Series: Inspector Henry Tibbet #1
Publication Date: September 15, 1959
Project: a century of women
“If you’re as hungry as I am for a really good whodunit, you will welcome the debut of Patricia Moyes,” wrote Anthony Boucher in The NewYork Times Book Review on the publication of this first Inspector Henry Tibbett mystery more than twenty years ago. The setting is the Italian Alps, where Henry Tibbett, on vacation from Scotland Yard, and his wife, Emmy, have settled in for some skiing. But their hopes for a holiday die when Henry uncovers an international smuggling ring involving some of the hotel guests. Then, a fellow guest who is alive when the ski lift leaves the top of the mountain is found dead when the lift touches bottom.
Henry Tibbett, Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard, has for years delighted those who love a classic British detective story. A modest, self-effacing man, Tibbett possesses an almost uncanny “nose” for crime, and those who know him well realize that his gentlemanly demeanor masks a shrewd mind and a fearless spirit. When he teams up with his wife, Emmy, a cheerful but formidable woman, there isn’t a criminal anywhere who can rest secure.
I’ve been intending to try out the Inspector Henry Tibbett series by Patricia Moyes for years. I picked up a different one – The Coconut Crime – at my local UBS and read it earlier this year and never posted about it over here. I enjoyed Henry and his delightful wife, Emmy, but wasn’t in love with the book’s tropical setting. I decided to order the first book in the series – this one – from Abe Books and give it a second try.
I have a much more significant affinity to mysteries set in cold, snowy climates, so this was a hit with me. I really enjoyed everything about it. We’re introduced to Henry & Emmy in England, as they are getting ready to leave for a skiing holiday in Santa Chiara, a small town in the Italian Alps, and Henry’s boss at Scotland Yard asks him to do a little bit of sleuthing around for an international smuggling ring. The side characters are likable and well-drawn, both the international jet setters who spend their days in Santa Chiara skiing and their nights drinking, and the staff of the hotel, all of whom are more than they appear at first glance.
Things really get going when a corpse shows up on the downward side of the chair lift that operates between the luxury hotel where Henry and Emmy are staying and the town of Santa Chiara. The victim has been shot, and no one is upset that he’s dead because he’s a drug-running, smuggling, abusive criminal. Henry duly sleuthes around, Emmy does what Emmy does best, which is pay attention and get people talking, and everyone works on their ski technique.
It seems like no one really writes mysteries like this anymore. It’s not a cozy, and lacks the sometimes overly twee elements that I don’t like in a typical coffee shop/bookstore/cat cozy. It’s not a police procedure or gritty modern drama. The puzzle is at the forefront, but, also character development and interactions are important. I really enjoy the classic mystery format and am always on the lookout for this type of series.