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Fitt, Mary

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago

Mary Fitt was the pseudonym of Kathleen Freeman (1879-1959) who also wrote two books as Stuart Mary Wick. She was educated at the University College of South Wales in Cardiff and lectured there in Greek from 1919 to 1946. She also worked for the Ministry for Information. She wrote 'straight' novels and stories as Kathleen Freeman and juvenile fiction as Mary Fitt. Her series character was Superintendent Mallett.


A detailed bibliography with pictures and a review of Mizmaze can be found here.


As might be expected from a lecturer in Classical Greek, the novels of Mary Fitt are patently the product of a cultivated mind. A character in them is likely to comment on a situation with the words "as in Turgeniev", and the reader is expected to pick up the allusion.-- HRF Keating.

Xavier Lechard on The Problem With Mary Fitt


...Is that I don't know where I stand with regard to her, even though I read two books of hers in a row - Death and Mary Dazill and Clues to Christabel - and consider reading the third and last I own, Pity for Pamela. Such an hesitating stance is quite unusual to me, but then Fitt is a quite unusual writer, especially for her time. You'd never believe she was one of the most noted of the Golden Age authors and a member of the Detection Club so much her style and approach are remote from those of her colleagues. Actually, it's unclear from the books I read whether Fitt was a mystery writer at all rather than being just pigeonholed as such because of the criminal content of her work.


Both Mary Dazill and Christabel not surprisingly deal with women - mysterious women remaining such throughout. The former is hired by a wealthy Victorian to complete the education of his daughters and finally seduces him, bringing two deaths and the downfall of the family. The latter is a successful yet misunderstood novelist who may or may not have been poisoned. They both are introvert outsiders eliciting either puzzlement or frank hostility yet that nobody ever really gets to know well; it may be said that they are the true puzzles in their novels, and ones that are never solved: neither protagonists nor the reader ever know about Mary Dazill's true self and feelings, and Christabel's diary as it is (partially) reprinted raises more questions than it answers. Supporting characters, although less complex and thus easier to understand, are still introvert and reluctant to confide: the world of Mary Fitt is one where people don't talk much about themselves and when they do, are met with incomprehension. Incomprehension is actually the key to the plot of both books, as it leads to false assumptions which in turn lead to death or sorrow.


There is also a strong sense of fatality at work there - anankè, one might say, as Fitt was a Hellenist in civil life. "Mary Dazill" is almost entirely a flashback while "Christabel" offers a polyphonic structure that switches from past to present and return. Fitt makes clear from the start that her protagonists are doomed (Mary Dazill starts in a cemetery where Superintendent Mallett and his friends Drs. Fitzbrown and Jones see the graves of Mary Dazill and the two men she drove to death fifty years ago) and death is the only way to redemption. So much for the cliché about Golden Age mysteries being about fairy tales with everything going back to order in the end.


But did Fitt write Golden Age mysteries? As far as chronology is concerned, there isn't a doubt about it. Stylistically, however, the matter is much more debatable. If we admit that Golden Age mysteries are about a crime and its resolution through logical reasoning by an amateur or professional detective, then we have a problem with Mary Dazill which is almost devoid of any detection, as well as with Christabel which has no detective in the proper sense. Superintendent Mallett appears in both but his role is at best peripheral: in the former, he does little more than to listen inattentively to the local pastor wife's telling the story of Mary and provide a lapidary solution in the end; in the latter, he just bullies the suspects in a Lestrade-way, playing no part of very little in the identification of the guilty party. This non-omniscient, pedestrian detective suits Fitt's approach to plotting, which is minimalistic and decidedly non-orthodox, as the author seems have no interest in such basic notions as clues, fair-play and climax. Solution is thrown in a couple chapters before the end, in a casual way and offers little excitement. Christabel shows this method at its most extreme as Fitt conceals vital clues and the murderer is given away rather than discovered. Punishment doesn't matter much to Fitt either, by the way, since criminals in both books escape human justice, one by being long dead, the other by committing suicide.


While being a contemporary of Christie, Sayers, Berkeley or Carr, Fitt is much closer to modern crime fiction in her emphasis on character over plot, though very few moderns go as far as she does in the dismantling of traditional detective fiction. Her ambition has to be commended even though I am not yet sure I fully enjoy its outcome.




Murder Mars the Tour (1936)

Three Sisters Flew Home (1936)

Bulls Like Death (1937)

The Three Hunting Horns (1937)

Expected Death (1938)

Sky-Rocket (1938)

Death at Dancing Stones (1939)

Murder of a Mouse (1939)

Death Starts a Rumor (1940)

Death and Mary Dazill (1941) aka Aftermath of Murder

Death on Herons' Mere (1941) aka Death Finds a Target

Requiem for Robert (1942)

Clues to Christabel (1944)

Death and the Pleasant Voices (1946)

A Fine and Private Place (1947)

Death and the Bright Day (1948)

The Banquet Ceases (1949)

Pity for Pamela (1950)

An Ill Wind (1951)

Death and the Shortest Day (1952)

The Night-Watchman's Friend (1953)

Love from Elizabeth (1954)

The Man Who Shot Birds and other tales {short stories} (1954)

Sweet Poison (1956)

The Late Uncle Max (1957)

Case for the Defence (1958)

Mizmaze (1959)

There Are More Ways of Killing (1960)


As Stuart Mary Wick


And Where's Mr Bellamy (1948)

The Statue and the Lady (1950)


As Kathleen Freeman

The Intruder, and other stories {short stories} (1926)

Gown and Shroud (1947)

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