Anna Clarke Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anna Clarke’s novels are primarily psychological studies of what makes seemingly ordinary people commit crimes; as such her works have much in common with those of Ruth Rendell. Unlike Rendell, however, Clarke rarely finds the mystery as intriguing as the mind of the criminal—and the mind of the sleuth. Her plots are nevertheless tightly woven and sometimes surprising in that, for a while, the reader may believe the sleuth to be the potential criminal or the criminal the potential victim. Clarke reveals a world in which psychological horrors lurk behind the commonplace, a world in which the innocent are forced to confront their own darkness and that of others.

Many of Clarke’s plots make use of literary references or revolve about the world of literature: Characters may be authors or literary critics. Frequently, the police believe the crime to be an unfortunate accident. They are not, however, “perfect crimes,” for always an interested party recognizes the crime and the criminal. What makes Clarke’s work particularly interesting and realistic is that the sleuth is no master of detection; rather, one average person (or, more often, two or three people) will arrive at the truth. Her tight plotting and strong character development have earned her a place in the world of mystery fiction.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Adrian, Mike. “Obituary: Anna Clarke, Prolific Author of ’Cosies’ and ’Biblio-mysteries.’” The Independent, December 28, 2004, p. 33. Obituary of Clarke notes that the author was first published at the age of fifty and wrote prolifically thereafter. Notes her fondness for biblio-mysteries, mysteries involving literature.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay that discusses the life and writings of Clarke.

Library Journal. Review of Last Judgement, by Anna Clarke. 110, no. 2 (February 1, 1985): 115. Reviewer finds the work to be more an atmospheric story than a mystery. Criticizes the work for its melodrama and lack of believability.

Mabe, Chauncey. “A Child’s Loss Makes for Superior Thriller.” Review of My Search for Ruth, by Anna Clarke. Sun Sentinel, September 18, 1988, p. 8F. Discusses the work in which Ruth searches for her own identity as she lives with the headmistress of a boarding school, Miss Murray. Reviewer finds the novel psychologically satisfying and believable.

Rye, Marilyn. “Anna Clarke.” In Great Women Mystery Writers, edited by Kathleen Gregory Klein. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Bio-critical study of Clarke’s life and writing. Individual entries also include suggestions of writers with similar styles, as well as Internet resources for mystery and crime-fiction enthusiasts.

Vicarel, JoAnn. Review of The Mystery Lady, by Anna Clarke. Library Journal 111, no. 16 (October 1, 1986): 113. Review of a Paula Henning book in which Henning is to write a biography of romantic novelist Rosie O’Grady. Reviewer criticizes the work for containing too much talk between Henning and James Goff and finds it disappointing overall.