The Opera House Murders


The Opera House Murders by Dan Billany Faber & Faber 1940

Billany for Villainy     the Manchester Evening News

Dan Billany is a find. I can remember no first novel in the crime field that has been so much in a class by itself. The murder is committed in front of the reader's eyes in the first two minutes, the rest is excitement and detection. The shooting scene in a bungalow has reality and suspense, and Mr. Billany's style, light-hearted, a trifle callous, semi-cynical fits perfectly the amoral people he is dealing with. 'Billany for Villainy' should be Faber's war-cry.


Extract from: The Case of Dan Billany's The Opera House Murders by Paul Skrebels
Billany's hero, Robbie Duncan, is unashamedly a super sleuth in the Golden Age mould, with great powers of deduction and able to talk and think his way through dangerous and baffling situations. But Billany breaks the mould, too. Firstly, Duncan has a 'new world' classlessness that permits him to associate effectively with all strata of society.Significantly, his actual social origins are not divulged in the novel, although his being sent down from college (for grievously wounding a professor), his residence at Granby House (albeit as Jack's tutor), and his knowledge and appreciation of the arts indicate some social standing - but whether inherited or earned is not specified. Secondly, not only is Duncan allowed to tell his own story, as the novel's first-person narrator, but he does so in defiance of the understatement and self-effacement associated with the traditional English herioc sensibilities. Thus he is the omniscient narrator. . . (
click this link to read the full article by Dr Paul Skrebels)

1940 The Opera House Murders was an immediate best seller for Faber and Faber. Published in the USA as It Takes a Thief by Harpers and in France as Meutre Devant Temoin.

T.S. Eliot—working for Fabers— urged Dan Billany to produce follow up novels featuring detective Robbie Duncan. Although it is known he made a start; the war changed the direction of Dan's writing. The Trap and The Cage (co written with David Dowie) were sent by an Italian farmer back to Dan's family in Somerset. Both books were published to great acclaim, but Dan and David were never to return. . . .

. . . in 2006, The Whispering,which was to be the follow up book to The Opera House Murders was found with many other manuscripts,

poems and plays—kept safely for over 60 years by Dan's sister Joan Brake.

The Whispering by Dan Billany was published in 2008 and is the first of the previously unpublished work to go to print.

The Whispering by Dan Billany. Review of a classic Detective Story  >>>

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