Margaret Neilson Armstrong (1867-1944)
by Carol Westron
‘Why had I told Charlotte I would go? I didn’t really like Charlotte. I had never liked her. We hadn’t met for years, not since boarding school, and that’s a long time now, for we are both in our late forties. I remembered Charlotte as an immensely tall pale thin silent girl with frightened eyes, who took a fancy to me, I think, because I was plump and lively and never afraid of anything. Time doesn’t change you, it only makes you more so. I have grown stouter and heavier and more talkative, I reflected; so Charlotte must be thinner and paler. As for her eyes, if they are any queerer than they used to be, God help us all!’
In my opinion, The Man with No Face does not have the same sparkle as Murder in Stained Glass. However it is a well-crafted and eminently readable novel, with the same authenticity in the art descriptions and the social background as its predecessor.
During her travels in the American West, Armstrong had visited New Mexico, and it is generally agreed that the town she calls Tecos is, in fact, Taos. The most engaging part of the book is her descriptions of the scenery of New Mexico: ‘Ten minutes’ steady climb brought them, with dazzling suddenness, out of moist, cool forest shadow into hot, dry, windy sunlight. Shading their eyes, they stepped out onto a ledge of rock, carpeted with dry turf, overlooking a vast expanse, of plain and mountain shimmering in a haze of blue and violet and pale gold far below.’
Recently the three Margaret Armstrong detective stories have been reprinted as paperbacks and on Kindle. * At the time of writing, Murder in Stained Glass is free on Kindle.