Shot on the Downs

‘All Whitechurch’s stories have distinct merit’ Barzun & Taylor, A Catalogue of Crime
‘Whitechurch’s writing was of a higher quality than that of many other detective novelists of his time Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books
This 2024 Spitfire Publishers ebook and paperback edition is the first republication of this classic of the ‘Golden Age of Crime’ in almost a century
Victor L. Whitechurch was one of the founding members of the Detection Club

The stranger arrived at the remote branch-line station of Ramsden at 5 o’clock that February afternoon. His destination, the tiny village of Little Mitford in Downshire. His motive? Unknown. Directions solicited, the stranger – handsome, moustached and with steely grey eyes – set off across the desolate Downs. Before he has traversed the first mile he suddenly stops, half startled. In the stillness a sharp report has rung out. Minutes later he stumbles across the body of a middle-aged man by a copse of fir trees. He has a blue circle on his right temple – a circle darker in the centre – a stream of blood issues from it across his face. What is the stranger’s next move? Is the murderer still nearby? How will the arbiters of this crime in Downshire, Superintendent Chuff and Colonel Chadlington, investigate this apparent murder?


Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch was a Church of England clergyman and noted English crime novelist. He was born in Norham, Northumberland in 1868 and trained to be a vicar at Chichester Theological College and Durham University. Relatively late in life Victor became rather infatuated with the detective novel and between 1912 and 1932 wrote eight, many centred around the fictional South Downs cathedral and university city of Frattenbury, and often featuring members of the clergy. He was one of the founding members of the Detection Club and contributed to the Club’s collaborative novel The Floating Admiral, published in 1931, which also featured Agatha Christie Dorothy L. Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton. His most famous literary creation however, is amateur railway detective Thorpe Hazelle, a wealthy, vegetarian fitness fanatic who starred in Thrilling Stories of the Railway (recently dramatized for BBC Radio 4 and featuring Benedict Cumberbatch). Ellery Queen described Hazelle as ‘the first of the speciality detectives’. Another was the young detective clergyman, Reverend Harry Westerham, who appeared in The Crime at Diana’s Pool, described by Martin Edwards in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books as ‘A quintessentially English country-house mystery with a touch of the exotic.’ Victor Whitechurch died in 1933, aged 65.


The Crime at Diana’s Pool
‘Quite charming… devotees of mystery yarns will enjoy this story’ New York Times
‘A quintessentially English country-house mystery with a touch of the exotic’ Martin Edwards
‘A model of the detective story… the solution has the neatness of a bold mate at chess’ Glasgow Herald
‘Excellent’ Dorothy L. Sayers

The Robbery at Rudwick House
‘A very entertaining yarn’ New York Times

Murder at Exbridge
‘Should delight those who take pleasure in pitting their analytical abilities against those of the sleuth created by the author’ New York Times

Murder at the Pageant
‘Enthralling… keeps the reader keenly interested’ Boston Transcript

The Dean and Jecinora
‘A novel of exceptional charm’ The Scotsman