cover image The Division Bell Mystery

The Division Bell Mystery

Ellen Wilkinson. Poisoned Pen, $12.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1085-3

Wilkinson (1891–1947), a Labour MP for much of her career, makes fine use of her inside knowledge to craft this intriguing whodunit, first published in 1932. Robert West, a Parliamentary private secretary, has arranged for American financier Georges Oissel to dine with his boss, the home secretary, in the House of Commons. The meal, held in a private dining room, is to be followed by a meeting between Oissel and the prime minister to discuss assistance for the beleaguered exchequer. That evening, just as the division bell rings to summon MPs to a vote, a gunshot rings out, and West finds Oissel dead in the dining room, with a revolver nearby and no evidence that anyone else was present at the fatal moment. The near-contemporaneous timing of a burglary at Oissel’s lodgings, which ends with his bodyguard’s murder, leads West to suspect that Oissel was also murdered, and he joins forces with the Yard to uncover the truth. Wilkinson’s detailed depiction of her professional home more than compensates for the less than clever solution. This is another worthy addition to the British Library Crime Classics series. (Dec.)