

However, chuffed to see that Vintage is bringing the novels of the Great Gladys (so named by Philip Larkin) back and grabbed the opportunity to pick up one I hadn’t read before as a way of rounding off the read-a-thon.

First published in 1941 When Last I Died kicks off with Mrs Bradley visiting a reformatory school where she has been asked to consult as a psychologist on behalf of the government. She subsequently takes a house on the coast to give some of the boys a chance for a break from the institution, and once they’ve been packed off she spends some time there with her grandson, who finds rather an interesting diary. The diary’s author (now dead) used to work at the same reformatory and was once accused of murdering her aunt. This is the starting point for a mystery involving haunted houses, investigations of the paranormal and missing schoolboys.

And I absolutely loved it. Really satisfying story, clever plotting and Mrs Bradley is a gloriously grotesque character. Suspect I will be building up my collection over the next few months.

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