The Dark Angel

On no consideration will I pay a penny.’

Stories of Crime & Detection Volume Five contains a novel, a novelette and a short story:

The Dark Angel Elderly Elspeth Brownrigg devotes her life to orphanage, but receives a letter threatening her with death unless she pays £5,000 within 48 hours. Elspeth calls in her nephew Norman who works for Scotland Yard and they liaise with the blackmailer, hoping to catch him in the act. This is unsuccessful, and soon the extortion expands to other persons who receive a similar letter from the same source, always signed by a pair of black wings. The blackmailer then acts on his threats and Norman must race to find a killer.

The Unholy Trio Private Detective Peter Norton and his assistant Ginger set out to recover a stolen diamond pendant, ‘The Darlington Star’, and save a beautiful girl.

A Tired Heart Humour and pathos abound in this short story about insurance fraud.

JAMES JACK RONALD (1905-1972) was a prolific writer of pulp fiction, mystery stories and dramatic novels. Raised in Glasgow, Ronald moved to Chicago aged seventeen to ‘earn his fortune’, later returning to the UK to pursue a writing career. His early works were serializations and short stories syndicated in newspapers and magazines around the world. Ronald wrote under a number of pseudonyms, including Michael Crombie, Kirk Wales, Peter Gale, Mark Ellison and Kenneth Streeter among others. Several books were adapted into films, including Murder in the Family (1938), The Witness Vanishes (1939), and The Suspect (1944).


By James Ronald

Introduction by Chris Verner

First published in 1930s by Gramol and others.

ISBN 9781899000784

eISBN 9781899000791

Available April  2024


There are no reviews yet.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.

When an elderly spinster of ample means receives a letter threatening her with death unless she pays the anonymous writer five thousand pounds, there are several things she may do. She may faint, send for the police, call in the assistance of her largest male relative, or dismiss her private secretary.

When Miss Elspeth Brownrigg opened the blackmailing letter which she received one September morning, she neither screamed nor fainted. She had too much self-possession for that. Neither did she dismiss her private secretary, who was indispensable to her. Instead, she chose the second and third alternatives, sending for the police in the person of her nephew, Norman Brownrigg.

It was Miss Brownrigg’s custom to breakfast at half-past nine. Her secretary, who had a bedroom and sitting room in the house, breakfasted an hour earlier, and had her letters arranged before she came down, opening all but the envelopes marked ‘private’, and those which he knew by the handwriting were from his employer’s personal friends.

The fateful letter lay on top of the pile which her secretary handed to her on this particular morning, and she opened it before he left the room. She gave a startled “Oh!” when she read the opening paragraph, then finished the letter in silence, with lips pursed and head nodding grimly. “Well!” she exclaimed. “Well! Never in all my life—”

For a moment the old lady was shaken out of her accustomed calm. Her secretary, Sydney Martin, returned to her side. “What is it?” he asked. He was accustomed to share her confidence, and he reached forward to pick up the letter, which Miss Brownrigg had placed upon the table, but her thin white hands prevented him.

“Don’t touch it!” she exclaimed sharply. “There may be fingerprints.”

Sydney Martin was a studious young man who wore hornrimmed spectacles. He was slightly under average height, darkskinned, and thin almost to the point of emaciation. As with his employer, dignity was very dear to him, and for a moment he feared the lady had lost her senses.
“Fingerprints?” he repeated. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

Miss Brownrigg’s exasperation was perhaps unjust. “It is scarcely necessary that you should!” she responded with asperity. “However, this letter is from a—let me see, yes, a ‘blackmailer’ —that is the term, I believe. He threatens my life unless I pay him five thousand pounds. The police must see it; therefore, there must be no unnecessary fingerprints upon it. That is clear enough, surely?”

Sydney Martin looked surprised. “A blackmailer? Good Heavens! But perhaps it is only a very silly practical joke?”

“Very probably so,” Miss Brownrigg agreed. “I have little doubt that it is a childish attempt to frighten me. Nevertheless, I shall get in touch with Norman. I shall be guided by his advice in the matter.”

Sydney Martin hesitated. “You won’t pay the money, of course?”

Miss Brownrigg pursed her lips. “Certainly not. If I thought that Norman would suggest it, I should not ask his advice.”

“That is the last thing he will advise,” replied her secretary with a smile.

Miss Brownrigg nodded. “And rightly so,” she replied. “Blackmail is a despicable crime. I shall place the letter in Norman’s hands, and he may take such steps as he thinks fit.”

His employer’s tone vindicated his dismissal, and much though Sydney Martin would have liked to remain and listen to her telephone conversation—for his curiosity was insatiable—he nevertheless withdrew.

Norman Brownrigg stood six feet two inches in his stockinged feet, weighed thirteen and a half stones, and had played centre-forward for Cambridge. On leaving Cambridge, he joined the Metropolitan Police Force as a constable, and by hard work(and a measure of luck) had gained promotion to the C.I.D., and the rank of Detective-Sergeant in five years.

Brownrigg shared a little office at Scotland Yard with his immediate superior, Detective Inspector Evans, and at the time his aunt telephoned him, they both happened to be in the room.

“She’s rather an old lady,” said Norman, to Inspector Evans five minutes later, “and although her voice over the ’phone sounded perfectly calm, she may be badly frightened by this letter she has received. Will you go round with me and investigate? It may be wasting your time, but I’ll feel easier in my mind if you’ll come.”

Inspector Evans smiled. “I’ve nothing much to do at the moment. You’re sure she won’t mind me coming with you?”

“Mind?” echoed Norman. “Not She! She probably needs the sight of a brace of well-fed ‘bobbies’ to cheer her up. Most women of her age would have passed away on receiving a letter like that!”

Red-faced and phlegmatic, Inspector Evans was about five feet eleven inches in height, and tipped the scales at fully fourteen stone. He had attained his present position from the lowliness of ‘pounding a beat’ through his dogged tenacity and innate thoroughness, and dogged tenacity. His good-natured, almost simple face, expressed curiosity as he replied, “Do you suppose it’s her past cropping up?” he suggested.

Norman laughed scornfully. “Nonsense! You don’t know my aunt!”

“Well, I’ll admit your description of her sounds as though she’d never done worse than flirt with the curate as a girl, or gone bicycling in bloomers,” conceded Evans. “But even the most unlikely people have pasts. No past—no blackmail!”

In most cases, yes, but not in this one,” Norman Brownrigg retorted. “She’s as innocent an old lady as ever breathed. If it isn’t a
practical joke, it’s an attempt to intimidate her. She’s known to be wealthy of course, her income is about five thousand a year—”


“No, interest from a Consols and War Loan.”

“Who’s the lucky heir?”’

Norman smiled. “I am,” he replied. “Under my grandfather’s, will, my aunt has the income during her lifetime, and the capital reverts to me on her death. It is a good thing for me that it is tied up. If she could touch the capital, my aunt would spend it all on her home for orphans. Most of her income goes to it. She has a farm in Devon, where she sends them until they are sixteen, then she helps them to get a footing in life.”

Inspector Evans stared at his junior. “You are heir to five thousand a year,” he murmured blankly. “What on earth are you doing in the Force?”

“Quite simple. I don’t get a penny while my aunt lives, and she’s a long way from dying, if appearances count for anything. Besides I’m really keen on the work!”

Inspector Evans rose heavily. “Well, let’s get along and interview this aunt of yours,” he said, reaching for his hat. “Five, thousand a year! Ye gods!”