Double Blackmail by G.D.H. and Margaret Cole

The blurb of the American edition of the Golden Age mystery Double Blackmail, by G.D.H. and Margaret Cole, is rather enticing: ‘”Double Blackmail” only in part describes the double-ness of this detective mystery. There are, of course, two cases of blackmail. But there are likewise two murders; two bigamies; two detectives; the two Coles for authors; and twins….’

Two bigamies – you don’t find that in many murder mysteries nowadays! The Coles were a husband and wife team who were prolific producers in the Golden Age. They were prominent socialists, and G.D.H. (like Robert Barnard, many years later) was a Balliol man who rose to prominence in the Fabian Society. Margaret was the sister of Raymond Postgate, who wrote that brilliant crime novel Verdict of Twelve (and who also devised The Good Food Guide), and aunt to Oliver Postgate, creator of Bagpuss. The Coles wrote books of the kind disparagingly described as ‘humdrums’, and their regular sleuth Superintendent Wilson was notoriously characterless, but this novel is reckoned to be one of their better efforts. The appeal of this particular volume was not just the mystery (though I do find that idea of a story about double bigamy weirdly intriguing) but the fact that this book was signed by, Margaret Cole herself and presented to the Detection Club, of which the Coles were members. It bears the Detection Club’s bookplate..