Mark Lambert, one of the finest authors of his generation, is dead and his final masterpiece is missing. Dauncey and Lambert’s daughter both believe it to be in Italy, but in an effort to recover it there they face adventure and secrets never dreamed of. How far away is danger? This is a masterly work from J.I.M. Stewart, with all of his expected twists and turns for the reader, right up to his usual satisfying end.
The Author: John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (who also wrote as ‘Michael Innes’) was born in Edinburgh where his father was Director of Education. He attended Edinburgh Academy before going up to Oriel College, Oxford where he was awarded a first class degree in English and won the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize and was named a Bishop Frazer scholar. After a short interlude travelling with AJP Taylor in Austria, including studying Freudian psychoanalysis for a year, he embarked on an edition of Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essays. This subsequently helped him secure a post teaching English at Leeds University.
In 1932, Stewart married Margaret Hardwick, who practiced medicine, and they subsequently had three sons and two daughters. By 1935, he had been awarded the Jury Chair at the University of Adelaide in Australia as Professor of English and had also completed his first detective novel, ‘Death at the President’s Lodging’, published under the pseudonym ‘Michael Innes’. This was an immediate success and part of a long running series centered on ‘Inspector Appleby’, his primary character when writing as ‘Innes’. There were almost fifty titles completed under the ‘Innes’ banner during his career.
In 1946, he returned to the UK and spent two years at Queen's University in Belfast, before being appointed Student (Fellow and Tutor) at Christ Church, Oxford. He was later to hold the post of Reader in English Literature of Oxford University and upon his retirement was made an Emeritus Professor. Whilst never wanting to leave his beloved Oxford permanently, he did manage to fit into his busy schedule a visiting Professorship at the University of Washington and was also honored by other Universities in the UK.
Stewart wrote many works under his own name, including twenty-one works of fiction (which contained the highly acclaimed quintet entitled ‘A Staircase in Surrey’, centered primarily in Oxford, but with considerable forays elsewhere, especially Italy), several short story collections, and over nine learned works on the likes of Shakespeare, Kipling and Hardy. He was also a contributor to many academic publications, including a major section on modern writers for the Oxford History of English Literature. He died in 1994, the last published work being an autobiography: ‘Myself and Michael Innes’.
J.I.M. Stewart’s fiction is greatly admired for its wit, plots and literary quality, whilst the non-fiction is acknowledged as being definitive.