(for Gladys Mitchell)
Seated in the study,
shelves crammed with detective fiction:
Dorothy L Sayers, Helen Simpson, Georgette Heyer.
Bizarre plots, humorous characters:
Norman towers and ballads in Northumberland;
nudism and Nazis;
Satanism on the Norfolk Broads;
transvestite strangled in the bath;
Greek Gods and archaeology lead to murder;
devils and witches at the Saxon wall;
pastiche of Sherlock Holmes;
serial killer by moonlight;
Loch Ness monster devours perpetrator;
smuggling on a coach tour of the Highlands;
victims drowned by a naiad;
psychoanalysis by the broomstick.
Mrs Adela Bradley (later a Dame),
one of the most distinctive detectives:
bloodline of a witch, possess second sight,
crocodile-leering smile, laugh that cackles,
sulphurous skin and talons,
clothes brightly-coloured like a macaw.
Admiring letters from Philip Larkin and P.D. James
hidden from prying eyes.
Twinkle of sunshine on a silver dagger;
longhand writing on sheets of paper,
your hand steady and firm.