Recently, while trying to purge my overcrowded bookshelves, I came across a “Winter’s Crimes 18” anthology. Since it was an ex-library book, and not in very good shape, I decided it was one of the books I would be purging. Being the bookworm that I am though, I had to take a quick glimpse through it to refresh my memory of what it contained. Lo and behold, it contained one of my favorite Margaret Yorke short stories!
“Gifts from the bridegroom” was less than ten pages long, yet packed the punch of a much longer work. The protagonist is a twenty-three year old young man who is getting married in the very near future. A chance remark from a friend causes him to get ‘cold feet’ and he goes to elaborate extremes to evade his impending nuptials. The end has a quirky and bizarre twist that makes you smile and grimace at the same time.
Margaret Yorke was something of a Miss Marple figure in her Buckinghamshire village, her comfortable appearance belying a steely personality. Photograph: Martin Edwards
Margaret Yorke, who died at age 88, wrote more than forty crime novels, was chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and in 1999 won the CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for an outstanding lifetime contribution to the genre. Yet, despite the fact that she was prolific and had achieved relative success, she was never as well known to the public as some of her peers.
She was born Margaret Beda Larminie in the village of Compton, Surrey, and spent her childhood in Dublin, where her Irish father had been posted by his employer, Guinness. Margaret worked as a hospital librarian during the second world war, before transferring to the Royal Navy as a driver.
Throughout her working life, she produced at least one full-length novel a year, as well as a number of short stories for a variety of anthologies and for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. One of her novels, The Scent of Fear (1980), won the Martin Beck award, presented by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy, in 1982. Awards otherwise eluded her, though this was something about which she seldom, if ever, complained.
I first began reading Margaret Yorke in the 1980s. Since then I have collected over a dozen of her novels in hardcover. I enjoyed every one. She had an uncanny understanding of the human psyche – both the good traits, and the very bad…
I was especially fond of her stand-alone thrillers. I was less enamored with her Patrick Grant mystery series.
I guess you could call Margaret Yorke a ‘hidden gem’. One of those authors that never really came to the forefront of popularity, but one that readers of crime fiction really should not miss out on.