Death, My Darling Daughters – Jonathan Stagge (1945)

It’s been about two and a half years since I read Death’s Old Sweet Song by Jonathan Stagge.  Since that time I’ve read four novels by the writing collective most commonly known as Patrick Quentin, with the result being somewhat of a mixed bag.  Each book had its own moments in the sun, but I’d only enthusiastically recommend Death and The Maiden and Cottage Sinister.  It’s those two books though that have driven a hunger to find similarly satisfying reads by the authors.  It’s a difficult hunger to satisfy though, as aside from the Peter Duluth series published under the name of Patrick Quentin, you’re pretty lucky to pay less than $80 a book for any of the rest of the library.

So count me lucky that I managed to find a cheap copy of Death, My Darling Daughters.  It was published the year before Death’s Old Sweet Song, which puts it late in the run of nine Dr Westlake mysteries released under the name of Jonathan Stagge between 1936 and 1949.

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Death’s Old Sweet Song – Jonathan Stagge (1946)

deathsoldsweetsongBecause death’s old sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind…

Ok, well, it doesn’t quite go like that.  The song referenced in the title of Jonathan Stagg’s Death’s Old Sweet Song is much more obscure by my standards – Green Grow the Rushes, O, an English folk song that I’ve never heard of in my life.  It’s one of those songs where I listen to it the first time thinking “why on earth is this song even notable?” and then find it oddly sticking around in my head a few hours later.

The song is cumulative in each verse, similar to The Twelve Days of Christmas.  It plays into the novel in that each verse is associated with a murder victim, a la And Then There Were None.  In this case we get “the lily white boys clothed all in green”, “the rivals”, “the gospel makers”, and so on.  Suffice to say, Death’s Old Sweet Song has quite the body count…

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