Anthony Gilbert was one of four pseudonyms adopted by Lucy Beatrice Malleson, born in Upper Norwood, a suburb of London, on February 15, 1899. Her father was a stockbroker, and she was educated at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith. During World War I, Malleson’s father lost his position, and although her mother urged her to train as a teacher, Malleson learned typing and shorthand so that she could earn an immediate income for the family. From the age of seventeen onward, she wrote verse and short pieces for Punch and various literary weeklies. During her early years as a secretary, she began to produce novels. In 1922, after attending a performance of John Willard’s theatrical hit The Cat and the Canary, she tried her hand at detective fiction but had no success until her first Anthony Gilbert book, The Tragedy at Freyne (1927), was published.
During her long career, Malleson wrote approximately seventy detective novels under the pen name of Anthony Gilbert; those books after 1936 center on the unconventional lawyer-detective Arthur Crook. In 1934, however, Malleson began, under the pseudonym Anne Meredith, a series of inverted detective stories, in which the identity of the murderer is known from the outset. In 1940, she published her only nonfictional work, an autobiography entitled Three-a-Penny, under the Meredith name. She valued her privacy and for many years successfully concealed her identity as the writer of the Gilbert novels. She continued to write radio plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation and published two nondetective books under the additional pseudonyms of Lucy Egerton and J. Kilmeny Keith.
During World War II, Malleson employed her secretarial skills in posts with the Red Cross, the Ministry of Food, and the Coal Association. She never married, and she listed her recreations as reading, theatergoing, and travel. Until the end of her life, she remained a resident of London, extending her familiarity with those small details of metropolitan life that contribute to the liveliness and immediacy of her novels. She died in London on December 9, 1973.