Ethel Lina White is a writer I've mentioned a few times on this blog. She's remembered today mainly as the author of the book on which Hitchcock's great film The Lady Vanishes was based, but in the Golden Age, she specialised in "woman in jeopardy" stories with great success. Little is known about her, though, apart from a few basic details on the internet, and if anyone knows more about her life, and her approach to crime fiction, do get in touch.
Some Must Watch is one of her most famous stories, and again it was turned into a popular film, Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase. The book first came out in 1933, and it has now been republished by Arcturus Crime Classics. In fact, it's due out next week - along with titles by Erle Stanley Gardner, Anthony Berkeely, and others - including me. I'm flattered and thrilled to find All the Lonely People in such company.
I enjoyed the story, even though it's really a tale of suspense, rather than actual detection. The pert and likeable Helen, is recruited as a "lady-help" to a strange family who live on the Welsh borders. Unfortunately, a deranged serial killer is on the loose, and his first four victims have all been single young working women. Will Helen be next?
White does a very good job at building the tension. Inevitably, the story-line is dated, and some of the plot elements and characters (the invalid who may not be an invalid, the sinister nurse, the weird professor, the vampish woman) became over-used in the Golden Age and may thus be seen as cliched. But White writes with a great deal of skill, in my opinion, and she also comes up with a unique and extraordinary murder motive into the bargain. A marvellous period piece.