Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Medals for the Major

Pardon Miss Lemon if she seems to be on a tear with Margaret Yorke. But really, she finds the author's books so atmospheric, so tense and so psychologically astute, that sometimes it is all she can do to prevent herself from reading one right after another.

No Medals for the Major (1974) is no exception to the calibre of Ms. Yorke's oeuvre. From the book's excellent title to its dark yet completely plausible ending, Miss Lemon could not find a single fault. 

This story concerns one Major Johnson, a small and solitary man of dignified bearing but no real distinction, who strives to assimilate himself into retired life in the village of Wiveldown. The small inroads he makes are quickly blockaded when the body of a young girl who'd recently gone missing turns up in the boot of his car.

Forget innocent until proven guilty. The mob mentality that sweeps through the village and is then turned against the Major is enough to send even the gentlest of souls of a murderous spree. But that's not what happens here.... 

Like many of her novels, No Medals for the Major is a whydunit rather than a whodunit. And as in her others, the pieces of narrative puzzle are woven together in a startlingly clever pattern. 

Once employed as a librarian at Oxford, some of Ms. Yorke's most interesting characters are librarians. They are the recurring figures to look out for in her fiction. And trust Miss Lemon when she says that these librarians scale the range from shushing spinsters and sensitive intellectuals, to shrewd and self-serving backstabbers.  

Lest one fear that Miss Lemon shall soon exhaust the entire retinue of Margaret Yorkes and have nothing more to recommend, she promises this won't happen. At least not in the near future.

Margaret Yorke has written nearly 30 crime novels to date, with several of the early entries featuring the Oxford don and amateur sleuth Dr. Patrick Grant. (Miss Lemon is savouring those.)  Ms. Yorke also has authored some ten non-mystery novels, including Summer Flight (1957), Once a Stranger (1962) and The Limbo Ladies (1969).

Margaret Yorke was born in Surrey in 1924, and as far as Miss Lemon knows, is still hard at work at her craft and living in a village in Buckinghamshire.


  1. Miss Lemon, I have recently been intrigued with the mysteries of Margaret Yorke through the blog of the mystery writer Martin Edwards. Perhaps you already know him too. But if not, you should. He would seem to be right up your alley...

  2. Seana,
    Thank you -- and thank you again -- for leading Miss L to this excellent blog. How lucky Mr. Edwards has been to have met Margaret Yorke in person!

  3. Oh, good. These are two blogs which should definitely be connected.

  4. Thanks, Seana and Elizabeth. I very much admire Margaret Yorke. She is in very good form, though not really writing nowadays.

  5. Martin,
    Too bad for us ... but completely understandable. With her already substantial contribution to the genre, though, I'll wonder if we'll notice the lack? It is nice to hear that she is well.