Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

World War II Ireland


Common or Garden Crime

by Sheila Pim

This is a true cozy with a village murder, a curious female amateur sleuth (Lucy Bex), and clues found among the gossiping and gardens of the villagers. Set in 1943 in the small town of Clonmeen on the outskirts of Dublin, it reveals strong village social distinctions and the ways in which gardening was a necessary way of life during the “Emergency” (World War II). Even with a local murder to solve, Lucy feels the pressure. “It was ridiculous to start sidelines like amateur detection when you had a garden on your hands,” she thinks.

The war in Europe seems distant in neutral Ireland where solders were forbidden to wear British uniforms. The villagers seem more interested in maintaining their traditions like the annual flower show, and on exchanging tips on ways to get the most out of their gardens. Politics and religious differences are kept at a minimum. To get along, “everybody begins by voicing what he assumes are the other parties’ opinions, without giving away his own.“ Yet the “Emergency” has resulted in rationing for clothes, food, and available transportation. Lucy’s nephew Ivor, from her Protestant family which declares itself to be “very Anglo,” has volunteered to serve in the British army. There also is the reality that men not in military service were leaving Ireland for the high wages of war work in England.

This is a vintage book by Sheila Pim, who is considered to be one of the first novelists in Ireland to attain any degree of fame as a mystery writer. It is her first detective novel, appearing in print in 1945.



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