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.

Author Comment

“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. Observer

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). The Times

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. Sunday Times

Here is something different, colourful, unexpected. Sunday Telegraph

A most original plot, with a solution to match. I can't recall a situation so strange or an unfolding so suspenseful. Louis Untermeyer

Highly original...Mr. Dickinson's anthropological invention and sociological wit...give his novel real distinction. Ross Macdonald


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