In the Mayor's Parlour...
...is the body of John Wallingford, elected Mayor of Hathelsborough by a single vote and murdered at his desk just minutes before the arrival of his cousin, London newspaperman Richard Brent.
The reform-minded Wallingford was pursuing an agenda of change, but Hathelsborough is an ancient town, steeped in its ancient ways, and the Mayor's radical ideas - even suggesting eliminating the town crier's job - have created bitter divisions in the town, divisions that Brent is certain led to the politically-motivated murder of his cousin.
Police superintendent Hawthwaite assures Brent that "slow but steady" police work will identify the murderer, but when the Coroner's Inquest gets under way and the evidence is produced, the mystery, far from being cleared up, becomes deeper. Rivalries, romances and political intrigues are exposed, unexpected suspects emerge, and the truth is found only at the end of a path with as many twists, turns and blind alleys as the narrow streets and byways of Hathelsborough itself.
Joseph Smith Fletcher (1863-1935) was born in Halifax, England, but following the death of his clergyman father when Fletcher was just eight months old the family relocated and he grew up in Darrington. His early career as a journalist, working on such papers as the Leeds Mercury and Yorkshire Post led to a prolific writing career handling such varied subject matter as fiction, history, English dialects and standard English. Fletcher wrote a total of 237 books.
Fletcher was mainly known for his detective and mystery novels, which were popular both at home and abroad. One of Fletcher's most profitable markets was the United States, where President Woodrow Wilson became a fan, openly recommending Fletcher's novel, The Middle Temple Murder, still the best-known of his 120 mystery and detective novels.
While crime was Fletcher's most profitable and best known literary niche, it was not his only passion. A member of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Fletcher wrote a number of books on Yorkshire local topics, including a history of Halifax (1923) and other Yorkshire towns, and the six-volume "A Picturesque History of Yorkshire" (1900). Early in his career he produced books in the Yorkshire local dialect, and also published his poetry.
An expert on the history of Yorkshire, his expertise allowed him to create vivid depictions of the ancient small towns of northern England and their inhabitants as the settings for his many mystery novels.
Fletcher died in Surrey on January 30, 1935.