Josephine Bell is the pen name of Doris Collier Ball (1897-1987), who became a University College Hospital of London physician and married fellow doctor Norman Dyer Ball. After her husband died in a car accident in 1936, the tragedy pushed Bell to try her hand at writing, although she also maintained her medical practice until the age of 57. She continued to write full time until she was 85, creating numerous sleuths in over forty novels and several short stories, including Amy Tupper, Dr. Henry Frost, and Dr. David Wintingham. She was a co-founder of the Crime Writers' Association, serving as its chair in 1959, and a member of the Detection Club.
It's the idealistic Dr. David Wintringham who is featured in Bell's novel from 1950, The Summer School Mystery. The school in the title refers to the summer music school at Falconbury, which proves to be more eventful than any of the students or lecturers could have imagined. The school is in the country, but many of the pupils and their instructors have traveled from the Royal School of Music in London. Derek Fox and his fiancée Belinda Power fail to turn up on time and nobody knows where they are. When the body of Belinda is discovered inside one of her own timpani, suspicion falls on Derek, who turns to Dr. Wintringham for help. But Derek is not forthcoming with information leaving David with little to go on. What is Derek hiding? And who killed Belinda if Derek is innocent?
It's been said that Bell's fiction marks a transition from British Golden Age style, in a society facing prewar industrial depression, wartime restrictions, and postwar austerity at the time that Bell began writing, which also served as the backdrop in many of her books. Dr. Wintringham is the type of professional working-man sleuth featured in such works, a physician at Research Hospital in London, who is married with four children and a frequent consultant to his friend Inspector Mitchell of Scotland Yard. Wintringham appeared in 18 novels and proved his skill at spotting incorrect medical diagnoses as well as clues left at crime scenes.
Bell was popular in her native England, but her novels didn't cross the Pond until 1955. Black Dagger Crime has brought back a few of her novels in print over the past several years, but in general, her books aren't easy to find.