Though J. S. Fletcher often utilizes traditional rural English settings in his detective fiction, his novels also are notable for an urban realism that is lacking in most of his contemporaries’ works. He can be depended on, too, to offer complex and original problems with an extensive array of rapid-paced incidents and logical, and yet surprising, conclusions. He also brought a journalist’s skill to the writing of crime fiction; because only a small proportion of his output was part of a series, his books offer more variety of characterization than is typical of the form. Despite the rapidity with which he turned out his whodunits (seventeen in one three-year period), reviewers in the 1920’s lavished praise on his works and marveled at his seemingly inexhaustible imagination. By that time, he had become a best-selling author on both sides of the Atlantic. His major achievement is The Middle Temple Murder (1919), one of the few Fletcher whodunits still being read; it is historically significant because its young detective, Frank Spargo, is one of the first newspaperman-sleuths, a type that later became popular in England and in the United States. During his career, Fletcher created many young sleuths, men in their twenties and thirties, whose energy and dedication compensated in part for their lack of experience.
Barnes, Melvyn. “J(oseph) S(mith) Fletcher.” In Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. Combined biography, bibliography, and criticism of Fletcher and his works.
Kestner, Joseph A. The Edwardian Detective, 1901-1915. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000. This tightly focused reading of fifteen years of British detective fiction is crucial for placing Fletcher’s early work and for understanding his overall career’s trajectory.
Rzepka, Charles J. Detective Fiction. Malden, Mass.: Polity, 2005. This overview of detective fiction focuses on the relationship between literary representations of private detectives and the cultures that produce those representations. Sheds light on Fletcher’s writing.
The Saturday Review of Literature. Review of Murder at Wrides Park, by J. S. Fletcher. 7 (July 18, 1931): 981. Review of the first book in Fletcher’s Camberwell series. Provides a contemporary perspective on this popular series.
The Saturday Review of Literature. Review of Murder of the Ninth Baronet, by J. S. Fletcher. 9 (August 13, 1932): 47. Contemporary review of the fourth work in Fletcher’s Camberwell series novel in an influential critical magazine.
Turnbull, Malcolm J. Victims or Villains: Jewish Images in Classic Detective Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1998. Contains some discussion of Fletcher’s works and his portrayal of Jewish figures.