Category Archives: Moyes, Patricia

Johnny Under Ground by Patricia Moyes

Johnny Under GroundJohnny Under Ground by Patricia Moyes
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Inspector Henry Tibbet #6
Publication Date: January 31, 1965
Pages: 253
Genre: mystery
Project: a century of women

Emmy Tibbett was uneasy about attending her twentieth Royal Air Force reunion. Emmy had been a native nineteen year-old auxiliary officer at Dymfield Air Base during the war when she had fallen in love with the handsome hero pilot Beau Guest. She had been devasted when he committed suicide by deliberately crashing his plane into the North Sea. At the reunion Emmy was shocked to discover she had been the very last to see Guest alive. Even more disturbing was her discovery that everyone connected with the fatal flight had something to hide.

Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett of Scotland Yard knew his wife had stumbled onto something sinister. But he couldn't keep her from investigating the past - not even when anonymous letters and a suspicious suicide made it clear someone meant to keep a nasty secret buried and wouldn't hesitate to kill.

My crazy pup chewed up my first paperback when I was at about 30%, so I had to get my hands on a new copy to finally find out whodunit.

I quite liked this entry in the series – much better than the prior book that I read, Falling Star. This one reaches back into Emmy Tibbitt’s past as a 19 year old member of the RAF auxiliary, long before she met and married Chief Inspector Henry Tibbets.

The book opens with a reunion of her old colleagues, in which she is convinced to participate in a book project where she and another of the old group are convinced to begin writing a book about Beau Geste, a famous pilot who is believed to have committed suicide by crashing into the sea in a bet with one of the other pilots. This stirs up some secrets that at least one of the old crowd would prefer to remain buried.

The mystery develops in two timelines, with flashbacks from Emmy. Emmy is one of my favorite series characters, so getting more of her backstory, as well as more interactions between her & Henry and her and all of those old colleagues was great. In addition, someone is trying to set Emmy up to take the fall, so Henry has to use his famous investigative skills to make sure they don’t succeed. The mystery itself was clever and the solution took me by surprise.

Triple Play: Vintage Mystery

Falling StarFalling Star by Patricia Moyes
Rating: ★★½
Series: Inspector Henry Tibbet #5
Publication Date: July 28, 1964
Pages: 255
Genre: mystery
Project: halloween bingo

Rich, aristocratic, and at the heart of swinging London, “Pudge” Coombe-Peters has everything except a decent nickname. And in fact, he has two special attributes: He owns the narration—the drawling, deliciously snobbish, all-but-impossibly irritating narration—of Falling Star, and he has a chum named Henry Tibbett, who comes in just awfully handy when people start dying on the set of the film that Pudge is producing.

Tibbett is especially welcome because, by the second death, it’s clear that we’re not dealing merely with murder but with Impossible Crime, the kind of fiendishly clever puzzle that is killingly hard to write and even more difficult to solve. The twisty plot and gorgeously retro setting on their own would make for a splendid read, but adding Pudge to the mix puts it over the top.

This is a series that I really like – so much that I am collecting them all in paperback. Unfortunately, though, this was quite a mediocre entry, in my opinion. There wasn’t nearly enough Henry Tibbets – he doesn’t show up until the 50% mark – and there was basically zero Emmy Tibbets, and she’s one of my favorite characters. The book specific characters were insufficient to carry it. The narrator was obnoxious. And, in addition, as I have discovered through reading this, as well as a couple of Ngaio Marsh mysteries (which were far superior to this one, but I digress), I just don’t really like “theater” settings for my golden/silver age mysteries. Meh.

Traitor's PurseTraitor's Purse by Margery Allingham
Rating: ★★½
Series: Albert Campion #11
Publication Date: March 2, 1941
Pages: 208
Genre: mystery
Project: halloween bingo

Celebrated amateur detective Albert Campion awakes in hospital accused of attacking a police officer and suffering from acute amnesia. All he can remember is that he was on a mission of vital importance to His Majesty’s government before his accident. On the run from the police and unable to recognise even his faithful servant or his beloved fiancee, Campion struggles desperately to put the pieces together while the very fate of England is at stake.

Oh, man, this book was such a bust for me because I unknowingly picked the “amnesia” book. I really dislike the amnesia trope under the best of circumstances. This was not the best of circumstances.

Rating/reviewing this book is a near impossible undertaking because I think that my decision to read it out of order and essentially in isolation was unwise. The only Campion mystery I have previously read is The Crime at Black Dudley, which barely includes him.

So, I went into this amnesia book in basically the same tabula rasa state as our sleuth, knowing none of the characters, knowing very little about Campion and, like Campion, I muddled around in confusion for some 200+ pages. I have no idea if this is a good book or not because I was so annoyed about my inability to understand what the hell was happening or who any of these people are. This was me:

So, this might be a great installment in the Campion canon (and, reading other reviews, I suspect that it is), but it not a great entry into the series. At all.

The Five Red FingersThe Five Red Fingers by Brian Flynn
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Anthony Bathurst #5
Publication Date: October 7, 1929
Pages: 210
Genre: mystery
Project: halloween bingo

“Hard luck to be murdered just after your horse has won the Derby! Don’t you think so, Doctor?”

Julius Maitland, the millionaire horse trainer is excited about his horse’s chance to win the Derby. His wife’s horse is also strongly fancied. In a neck and neck finish, Maitland’s horse takes the race, his wife’s in second.

In a national sensation, the winner is disqualified. A telephone call the day after the race summons the police to a house where Maitland’s murdered body is found – and he has been dead for at least two days. When Sir Austin Kemble, Commissioner of Police is asked to investigate, he immediately summons his friend Anthony Bathurst. But can Bathurst make sense of a case when the stakes are this high?

As you can see, my vintage mystery picks in September were not really successful. However, as part of my bingo game, I needed a book that related to sport or games, and this one was set in the world of horse racing, so it was just the ticket. I had already bought it along with a bunch of the Anthony Bathurst books earlier this year, so all the better.

I ended up really enjoying this DSP re-issue, which all takes place in the wild world of horse racing. There were definite shades of Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, with a very unlikeable murder victim, and a satisfyingly twisty mystery. The solution was a bit preposterous, but that’s not uncommon with these GAD mysteries when authors are trying mightily to keep things fresh in the face of hundreds of this same very popular style of mystery being published every month.

Horse racing can be murder, y’all.

Dead Men Don’t Ski by Patricia Moyes

Dead Men Don't SkiDead Men Don't Ski by Patricia Moyes
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Inspector Henry Tibbet #1
Publication Date: September 15, 1959
Pages: 288
Genre: mystery
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.