This is a reposting from 2013 in memory of Dorothy Salisbury Davis, who died last week at the age of 98.
Dorothy Salisbury Davis is considered as one of the Grand Dames of crime fiction, but she didn't start out as a writer, working first in advertising and as a librarian. She published her first novel in 1949, The Judas Cat, and since authored 20 novels and received seven Edgar Award nominations. She's been a big influence on the crime fiction community, serving as Myster Writers of America grandmaster in 1985 and on the initial steering committee for the formation of Sisters in Crime (along with Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Betty Francis, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard and Susan Dunlap).
By her own account, Davis is an "odd fit" in crime fiction, unhappy with her perceived inability to create a memorable series character and uncomfortable with violence and murder. But she's very happy creating villains, and often commented that villains are much more fun to write about than heroes. Her themes trend more toward psychology than out-and-out detection and religious tensions are often found in her work, not surprising considering her own background (as a Roman Catholic who left the church).
A Gentleman Called from 1958 was nominated for an Edgar in 1959 and included in The Essential Mystery Lists by Roger Sobin. It features characters who were to be featured in three books, including attorney Jimmie Jarvis and his housekeeper, Mrs. Norris, and the District Attorney's chief investigator, Jasper Tally.
The story starts off revolving around middle-aged bachelor Theodore Adkins, who is slapped with a paternity suit. Adkins is also from a wealthy family who are old clients of Jarvis' law firm, which prompts Jarvis to take the case. At the same time, Jasper Tally is involved in an investigation into the strangulation of wealthy Arabella Sperling and the theft of her diamond pin. Eventuallly, the two plots converge around several other unsolved murders involving matrimony-minded women, which threatens to ensnare Mrs. Norris and put her own life in danger.
Salisbury is adept at characterization and using dialogue to flesh out her characters. The psychological underpinnings of A Gentleman Called are as important, or really more so, than the whodunnit aspect, but it's entertaining to follow her characters through their interactions or, as Kirkus noted, enjoy the "Insidious indirection which gives the novel a crafty glint."