Kathleen Freeman (1897-1959) was a Greek classicist who had already published scholarly work before her first crime novel appeared in 1936 under the pseudonym Mary Fitt.   Her intellectual background produced elegantly written crime fiction with a strong sense of the literary and the overtones of Greek tragedy – dealing with love, loss, pride, the abuse of power and fraught relationships.  But it is her method of upending the traditional format of whodunits that was unusual (perhaps unique) among Golden Age mystery writers.   Fitt’s novels do not follow the traditional “crime-followed-by-resolution-through-deduction” pattern;  although they start with a death, it might appear to be to from natural causes or an accident or a suicide.  Some are virtually devoid of any detection and have no detective to speak of — the mystery in Fitt’s books is not whodunit, but whether it was done, and if so, why it was done.  How a character is formed by environment and connected chains of circumstances is the puzzle to be solved.

Fitt was a devotee of Jane Austen and issues of property and inheritance (a very Austenian theme) were often central to her stories, but she was not restricted to these settings or style.   She used gothic devices to increase tension, build atmosphere and disrupt order.  Her characters often have a sense of exclusion and difference through which narration is filtered, sometimes leading the reader back several generations to explain what led to the crime.

In an essay about her work, Fitt said,  “Plausibility as well as mystification can both be preserved by writers who have taken the trouble to look below the surface of human nature, and who remember that complete goodness and complete badness…are rare.”

Selected works of Mary Fitt:

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)
Death and Mary Dazill (1941) aka Aftermath of Murder (USA)
Death on Herons’ Mere (1941) aka Death Finds a Target (USA)
Requiem for Robert (1942)
Clues to Christabel (1944)
Death and The Pleasant Voices (1946)
The Banquet Ceases (1949)
Pity for Pamela (1950)
An Ill Wind (1951)
Love From Elizabeth (1954)