Duffy, Margaret 1942–

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Duffy, Margaret 1942–


Born March 3, 1942, in Woodford, Essex, England; daughter of Leslie Oscar (a hairdresser and author) and Ethel Margaret (a court dressmaker) Zenker; married Gordon Frederick Duffy (a consultant engineer), April 9, 1966; children: Hayley Ann Ball. Education: Attended Worthing Technical College. Politics: "Conservative." Religion: Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, horse riding, nature, birds, archaeology (especially shipwrecks).


Home—Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland. Agent—Vanessa Holt, 59 Crescent Rd., Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 2PF, England.


Clerical officer in Worthing, England, 1958-66, and for Ministry of Defense, Avon, England, 1969-74; writer.



A Murder of Crows, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1987.

Death of a Raven, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1988.

Brass Eagle, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1988.

Who Killed Cock Robin?, St. Martin's, (New York, NY), 1990.

Rook-Shoot, Piatkus Books (London, England), 1990.

Man of Blood, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.

Gallows-Bird, Piatkus Books (London, England), 1993.

Dressed to Kill, Piatkus Books, (London, England), 1994.

Corpse-Candle, Piatkus Books, (London, England), 1995.

Prospect of Death, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996.

Music in the Blood, Piatkus (London, England), 1997.

A Fine Target, Piatkus (London, England), 1998.

A Hanging Matter, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2002.

So Horrible a Place, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2004.

Dead Trouble, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2004.

Tainted Ground, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2006.

Cobweb, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2007.


Many of Margaret Duffy's mysteries feature the husband-and-wife detecting team of Ingrid Langley and Patrick Gillard. Langley is a novelist and Gillard is an army officer, but both are members of D-12, a super-secret division of British intelligence. In Rook-Shoot, the couple are planning a vacation when Patrick's brother Larry petitions them for help. The Outward-Bound type survival courses he leads are being sabotaged by an unknown enemy. When the Gillards try to intervene, they are captured by an old nemesis, Lyndberne, who runs a school for terrorists. The couple find themselves part of a demonstration on how to torture and interrogate subjects. A Kirkus Reviews writer found the book's scenes of torture "appalling," but praised the depiction of the Gillards' relationship.

In Man of Blood Duffy introduces undercover policeman Rolt and his sidekick Piers Ashley, who infiltrate a crime mob so thoroughly that Ashley spends six months in prison. The action moves from the city to a country castle and involves run-ins with the police and the underworld. According to another Kirkus Reviews contributor, Man of Blood "combines derring-do with a cozy, upper-crust charm—somewhat reminiscent of Golden Age detective fiction…. The steely Rolt and the dashing Piers will wow devoted Anglophiles."

Duffy created another crime-solving couple in Dressed to Kill. James Carrick is a detective chief inspector with the police force in Bath, England; Joanna MacKenzie is a member of the force, but she becomes a private investigator when she is fired because of her affair with Carrick. In Prospect of Death, Carrick and MacKenzie join forces with Patrick Gillard to solve the brutal murder of a movie producer. Prospect of Death was criticized in Kirkus Reviews for having "too many plotlines, corpses, beatings, and detectives in an overrich brew," but the reviewer added that it was all "made readable … by the author's graceful style and command of local color."

Duffy returns to the detecting couple of Langley and Gillard with the 2006 installment, Tainted Ground, which finds them newly retired from the secret service, with Ingrid Langley taking up scriptwriting. However, Patrick Gillard is having trouble finding a vocation for himself until an opportunity comes along to join the police. His old friend, DCI James Carrick, whom he has teamed up with before, recommends him for the position. Uncomfortably for them both, Gillard is quickly promoted above Carrick, which causes tension between the two. However, Gillard has no time for turf battles. He is no sooner on the job than he is presented with a troubling case: three bodies are discovered in a barn and the clues lead nowhere. A Kirkus Reviews critic complained that there were "few clues, no suspense and not the slightest interest in any of the suspects" in this procedural. For Booklist contributor Emily Melton, though, this was a "competently written, creatively plotted British mystery."

Duffy once told CA: "I started by writing science fiction, which at that time—in the days before fantasy really became a cult genre in the early eighties—was in the doldrums. Chimera was followed by Barefoot Upon Thorns and Brittle Star. Publishers and agents liked my writing style but shook their heads over the subject matter. I could not stop writing—I had too worthwhile of a central character, someone by that time who was too much a part of my life to forget and shove into a drawer. So I brought Patrick Gillard back into the twentieth century and turned him into a Falklands War veteran, trying to pick up the pieces of his life after serious injury. It seemed logical that a major in a special operations unit might be asked to work for MI5 and that as socializing was part of the job be expected to find a female partner. Gillard's choice was his ex-wife, Ingrid, and he prayed that she would agree. When a man has suffered injuries of the worst possible kind, he is not looking for sexual challenges and after the acrimonious divorce, he knew Ingrid would be the last woman on earth to want to go to bed with him. As it happened, he was wrong about quite a few things on this subject, but it only served to make life more interesting for both of them.

"I enjoy writing about people who, with courage and determination, triumph over the setbacks that life throws at them. There has to be humor of course, there can be no real life without it.

"I have branched out from thrillers into whodunits. I suppose writers on such subjects hope their work will be dramatized for television and film, and I am no exception. One day, perhaps, I will also see the one remaining science fiction story in print, the one that escaped the wastepaper basket—Mindspinner, the light of my life."

Duffy later added: "My father wrote and had a novel published called Many Bridges. I suppose writing is in my blood.

"Reading Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels made me burn to want to write—they are wonderful.

"I write when the house can be described as reasonably straight. I can't work if my house is a mess.

"The most surprising thing I learned as a writer is about myself—I am much more tenacious and thick-skinned than I thought. You have to be to or you give up at the first rejection [letter].

"My favorite book is A Fine Target, but I'm not sure why."



Booklist, September 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of Tainted Ground, p. 61.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1991, review of Rook-Shoot, p. 1312; August 15, 1992, review of Man of Blood, p. 1019; October 15, 1994, review of Dressed to Kill, p. 1372; May 1, 1996, review of Prospect of Death, p. 642; September 1, 2006, review of Tainted Ground, p. 877.