Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Scent of Fear

Looking at this photograph of Margaret Yorke, one can't help but think that if there's a universal face of a mystery writer, this must be it.  Eyes that miss nothing. An ironic smile that says, 'Of course I know that people are rarely what they seem.'

Both of these qualities are abundantly in evidence within the pages of The Scent of Fear (1980), an unputdownable portrait of a boy who goes badly wrong and whose crimes end up threading together disparate lives in the most unexpected ways.

Indeed, one of Margaret Yorke's most remarkable talents as a writer is her ability to people a village seemingly at random, with character types that run the gamut from well-to-do spinsters and high-flying solicitors to petty criminals and arsonists. Her psychological analyses are as unflinching as they are astute. Best of all, she seems to have perfected the sacred art of showing her readers how or why her characters are lonely and isolated ... or even criminal. Never does she simply tell.

Really, Miss Lemon thinks that Margaret Yorke is one of Britain's most underappreciated mystery novelists. She once said in an interview that she's most interested in writing whydunnits, perhaps because character is what attracts her writerly instincts. If you've ever read A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell, you know of what Miss Lemon speaks.

Character and its motivation are especially well drawn in The Scent of Fear, the same for which is true in Find Me a Villain and  The Small Hours of the Morning. Margaret Yorke has a knack for creating tension by revealing clues to certain characters just a beat too late.

She's also no weak hand behind the mise-en-scene. If you like your mysteries with plenty of tea, sherry and foul weather, you'll certainly like Margaret Yorke.


  1. I have never read anything by Margaret Yorke but she sounds wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing


  2. Hannah,
    If you pick up one her books, you won't regret it. I have (er.... Miss Lemon has) been thinking about posting bibliographies for authors like Margaret Yorke, but I've not gotten to it yet!