The Notched Hairpin

Gerald Heard

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ISBN: 978-1-57733-233-6, 172 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, paperback, $15.95

Also by H.F. Heard 
A Taste for Honey
Reply Paid

This is another Sherlockian mystery from the inimitable author of A Taste for Honey, and Reply Paid. And once again the meticulous Mr. Mycroft plays the role of detective.

The setting is simplicity itself. Here is a lovely arbor in a quiet Shropshire garden. There lies the body of a man killed by the thrust of a slender instrument identifiable as an antique hairpin. Was it really suicide, as Mr. Mycroft's colleague believes?

In his quest for the answer, Mr. Mycroft take us from the antiquarian gentility of twin Shropshire houses, through the haunts of a munitions runner and "hotels" of prostitution, to the continent-wide reaches of the slave trade. With him go his friends—among them a murderer—exploring, in the depths of the human mind and soul, motivations and events more uncanny and more sinister than the gentle lady—whose coil of hair the notched hairpin originally must have held—could ever have dreamed of.

The result is a mystery as unique as Mr. Heard's other famed tales, and one that will evoke the shades of Baker Street.


"Mr. Heard returns with The Notched Hairpin, after several volumes of fantasy and science fiction, to the detective character of Mr. Mycroft, with whom he so startled the crime-reading world eight years ago in A Taste for Honey. But even this familiar return to an established protagonist he handles with a difference. The names are the same, but the characters have changed.

"The Notched Hairpin is essentially a reductio—partly ad absurdum, but also ad verum atque sublime--of the Detective Story. Its only characters are The Detective, The Narrator, The Policeman, The Witness, and The Murderer. It falls neatly into an expository overture, a series of brilliantly cryptic deductions culminating in the answer to Who?, a fantastic flashback to explain the Why?, an elaborate mechanical explanation of the How?, and an expiatory postlude on the theme of What Then?" The New York Times, 1949

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr Christopher Pittard

The Notched Hairpin
The Red Brick Twins
The Inspector’s “Who?”
Mr. Millum’s “Why?”
Mr. Mycroft’s “How?”

The Enchanted Garden

About the Author


“Don’y touch.”

“I wasn’t going to! And if tact means touch, then I don’t think you’d be the worse for a little of it!”

“I’m ready to apologize in advance for being so guarded, but, you see, this is quite a peculiar treasure.”

“I don’t see. What I do see is a very commonplace object. But I am ready to accept your apology.”

Yes, it was one of the usual Silchester-Mycroft squabble-sallies. The gauge of battle had arrived by the breakfast mail. I’d paid no attention to it until Mr. M., having finished all his letters, came to the small box—the kind of thing in which you sent a wrist watch. As I had finished the paper, I let myself enjoy his attack on it—rather like the cautious behavior toward some new sort of fly in its web. When he had opened it and peered inside for a while, out came the professional lens, and then at last I was called in. I couldn’t help being amused by all that preliminary ritual of inspection. For when I took a single glance, I could only conclude that the lens-play was either a mere reflex or a piece of semiconscious acting. What lay in the little casket, all dolled up with cotton wool, was a commonplace little paper knife of some dingy kind of metal. It was the sort of thing which, when Spanish was all the mode with second-rate interior decorators (a tribe which, at best, I care for very little), was described as a suitable objet d’art to go with stamped and-gilded leather furniture and twisted iron fittings! Perhaps I had made some courtesy attempt to express an act of interest I couldn’t honestly feel, and this, my gesture of sympathy, had simply been snubbed. And when you have labored to pretend attention, it is irritating to be accused of precipitate meddling. Therefore Mr. M.’s further defense, “But it is very interesting!” did nothing to mollify my feelings.

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2014

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