Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Clock Strikes Twelve: Patricia Wentworth

This is the 7th book in the Miss Maud Silver series. James Paradine, the patriarch of the Paradine family, announces at a family dinner on New Year's Eve that one of his guests has betrayed the interests of the family. He also states that he will wait in his office until midnight to meet with the guilty person and discuss terms for handling the betrayal. Of course, by 12 o'clock he is dead. Just about everyone in the family is considered a suspect, some more than others, and one of the heirs brings in Miss Silver to clear things up.

Why did I read this book? Because it begins with an event on New Year's Eve, and would be a good post for the end of the year. And because I have been wanting to read a Miss Silver mystery and I had heard good things about this one.

The result? I was very pleased with this book. I had not read a book by Patricia Wentworth in many years and I was uncertain if I would still like them. The book was entertaining and a good choice to get back into reading the series.

The book was set in the early 1940s. The New Year's Eve dinner is on the last day of 1941. I usually enjoy books set during World War II.

This is the paragraph that introduces Miss Silver, almost halfway into the story.
Miss Maud Silver was shopping. Even in wartime, and with all the difficulty about coupons, children must be warmly clothed. She was planning to make a jersey and pull-on leggings for her niece Ethel's youngest, who would be three next month. Ethel would provide two coupons, but that would not be enough. She would have to break in upon her own spring supply. It was of no consequence—her last summer's dress was perfectly good, and she had plenty of stockings. Of course it was very difficult for girls who wore these extremely thin silk stockings. Really you had only to look at them to see that they couldn't be expected to last.
Miss Silver just happens to be in town, and one of the guests sees her and convinces Mark Paradine, one of James Paradine's heirs, to ask her to help with the investigation. I for one would expect the police to resent her interference, but we find that she has a reputation for helping out in such situations and that the police welcome her working with the family as a private investigator.

Based on this book, Miss Silver seems to be the intuitive type of detective. Almost psychic in her ability to see through people and pick up on clues in their behavior and mannerisms. And I admire the way that she demands respect and doesn't allow people to manipulate her.

There are so many elements I liked in the story:
  • The wartime setting, as mentioned above
  • The slow, deliberate revelation of the relationships in the family
  • The interesting characters, likable and unlikable 

I find myself waffling on romances in mysteries. Sometimes they are OK, sometimes they hinder my enjoyment of the story. It seems that often the Miss Silver mysteries have at least one couple with relationship problems. In this novel, the relationship between Phyllida, James Paradine's niece by adoption, and her estranged husband, who works for Paradine's company, is an important thread running throughout the story. And in this case, I liked that element.


Publisher: Coronet, 1981 (first publ. 1945)
Length:    205 pages
Format:    Paperback
Series:     Miss Silver Mysteries #7
Setting:    UK 
Genre:     Mystery
Source:    I purchased my copy this year at the Planned Parenthood book sale.


Yvette said...

You know, Tracy, I can't remember having read this one. I've been reading and rereading Miss Silver books over the last couple of years - no rushing, no hurry, no reason other than I remember liking them once upon a time. I'm going to add this one to my list because it sounds good - I too love mysteries during WWII. I don't mind the romances - there's at least one in every book. :) Another good one I'd recommend is POISON IN THE PEN. It's pretty much my favorite - at least for now. I also enjoyed GREY MASK - the first Miss Silver. My problem is that my memory is so full of holes now that it's hard for me to remember plots and forget about character names. :) Oh - ANNA, WHERE ARE YOU? is excellent.

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. Some of the Miss Silver mysteries are very good, and I agree with you about the way Wentworth could evoke a time and place. I'm happy to hear you like the slow reveal in the novel, too. Sometimes that works especially well.

Katrina said...

I enjoyed reading this one a few years ago. I agree with you about the romance in crime fiction, it often gets in the way for me, but sometimes it works.

TracyK said...

I think you will like this one, Yvette. Thanks for the suggestions. I think I will be reading Grey Mask soon, and I also have a copy of Poison in the Pen.

TracyK said...

I am glad I started with a good one, Margot. I know the books are variable, and this one has me eager to try more.

TracyK said...

I did enjoy this one, Katrina, although in some ways the Miss Silver mysteries require the reader to suspend belief quite a bit.

col2910 said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it Tracy, but unless it's the Wentworth I have in the tubs, I doubt it's for me. Not sure I'll be too bothered about reading the one I have to be honest.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

I have a few Patricia Wentworth ebooks (reissues), sent to me by an unknown but generous publisher. I hope to read at least a couple of her mysteries this year.

TracyK said...

This was a good Wentworth, Col, but unless your tastes change drastically, there probably won't be any of her books that you would enjoy. They are short though.

TracyK said...

Prashant, I think you will enjoy them when you try them. I will be reading more myself soon.

Clothes In Books said...

Happy New Year Tracy! And great choice for your last entry of the year. Your review summed up everything I liked about this book - now I'm inspired to read it again for a future New Year.

TracyK said...

I was very happy that I chose this book as my re-introduction to the Miss Silver books, Moira, because I liked it so much I am eager to read more. Grey Mask, the first book in the series was the 2nd book I read this year and I liked it almost as well.

neer said...

Tracy, I was in two minds whether to read a Miss Silver mystery or not but your fine review convinced me to give this one a try. I really liked it esp her characterization. The only thing that was a bit of an irritant was the cough. Thanks a lot for the review.

BTW, I am looking forward to your review of The Whip Hand which is my favourite Canning of the handful I've read.

TracyK said...

I am glad you enjoyed this book, neer. I do like the characterizations in this book. It is funny how people are irritated by the cough. I did not notice it so much. But lots of people do.

I enjoyed Whip Hand but so far I have liked every Canning book I have read. That is only three so far though.

Rosemary said...

Hi Tracy

I finally had time to read your review, which I enjoyed very much - it told me just enough to make me want to read the book, without being a resume of the entire story. And I loved the details about coupons and stockings. Miss Silver sounds great (so many of these mid-century books have amateurs whom the police seem to be quite happy to turn to - eg Paul Temple - can you imagine that happening today?!)

i got my copy of the book down from the shelf - and noticed that it had once been a free gift with "My Weekly"! I'm sure I must have picked it up in a charity shop.

Thanks for reminding me to read what looks like a very promising series.


TracyK said...

Rosemary, good to hear from you. I hope you do like the book and the series. Some fans of vintage mysteries don't like the series as well as I do, but for me they are both comfort reads and show a good picture of the time that they were written.

I am envious that you have access to charity shops that have these old books. The only place I find these are at a big annual book sale I go to, and online of course.