Miss Tarbell is an illustrated novel at the core of which are her activities as a self-appointed super-sleuth. The notion of such a character came about one day in reaction to the image of an ageing, spinster private detective who invariably outsmarts the highly trained and experienced police force by solving murder cases, sometimes multiple murders, through her brilliant intuition and infallible deduction. But such a situation is not real, anyway, is it?
The enigma that presents itself then, is how to compile the story of a ‘whodunnit’ that is a work of pure fiction, yet, at the same time, realistic, and this is answered by the calling of Miss Tarbell to her vocation, that of voluntary, unpaid detective, who’s input is confined to the gathering of evidence and influencing how that evidence is put to use.
The history takes place in the period from nineteen thirty five to nineteen thirty six, a heyday before the approaching cataclysm of nineteen thirty nine and the outbreak of war. It becomes analogous of its time, the peaceful, tranquil and happy existence of honestly disposed people about to be shattered by the introduction of suspicion, hatred and conflict.
The characters in the narrative grow naturally, not out of contrivance, but of their own volition, allowing for humour to develop, for the display of simple humanity, for pathos and sorrow to be expressed in the face of death, for injustice to be suffered, and the achievement of the final irony.
“I’m sure, Oscar, that you’re doing the right thing,” Miss Tarbell concluded reassuringly: “It hasn’t been an easy decision to make but I’m sure it’s the proper thing to do.”
“Humph! Yes. Well that’s done. I’ll go and join Gertrude in the garden, she may need help. You know what a bully George can be, and Gertrude just cannot stand up to him. I’ll go and see what’s going on.”
He moved to the edge of his chair ready to stand up when Miss Tarbell exclaimed: “What was that?” Inclining her head and pricking up her ears: “There’s someone there, outside the door.”
“The devil there is!” exclaimed Oscar, turning to look directly at the door. Neither had initially heard the soft footfalls outside the library door which had been left ajar when Oscar came in. Someone may have overheard the conversation, or, certainly, the latter part of it and the phone call to Christopher Southwaite. Miss Tarbell jumped up before Oscar and with the alacrity of a whippet was there in an instant, but, despite her speed, whoever it may have been had disappeared.’
The novel was published in July, 2019 by IngramSpark.