Turn of the Table – Jonathan Stagge (1940)

With the exception of Death’s Old Sweet Song, Jonathan Stagge novels are notoriously hard to find.  Tracking down a nice looking paperback is especially difficult, even more so if you try to purchase in my bargain bin price range.  Imagine my jealousy then when Brad from Ah Sweet Mystery mentioned to me that he’d snagged a copy of Turn of the Table for a mere nine dollars.  I hadn’t even recalled seeing Turn of the Table available, much less in a gorgeous Popular Library edition, and I swear I had just been hunting for Stagge a day or two before.  I was compelled to take another look, and imagine my delight when I found another copy of Turn of the Table for the same unbelievable price of nine dollars.  I snatched it up immediately.

What followed was immediate guilt/confusion, as it sank in that I may well have purchased the exact same copy that Brad had told me about.  That guilt was compounded a few days later when my copy arrived in the post, and Brad mentioned that his still hadn’t come.  Yeah… I stole this book for him by some quirk of the online shopping cart…

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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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