Black Corridors (1940) by Constance and Gwenyth Little a.k.a. Conyth Little

I decided to return to a familiar face, or should I say familiar faces, today on the blog, with this latest post being the 11th title by the Little sisters, that I have reviewed.

The Little sisters return to a favourite setting in this one, the hospital, and the book opens with an ambulance arriving to pick up Isabelle Daniel, the wealthy aunt of our narrator Jessie Warren. Yet before you become alarmed about Isabelle’s fate, it should be pointed out that she is a hypochondriac who frequently decides she needs a spell in a hospital when she wants a change of scene. For her it really is a holiday, though her demanding nature means it is no picnic for the staff, nor Jessie, who once more has to accompany her, moving into the guest suite at the hospital until Isabelle gets bored enough that she wants to go home again.

However, it seems this hospital stay is going to be more eventful than usual. Having turfed out  the patient, Ames Baker, residing in her “usual” room, Isabelle finds there is more than one person trying to give her room a thorough search, including Ames himself. It seems he has lost a black wallet, but what is inside it? Neither he nor his three relatives, who are also staying in the guest suite, are willing to say. Yet Jessie finds there are more pressing issues to deal with when she finds a dead nurse beneath her bed one night. It is definitely a case of murder and it seems like the killer is not finished, as more than one blonde nurse bites the dust. But what is the motive behind their deaths? Jessie also has her aunt’s matrimonial machinations to contend with, as Isabelle connives at getting Dr Michael Rand to marry her niece. But is it a match made in heaven, as well as in Isabelle’s mind?

Overall Thoughts

This title is stocked full of the Littles’ tricks or tropes of the trade including:

  • Night-time antics – people not in bed when they should be, people in beds they shouldn’t be in, sounds from supposedly empty rooms and of course corpses under the bed. Suffice to say Jessie does not do a lot of sleeping during the night in this book.
  • The fussy and rich older relative, usually an aunt, who pokes their nose into matters which are none of their business. Sometimes this propels the romance subplot along, but just occasionally these characters are up to something much darker.
  • The romance subplot with an impossible man, who often verbally spars with the female lead. Despite the rocky and somewhat cynical road to love, marriage is usually on the cards by the end of the book.
  • Important clues and items keep appearing and then disappearing and in some books this even includes the corpse!

Although the introduction to the Rue Morgue Press reprint commends the female protagonist in this book, finding her ‘inspired,’ I can’t say she gelled as well with me. Her extensive capabilities in sarcasm and witty repartee are a bonus, but I didn’t feel she was sufficiently an active participant in the plot. It did often feel like her only role was to keep finding corpses, before promptly screaming and fainting. I’m surprised she didn’t get concussion! Given that Jessie is our eyes and ears in this piece I don’t think she started really trying to solve the case until much too near the end and there was not much for the reader to work with themselves, though maybe I should have spotted the killer in this one.

The Littles have worked with large casts of characters before, but this time it didn’t seem as though they handled this aspect as well as they normally do. The plot also felt a bit underdeveloped in comparison to some of their other books. It seemed to be rather less complex and somewhat repetitive in terms of the killings, though the murder weapon is unusual, yet setting appropriate. Some strands of the story also concluded in something of a perfunctory manner.

Perhaps having read as many books by the Littles as I have, (over 50% of their output), I am getting a bit pickier and have higher expectations of what they can do. A new reader may not have this issue.

Rating: 3.75/5

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. 😊 I’ve read this one, and recall the prancings between wards and rooms and corridors somewhat prolix by the end, and somewhat confusing even. I did like the sarcasm and witty repartees though! Then again I’ve found that the heroines for the different novel blend together after some time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m honest enough to admit that the females leads are not hugely distinguishable from one another, though I tend to find certain plot hooks make one or two more memorable such as the woman in The Black Iris. A lack of a series character probably did not help them avoid obscurity.

      Like

  2. I recall finding this one rather tough going. The problem for me was that it didn’t seem to take place in any recognizable world. The writers failed to convey a clear idea of the hospital in which the action was rambling around. There were some amusing bits, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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