The Chill and the Kill

How many people today remember Joan Fleming (1908-1980) or her work? Not many; she didn’t even rate a single mention in the massive and eclectic Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. This neglect is sobering, for she won not one but two CWA Gold Daggers, for the very enjoyable When I Grow Rich in 1962, and for Young Man, I Think You’re Dying, in 1970; the latter beat the much more critically acclaimed Anthony Price into second place. P.D. James has never even won one Gold Dagger, so Fleming must have had genuine quality as a writer. There is a clue to the puzzle in H.R.F. Keating’s Whodunit?, which describes her as ‘a most erratic writer, switching from one type of crime story to another, often hitting, sometimes missing’. Another reason for her failure to make a lasting mark, despite the fact that she published 33 novels, many of them relatively early examples of psychological suspense, is that she did not bother with a series detective. Even the Turkish philosopher Nuri Iskirlak, who made a memorable appearance in When I Grow Rich, only featured in one other book. The P.R. people would never let an author who enjoyed success get away with that nowadays.

The Chill and the Kill was published in 1964; the original black and white artwork (the final version of the cover had a green background with red lettering) seems to me distinctive and striking. The novel itself, unfortunately, has long been out of print.