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Name Yorke, Margaret
Pseudonym Margaret Beda Larminie
Born / Died 1924–

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Over the course of a literary career that has spanned five decades, Margaret Yorke (1924 - ) has crafted suspenseful and entertaining crime novels. Her works are mostly set in small English villages and feature ordinary people caught up in trouble ranging from juvenile delinquency to marital issues to random acts of violence. According to one critic, her main theme is “how coincidence maketh criminals of us all.” Yorke’s first forays into fiction were “problem” novels, but she hit her stride when she turned to the crime genre, building a series around an Oxford don turned amateur sleuth named Patrick Grant.
In the mid-1970s, though, she moved away from that series to create a string of suspense fictions that have proven successful.

Born Margaret Beda Larminie on January 30, 1924 in Compton, Surrey, England, she was the eldest child and only daughter of John Peel Alexander Larminie and his wife, the former Alison Yorke Lyle. Her maternal grandfather was a successful sugar refiner which has remained in the family and she counts among her cousins a poet-musician and a novelist. She attended Prior’s Field in Godalming, Surrey. She and her family lived in Dublin until 1937 and during the Second World War she was a driver with the Women’s Royal Naval Service. In 1945, she married Basil Nicholson and had two children.

In 1959, Larminie became the assistant librarian at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. Four years later, she became the first female to work in the library at Christ Church, Oxford.   By the time she began her library career, Larminie had published her first novel, Summer Flight (Robert Hale, 1957), using the pseudonym of “Margaret Yorke.” Even at this early stage, some of the hallmarks of her work were evident: the story involved a fugitive who seeks refuge in a remote English village and whose presence brings trouble to many of the residents. She produced ten additional novels over the next decade, including Deceiving Mirror (Robert Hale, 1960), Once a Stranger (Hurst & Blackett, 1962), Full Circle (Hurst & Blackett, 1965), and No Fury (Hurst & Blackett, 1967).

With the 1970 publication of Dead in the Morning (Bles, 1970), Larminie introduced the amateur detective Dr. Patrick Grant, a mild-mannered Oxford don who finds himself embroiled in the murder of a elderly woman’s housekeeper. Grant was featured in four additional novels, Silent Witness (Bles, 1973), Grave Matters (Bles, 1973), Mortal Remains (Bles, 1974), and Cast for Death (Hutchinson, 1976), before his creator retired him.

In 1974, Yorke published No Medals for the Major (Bles) which centers on a military man accused of murdering a young girl whose own lies coupled with the local gossip make things difficult for him. The Point of Murder (Hutchinson, 1978) has a heroine engaging in an illicit affair who finds herself the target of a murderer. False Pretences (St. Martin’s, 1989) centers on a young woman who is charged with taking care of a toddler and finds herself enmeshed in a custody kidnapping.

In discussion her evolution as a writer, the author told an interviewer: “My later novels have been about the victims of events over which they have had no control: whydunnits, and how it happened. . . . [I have gone on] to illustrate, in various novels, different legal anomalies and ways in which justice miscarries. I am more interested in the consequences of serious crime than in its description.”

In addition, Larminie (writing as Yorke) also deals with such themes as the subtle changes in life in small town England, from the societal changes in family structure brought on by divorce and casual sex to the different types of crimes perpetrated, ranging from vandalism to juvenile delinquency to muggings to rape to murder. Marriage and its various problems also figure prominently in her work. A man in a loveless marriage is driven to commit rape in The Hand of Death (Hutchinson, 1981) while another unhappily married man finds himself accused of his wife’s murder and tries to prove his innocence in Intimate Kill (Hutchinson, 1985). An abused wife faces tragedy when she takes steps to create a new life in Dangerous to Know (Hutchinson, 1993).

Between 1979 and 1980, Margaret Yorke served as the chair of the Crime Writers’ Association; in 1993, she was the recipient of the organizations Golden Handcuff Award in recognition of the popularity of a crime novelist within Great Britain’s library system. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings Women authors, English.
Detective and mystery stories.
English literature -- 20th century.
English literature -- Women authors.

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