Crane, Frances 1896–1981

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Crane, Frances 1896–1981

PERSONAL: Born 1896, in Lawrenceville, IL; died 1981; married Ned Crane; children: one daughter. Education: University of Illinois, Urbana, B.A.

CAREER: Author.

MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa.



The Tennessee Poppy; or, Which Way Is Westminster Abbey?, Farrar & Rinehart (New York, NY), 1932.

The Reluctant Sleuth (mystery), Hammond (London, England), 1961.

Three Days in Hong Kong (mystery), Hammond (London, England), 1965.

Body beneath the Mandarin Tree (mystery), Hammond (London, England), 1965.

A Very Quiet Murder (mystery), Hammond (London, England), 1966.

Worse than a Crime (mystery), Hale (London, England), 1968.


The Turquoise Shop, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1941.

The Golden Box, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1942.

The Yellow Violet, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1942.

The Applegreen Cat, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1943.

The Pink Umbrella, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1943.

The Amethyst Spectacles, Random House (New York, NY), 1944.

The Indigo Necklace, Random House (New York, NY), 1945.

The Cinnamon Murder, Random House (New York, NY), 1946.

The Shocking Pink Hat, Random House (New York, NY), 1946.

Murder on the Purple Water, Random House (New York, NY), 1947.

Black Cypress, Random House (New York, NY), 1948.

The Flying Red Horse, Random House (New York, NY), 1950.

The Daffodil Blonde, Random House (New York, NY), 1950.

Murder in Blue Street, Random House (New York, NY), 1951, published as Death in the Blue Hour, Hammond (London, England), 1952.

The Polkadot Murder, Random House (New York, NY), 1951.

Murder in Bright Red, Random House (New York, NY), 1953.

13 White Tulips, Random House (New York, NY), 1953.

The Coral Princess Murders, Random House (New York, NY), 1954.

Death in Lilac Time, Random House (New York, NY), 1955.

Horror on the Ruby X, Random House (New York, NY), 1956.

The Ultraviolet Widow, Random House (New York, NY), 1956.

The Buttercup Case, Random House (New York, NY), 1958.

The Man in Gray, Random House (New York, NY), 1958, published as The Gray Stranger, Hammond (London, England), 1958.

Death-Wish Green, Random House (New York, NY), 1960.

The Amber Eyes, Random House (New York, NY), 1962.

SIDELIGHTS: Primarily a formula mystery author, Frances Crane wrote mysteries for over two decades, moving from the conventions of the late Golden Age "Had-I-But-Known" school to the fringes of modern crime novels. Most of her books feature Jean Abbott—Jean Holly prior to her marriage—who narrates the stories while her husband, Pat, is the strong silent detective. Though they live in San Francisco, many of the Abbotts' cases occur while they are on vacation; in fact, the books are often travelogues. Hints of spies or gangsters are usually kept vague. A murder occurs, usually offstage, and Jean becomes involved; Pat, who is in charge of the final scenes, catches the villain and explains how and why the murder occurred. His solution is based largely on points learned or discussed by Jean, but his reasoning process to uncover the murderer's identity is not given. The earlier books use Had-I-But-Known teasers to evoke suspense, but Crane dropped most of those by the late 1950s. And Crane moved with the times in other ways, introducing more naturalistic elements, drugs in Death-Wish Green and The Coral Princess Murders, and a retarded child in The Amber Eyes.

Crane's mysteries often drop the reader into the middle of a situation and then backtrack to show how the Abbotts got into it. A large eccentric family or close-knit group makes up the list of suspects, often not clearly differentiated. There is often a pair of young lovers toward whom Jean is sympathetic, even though at least one of them acts suspiciously. Pat seems to accept them at face value, forcing Jean to withhold some incriminating information. In the earlier books Jean is a prominent character. Her style is almost chatty, including detailed reporting of clothes and makeup. Later, she is primarily an observer.

Crane achieved her popularity as a mystery writer by using familiar themes, taking her readers to exotic places, and presenting a non-taxing, unthreatening tale for which all the loose threads are neatly tied by the end of each book.

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Crane, Frances 1896–1981

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