Boylan, Eleanor 1916-

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BOYLAN, Eleanor 1916-


Born April 30, 1916, in New York, NY; daughter of Edward (a lawyer) and Kathleen (Ewing) Daly; married Paul Boylan (a teacher), September 9, 1944; children: Paul, Jr., Edward, Thomas, Virginia, Eleanor. Education: College of Mount St. Vincent, B.A., 1938. Politics: Independent. Religion: Catholic.


Home—Anna Maria Island, FL. OfficeHenry Holt & Company, Inc., 115 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011.


Puppeteer and writer.



Working Murder, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.

Murder Observed, Holt (New York, NY), 1990.

Murder Machree, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.

Pushing Murder, Holt (New York, NY), 1993.

Murder Crossed, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.


How to Be a Puppeteer, illustrated by Tomie de Paola, Dutton (New York, NY), 1969.

Plays for Puppets and People, New Plays Books (Rowayton, CT), 1975.

Also author of short stories in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen mystery magazines.


Eleanor Boylan is the creator of the Clara Gamadge mystery series. The white-haired, warmhearted Clara first appeared in the Henry Gamadge mystery series, written by Boylan's aunt, mystery writer Elizabeth Daly, and published in the 1940s and 1950s. When Clara appeared in Working Murder, the first novel in Boylan's series, she was widowed and honored to take over her husband's role as an innovative crime-solver. Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Robert A. Carter praised Boylan's depiction of Clara, whom he described as "warm, witty, grandmotherly, and a super sleuth." "Boylan writes with such credibility that readers will suspect her characters of existence beyond the pages of her book," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In Working Murder sixty-eight-year-old Clara receives a call from her elderly aunt in New York asking for Clara's help in reopening the case of her daughter, who disappeared mysteriously fifty years ago. Eager to assist her aunt, Clara flies to New York, but upon arrival discovers her aunt dead of an apparent suicidal overdose. Clara thinks someone may have killed her aunt because she tried to reopen her daughter's case, and decides to investigate the murder herself.

When Clara's lifelong friend Anna Lockwood is run down right in front of her eyes, Clara embarks on another crime-solving venture in Murder Observed. Moments before her death, Anna confided in Clara her suspicions about the handsome Dollfuss Miltke, who was behind the wheel of the car that struck and killed her. In a surprising plot-twist, Dollfuss himself is thrown from a window, and his companion Beth is discovered to be the granddaughter of Anna's first husband. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Boylan's writing in the book as "crisp and intelligent" and her heroine as "endearing."

In Murder Machree, the third novel in Boylan's series, Armand Evers, one of the twin brothers of Rachael, a childhood friend, confides in Clara that someone is trying to murder him. When Clara calls Rachael at home in Ireland to discuss Armand's fears, Rachael tells her that Armand is seated beside her. When one twin is killed, Clara flies to Ireland to solve the mystery and keep Rachael safe. "The terror that builds as the killer stalks Boylan's appealing cast—all of whom, including Clara's married son and Rachael's poet grandson, are fully realized characters—will engross even the most demanding readers," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor.

When she eats an arsenic-laced hors d'oeuvre at a friend's bookstore opening, Clara herself is nearly killed in Pushing Murder. Clara luckily makes it to the hospital in time and is surrounded by supporters, including her two grown children, who vow to stop the killer before he strikes again. Remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "The feisty Clara is more sharply etched than the other characters and the plot exhibits some gaps and slow patches, but Boylan nevertheless tailors a diverting and sprightly old-fashioned cozy in modern dress."

Carter termed Murder Crossed a "highly diverting caper" that is "just the right length for a pleasant evening read." In this novel, Clara returns to her alma mater to help her headmistress prepare for a visit from Margo Llewelyn, an alumnus who is also a famous movie star. Margo plans to leave her three daughters—all of whom have different fathers—at the school while she travels to England. When Margo is discovered dead on the grounds, her daughters' fathers show up staking claims to her fortune. When it is later revealed the murdered woman is actually Margo's body double, Clara sets out to solve another complicated mystery. Booklist reviewer Emily Melton described the plot as "highly entertaining" and the conclusion as "satisfying." Melton went on to say that the book is "guaranteed to produce the warm, fuzzy feeling that all fans of cozy mysteries so crave."



"Eleanor Boylan," Detecting Women 2, Purple Moon Press, 1996-1997, p. 32.


Armchair Detectives, winter, 1995, review of Pushing Murder, p. 17; fall, 1996, review of Murder Crossed, p. 488.

Booklist, January 27, 1992, review of Murder Machree, p. 91; February 15, 1992, Peter Robinson, review of Murder Machree, pp. 1090-1092; April 1, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Murder Crossed, p. 1345.

Houston Chronicle, September 1, 1996, Robert A. Carter, "Meet Some Fresh Detectives," p. 23.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1992, review of Murder Machree, p. 141; July 1, 1993, review of Pushing Murder, p. 819; February 15, 1996, review of Murder Crossed, p. 261.

Library Journal, March 1, 1992, Rex E. Klett, review of Murder Machree, p. 123; February 1, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of Murder Crossed, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, review of Murder Observed, p. 56; January 27, 1992, review of Murder Machree, p. 91; July 12, 1993, review of Pushing Murder, p. 71; February 26, 1996, review of Murder Crossed, p. 88.

School Library Journal, August, 1992, Mary T. Gerrity, review of Murder Machree, p. 189.

Wall Street Journal, December 15, 1993, Tom Nolan, review of Pushing Murder, p. A11, A14.

Wilson Library Bulletin, March, 1992, Kathleen Maio, review of Murder Machree, p. 101.*