The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest (Skin Deep)
The first of six novels with Detective James Pibble
About the book
Set in Notting Dale, West London; remnant of “primitive” New Guinea tribe living in large Victorian house, and maintaining or adapting their tribal customs amid London life, a process studied and shared by their protector, a female anthropologist. One of their number is killed, and Pibble — intelligent, unassertive, tends to get assigned to off-beat cases that will bring no one any kudos — investigates.
“The Glass-sided Ants’ Nest” was the working title right up to late proof stage, when an elderly partner at my UK publishers wandered into the editorial offices, picked up a cover proof and said “You know, no woman will buy a book with an insect in the title.” Ah well. I reverted as soon as I got the chance.
Crime Writers Association Golden Dagger (Winner) - 1968
Mystery Writers of America Edgar (Nominee) - 1968
The Glass-Sided Ant's Nest (1968) deservedly won the Crime Writers'
Association's Gold Dagger, and a more peculiar crime novel would be hard to
find. In it, a tribe of erudite New Guinea natives are discovered grieving for
their fallen chief in a London house. He has been battered to death with an
owl (taken from a banister) and is found with a double-sided penny in one
hand. The unravelling of the plot reveals a gender-switched marriage, a bowl
of blood, and a weird smell of burning rubber, all of which provide clues.
Independent (12 February 2012)
Brilliantly imaginative…wonderfully convincing.
A first-class detective story by any standards…excellent, gripping,
intelligent and original.
Times Literary Supplement
A classical detective story (and a damn good one).
Probably the most splendid debut in crime fiction for several years.
Edmund Crispin, Sunday Times
Every conceivable boon of knowledgeablity, excitement, local colour and
intelligent good humour.
Here is something different, colourful, unexpected.
A most original plot, with a solution to match. I can't recall a situation so
strange or an unfolding so suspenseful.
Highly original...Mr. Dickinson's anthropological invention and sociological
wit...give his novel real distinction.
Hodder & Stoughton, UK - 1968
Harper & Row, US - 1968
Panther, UK - 1969
Penguin, US - 1981
Penguin, UK - 1981
Arrow, UK - 1986
International Polygonics, UK - 1991
Felony & Mayhem, US - 2006
Open Road, US - 2015