Emma Lathen

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Emma Lathen is the pen name of two American businesswomen: an economist Mary Jane Latsis (July 12, 1927 – October 29, 1997) and an economic analyst Martha Henissart (born 1929), who received her B.A. in physics from Mount Holyoke College in 1950.

Henissart and Latsis met as graduate students at Harvard. As Lathen, they wrote numerous mystery novels starring John Putnam Thatcher, a Wall Street banker. The pseudonym is constructed from two authors' names "M" of Mary and "Ma" of Martha, and "Lat" of Latsis and "Hen" of Henissart. They also wrote under the pseudonym R. B. Dominic; all the Dominic stories feature Congressman Benton Safford as the sleuth. "The authors have a distinctive talent for writing clearly and entertainingly about complicated financial intrigues, for combining these business matters with current events, and for creating tightly plotted mysteries that produce fascinating and civilized novels."[1]

Each book features events in a specific industry or activity with which Thatcher or Safford become involved in the course of their work. The books often refer to specific public events in their plotting; for example, "When in Greece" is mostly set in that country during the Colonels' Revolution, and "Going for Gold" involves the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Others relate to more general social and other trends, such as "Death Shall Overcome" which links with the Civil Rights Movement.

Characterization[edit]

Their recurring characters are especially engaging: John Putnam Thatcher is senior vice president of the Sloan Guaranty Trust, the "third largest bank in the world" (at least until "East is East"), a "youthful sixty" in Accounting for Murder and unaging in subsequent novels.

His unsentimental view of the world allows him to apply his banker's knowledge to the crimes that pop up. His nominal superior is the bank's president, Bradford Withers (married to Carrie), a socialite and dunderhead; the Chairman of the Board George Lancer has more depth, but fewer amusing scenes, serving more as a foil for his wife Lucy.

Thatcher's secretary is the redoubtable Rose Theresa Corsa, who fends off interruptions from the bank officers who report to Thatcher and generally runs his working hours (and much of the rest of his life) while regarding his involvement in detective work with disapproval.

His subordinates include Charlie Trinkham (raffish), Everett Gabler (severe), and Walter Bowman (corpulent and curious).

The very junior trust officer Kenneth Nicolls often appears, perhaps because the first Emma Lathen novel detailed how he met his wife Jane, while subsequent books detailed the purchase of his first home, birth of a son and a daughter, and first international business trip.

Awards[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

as Emma Lathen[edit]

  • Banking on Death (1961)
  • A Place for Murder (1963)
  • Accounting for Murder (1964); shortlisted for Gold Dagger Award
  • Murder Makes the Wheels Go Round (1966)
  • Death Shall Overcome (1966)
  • Murder Against the Grain (1967); Gold Dagger Award
  • A Stitch in Time (1968)
  • Come to Dust (1968)
  • When in Greece (1969); shortlisted for Edgar Award
  • Murder to Go (1969)
  • Pick Up Sticks (1970)
  • Ashes to Ashes (1971)
  • The Longer the Thread (1971)
  • Murder Without Icing (1972)
  • Sweet and Low (1974)
  • By Hook or by Crook (1975)
  • Double, Double, Oil and Trouble (1978)
  • Going for the Gold (1981)
  • Green Grow the Dollars (1982)
  • Something in the Air (1988)
  • East is East (1991)
  • Right on the Money (1993)
  • Brewing Up a Storm (1996)
  • A Shark Out of Water (1997)

as R. B. Dominic[edit]

  • Murder Sunny Side Up (1968)
  • Murder in High Place (1969)
  • There Is No Justice (aka Murder out of Court) (1971)
  • Epitaph for a Lobbyist (1974)
  • Murder Out of Commission (1976)
  • The Attending Physician (1980)
  • Unexpected Developments (aka A Flaw in the System) (1983)

References[edit]

  • Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, ed. Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler, Routledge, 1976.
  • Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction, T. J. Binyon (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 0-19-219223-X pp. 69–70
  1. ^ Swanson, Jean and Dean James, Killer Books: A Reader's Guide to Exploring the Popular World of Mystery and Suspense, Berkley Prime Crime, New York, 1998. ISBN 0425162184