Monday, July 5, 2021

She Came Back: Patricia Wentworth

Although I read some books in the Miss Silver mystery series when I was much younger, I returned to the series in 2017, first reading The Clock Strikes Twelve. Since then I have read six more books in that series, and I am a confirmed fan of the Miss Silver books. 

Maud Silver is an elderly sleuth who is featured in over 30 books written by Patricia Wentworth. Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's sleuth, and Miss Silver are often compared, but one big difference is that Miss Silver is a private detective. She often works with the police, and some of them appreciate her help.


In She Came Back, a wife returns from the dead. Lady Anne Jocelyn was thought to have died over three years earlier, but one day she shows up at the door of her husband's home and announces her return. Sir Phillip Jocelyn and Anne are second cousins, and got married partially because they could combine her money with his estate. At the time they thought they were in love although the marriage was having problems before her death. Now that Anne has returned, Phillip claims that she is an impostor. He has good reasons to think that, but he is finally convinced that she is really Anne. 

Even with the proof she has provided, Anne seems like a stranger to Phillip. And there is a suspicious death soon after her return. In this book, Miss Silver does not show up at all until after a third of the story has taken place. From that point on, she ends up having connections to several characters, although she is never directly asked to investigate any part of the case. She is able to help the police unravel the puzzle at the end. I enjoyed her interactions with Sergeant Frank Abbott and his superior, Chief Inspector Lamb.

The story takes place towards the end of World War II, and Anne had died in France at the time the Germans were invading. The complicated backstory related to that event was especially interesting. The plot is intricate but not confusing, even though there are very many characters. The story is engaging, and there are many well-defined secondary characters. 

The UK title for this book is The Traveller Returns. Cover illustration for this edition is by John Jinks.



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Publisher:   Harper & Row, 1990 (orig. publ. 1945)
Length:       309 pages
Format:       Paperback
Series:        Miss Silver #9
Setting:       UK
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       On my TBR shelves for many years.

25 comments:

Cath said...

I've just grabbed the first book in the series, Grey Mask, for my Kindle. It's high time I gave the series a go!

TracyK said...

Grey Mask was the second Wentworth book I read after The Clock Strikes Twelve, Cath. I liked it a lot. It was written about 10 years before the 2nd one, and my review says she was not prominent in the story, but then that is true in this one too. I am glad you are going to try it, and hope you find it a good read.

Rick Robinson said...

I’m not a fan of series books in which the main series character doesn’t appear until the 1/3 mark or beyond. Yet perhaps it’s better than a flashback?

I’ve not read any of this series, and if I were to so, and didn’t care where in the series I began, what book would you suggest?

CLM said...

This was the first Patricia Wentworth I read and although it is a favorite now, I didn't really like it the first time. A friend of my sister's lent it to her and I think we were about 13 and 16, going through a gothic stage (Victoria Holt, etc.). It wasn't until I was living in New York and came across some of the Warner paperback reprints that I started reading and loving Miss Silver and company and hunting them down. I think I must have found The Traveller Returns and started reading it, then slowly realized I had read it long before. Now I really like impersonation stories!

TracyK said...

Rick, I can understand the problem with waiting for a main series character to show up. Unfortunately every one I have read is like that. I had thought that there was one or two where she was involved from the beginning.

I had to think about a book I would recommend for you. All of the ones I have read have Miss Silver showing up later in the story, sometimes as late as halfway through. But at least they are straightforward, linear stories. My favorite would be MISS SILVER DEALS WITH DEATH, set during World War II, and about various people living in flats in one building in London. Second choice might be WICKED UNCLE (published as SPOTLIGHT in the UK), with a postwar setting, with blackmail as a theme.

They also all have romances in the story, but that doesn't take over the plot, in my opinion. Some readers find Miss Silver irritating, so it is hard to tell if you would like the series or not.

TracyK said...

Constance, my memory of these books from when I was younger was that they were repetitive, and I could still say they have their own formula, to a certain extent. But I find I enjoy them much more now, and have no complaints.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This was one of the first series I read but I haven't revisited it in years. Will look for one.

Margot Kinberg said...

I've always thought Miss Silver didn't get the attention she deserves, Tracy. And I'm saying that as a fan of Miss Marple! That's a really interesting plot point, too - a missing person comes back. That leaves open so many great possibilities, doesn't it? Glad you enjoyed this.

FictionFan said...

I still have Grey Mask on my TBR so I really must get to it sometime soon. I'm sure I read and enjoyed a couple of Miss Silver books many years ago but I don't remember much about them now. She sounds like another detective who deserves to be better known!

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I was concentrating on Hercule Poirot books for a while, and it has been too long since I read a Miss Silver book. I did enjoy Grey Mask a lot, but have enjoyed the ones set around the World War II period even more.

TracyK said...

Patti, I find them good, relaxing reads. I enjoy the picture of the time and there are always characters who are well done.

TracyK said...

Margot, it is has been a good while since I read a Miss Marple book, I will have to find one of those to read sometime soon.

Sam Sattler said...

This is a series I'm unfamiliar with, so I was happy to read your review. I love the way that you are doing so much reading from the first half of the last century. I often wonder what I missed by never much delving into what was popular during the years before I was born. Because I was born in 1948, the forties are particularly fun for me to explore.

TracyK said...

Sam, there are some months where almost all my reading is older mystery fiction from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. But lately I have been reading more of a mix of older and newer. There is much good to say about vintage mysteries and there is a lot of variety, but one nice thing is that most of the books are a nice length, 200-300 pages.

That is a nice coincidence, I was born in 1948 also. My parents met shortly after my father returned from World War II.

Rick Robinson said...

Thank you for your suggestions!

I chose WICKED UNCLE, though several others looked - by title - appealing. Interesting that the ebook was more expensive than the paperback. Not sure when I’ll get to it. Whether it’s the heat, or lack of energy (or both), or what, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve lost the inclination to read. Since I usually spend several hours a day reading, I’m kind of at loose ends. Nothing seems to grab me, nothing sounds interesting. I finished A SIEGE OF BITTERNS and liked it well enough to put a library hold on the 2nd book in the series. Meanwhile, what? Reread an old favorite? Stare out the window? It’ll be 92 today. Sigh.

Marty said...

For anyone who would like to "test drive" a Miss Silver mystery, this is a link to read many of them for free:
https://www.fadedpage.com/sc/wentworth.php

Wentworth liked to fully set up a story's main characters and their relationships before dropping Maud into the mix. She's usually not consulted till after the murder, but sometimes characters do consult her earlier on (and often ignore her advice, to their detriment). A few books that have Miss Silver on the scene BEFORE the murder are "Miss Silver Comes to Stay" and "Out of the Past" (no relation to the noir movie) and "Poison in the Pen" in which she actually appears in Chapter

Marty said...

That was Chapter One in the last sentence!

TracyK said...

I hope you like WICKED UNCLE, Rick, when you get to it. And sorry to hear that you have lost the inclination to read... for a while. 92 is definitely too high a temperature.

My reading seems to have slowed down but not stopped. I read more at night and I would like to get in the habit of reading some earlier in the day. I will look around for a copy of A SIEGE OF BITTERNS. But I won't be able to read it for a couple of months.

I finished FOUNDATION last night. In the end, I liked it a lot. Each section got better.

Lark said...

I've always wanted to try some of her books! So many people say such good things about them.

TracyK said...

Lark, I do recommend that you try some of her books. Like any author, she works well for some readers and not for others. But she is worth a try.

TracyK said...

Marty, thanks for pointing us to fadedpage.com. I think I have looked there a couple of times, but I prefer not to read ebooks if I have a choice, so never tried using it.

Thanks also for mentioning some examples of her books that start Miss Silver earlier in the story. I read Poison in the Pen last year but never reviewed it. It does have a very different format than most of the Miss Silver books. I actually like books that have a lot of set up before the murder takes place, so I don't mind Miss Silver showing up late, although I was surprised when I found that taking place so often.

Rick Robinson said...

Tracy, my library has all of the birder Murder mysteries by Steve Burrows.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. If I don't find the first book easily elsewhere, I will check out that avenue.

col2910 said...

Probably one I can avoid. I do intend to try one by her some day.

TracyK said...

Col, I have yet to read a Miss Silver book that seems like you would like it. But I haven't read any of the books that have other series characters. So maybe those would appeal more to you.