(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Part of the fun of reading mystery fiction is the discovery of an author with whom one was previously not familiar. Joan Fleming’s work is unique in that with each of her novels one has that same sense of discovery. It is not possible to be comfortable with Fleming if what one expects is to be able to anticipate familiar patterns, characters, settings, or turns in plot. It is possible to become assured, however, that each novel will have been painstakingly crafted, that it will be charmingly English, and that it will be altogether delightful.

Fleming’s goal appears to have been to write as well as she possibly could, and that she wrote well, there is no doubt. What the reader can question is whether it was her intent to write category novels or whether she meant to write well-crafted novels in which she could choose to use a crime or a mystery as a means of moving her characters from place to place and giving them something on which to act and against which to react. It would seem that the latter is true, for scene and character are what the reader comes to care about in Fleming’s novels. More than with “who” or “how,” one’s curiosity is absorbed with “why.”