Category Archives: Wentworth, Patricia

Throwback Thursday 11.11.2021

I’ve been tracking my reading on the internet since approximately 2013 more or less continuously, and if you look on my sidebar, you will find 8 pages that are titled Book List with a designated year.

On occasional Thursdays I will use a random number generator to point me to three books from the lists (leaving out 2021), and then I’ll post about them – what I remember (if anything), whether I would recommend them – probably not, if I don’t remember anything about them – and if they have stuck with me in the years since I read them.

2015, Book 161:

Many WatersMany Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
Rating: ★★½
Series: Time Quintet #4
Publication Date: September 1, 1986
Pages: 369
Genre: classic, fantasy, YA
Project: throwback thursday

Some things have to be believed to be seen.

Sandy and Dennys have always been the normal, run-of-the-mill ones in the extraodinary Murry family. They garden, make an occasional A in school, and play baseball. Nothing especially interesting has happened to the twins until they accidentally interrupt their father's experiment.

Then the two boys are thrown across time and space. They find themselves alone in the desert, where, if they believe in unicorns, they can find unicorns, and whether they believe or not, mammoths and manticores will find them.

The twins are rescued by Japheth, a man from the nearby oasis, but before he can bring them to safety, Dennys gets lost. Each boy is quickly embroiled in the conflicts of this time and place, whose populations includes winged seraphim, a few stray mythic beasts, perilous and beautiful nephilim, and small, long lived humans who consider Sandy and Dennys giants. The boys find they have more to do in the oasis than simply getting themselves home--they have to reunite an estranged father and son, but it won't be easy, especially when the son is named Noah and he's about to start building a boat in the desert.

A few years ago, I started a Madeleine L’Engle project. I planned to read all of her books – I got somewhat sidetracked, but I did manage to read the entire Kairos series (the Murry family novels) and all of her Austin series, as well as a few others. This one was probably the weirdest of all of them, and that is definitely saying something. In Many Waters, the twins – who are typically depicted as the most “normal” of the Murry kids – disrupt time and end up in the Old Testament, during the Flood. Yeah, that flood – the one that involves Noah. I’m not sure if it was my least favorite of L’Engle’s books, but it definitely competes. If you are interested in a L’Engle YA, read either A Wrinkle in Time or A Ring of Endless Light. Do not read this one until you’ve read at least four or five of her other books first.

2019, Book 72:

Touch Not the CatTouch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: April 28, 1976
Pages: 384
Genre: gothic romance, magical realism, romance, suspense
Project: throwback thursday

After the tragic death of her father, Bryony Ashley returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Ashley Court with its load of debt is no longer her worry. But there is something odd about her father's sudden death . . . Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Now she is determined to find him. But danger as well as romance wait for her in the old moated house, with its tragic memories . . .

This book was so problematic for me, and yet I still really liked it. What I remember about it is that the main heroine was named Bryony and there was some bizarre telepathy thing. In addition, Bryony referred to her cousin, with whom she can communicate telepathically, as “lover.” I loathe word “lover” and cousin-love doesn’t work for me at all. Given that those were the main points of the book, along with the suspense because someone is trying to kill Bryony, of course, I would have expected to hate it. But, Mary Stewart is such an exceptional writer, that I still enjoyed it. So, if you want a book that will carry you gently away, with evocative prose, to crumbling manors where beautiful young women who communicate telepathically with their cousin-lovers are being stalked by a would-be murderer (who may also be the cousin-lover), this book is for you.

2018, Book 124:

In the BalanceIn the Balance by Patricia Wentworth
Rating: ★★★
Series: Miss Silver #4
Publication Date: January 1, 1941
Pages: 342
Genre: mystery
Project: throwback thursday

His first wife died suddenly—and his wealthy new bride may be about to meet a similar fate . . .

Former schoolteacher Miss Maud Silver is on her way back to London when, with a violent shudder of the train, a young woman is thrust into her compartment. She’s beautiful, well dressed, newly married, and wealthy—a lethal combination.

In a state of shock, Lisle Jerningham explains that she fled her home in a hurry after overhearing a sinister conversation. Her new husband’s first wife died in an apparent accident, and the resultant infusion of cash saved his family home. Now, he’s broke again—and attempting to engineer a second convenient mishap. Miss Silver is unsure whether the drama is real or a figment of Lisle’s imagination—but if this frightened young lady is a target for murder, the killer will have to deal with the governess-turned-sleuth first.

I have read a lot of the Miss Silver books. I remember NOTHING about the plot of this book, so my rating is basically based on the fact that my baseline enjoyment of Miss Silver is 3 stars, except for Grey Mask, which I hated.

#1944 Club: The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth

The Clock Strikes TwelveThe Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
Series: Miss Silver #7
Publication Date: January 1, 1944
Pages: 256
Genre: christmas, mystery
Project: christmas mysteries

New Year’s Eve, 1940, is unusual for the Paradine family. Departing from tradition, James Paradine makes a speech that changes the course of many lives. Valuable documents have disappeared. A member of the family has taken them. The culprit has until midnight to confess and return the papers. A few minutes after twelve James Paradine is dead. It is left to Miss Silver to disentangle the threads that bind the Paradine family in a strange web of dislike, hatred and fear.

This is the 7th of the Miss Silver mysteries, which I read for the #1944 club – I had planned to read The Key, but when I went to acquire it, this one was $1.99 and The Key was $10.99. Both were published in 1944, so it was an easy decision which to buy! It is my favorite of the Miss Silver mysteries to date, better even than Latter End, which I also really liked. In fact, this is my sixth Patricia Wentworth – I’ve read fiveof the Miss Silvers (Grey Mask, Latter End, Poison in the Pen, The Eternity Ring, this one) and one stand-alone (The Dower House Mystery) – and it’s my favorite of all of them. Grey Mask is still the weakest, and I wonder how many people have been put off Patricia Wentworth forever by reading that one first. Tragic, really.

For me, this was a near perfect Golden Age mystery. It had the closed circle, and the country house feel. The entire mystery takes place over a couple of days, from New Years Eve, where it all begins, to a few days later, when the mystery is solved and the murderer is revealed. We start with a brief interaction between James Paradine, patriarch of the family, and Elliot Wray, when James summons Elliot to the Paradine house over some stolen aircraft plans. He informs Elliot that one of the family has taken them, he knows who it is, and requires that Elliot remain in the home for the evening so he can put his plan into motion.

The plan is to announce at News Year Eve dinner that he knows that someone in the family has been disloyal, he is not going to expose them at dinner, but he will be in his study until midnight, and the guilty party must come and confess their misdeed to him or suffer the consequences. At the dinner we have all of the members of the Paradine family: Aunt Grace, the spinster sister, Phyllida, Grace’s adopted daughter and Elliot’s estranged wife, Elliot, Frank & Irene Ambrose (son of James’s first wife & his spouse), Mark Paradine, the heir, Richard, a cousin, Lydia, Irene’s sister and Andrew, the odd man out, who is a shirt-tail relative of some sort and is also James’s secretary. The characterizations were really well-done. James himself is a bit of a Simeon Lee/Penhallow type patriarch, but he was much nicer than either of them.

As a sometime romance reader, I’ve become convinced that Wentworth actually walks that line between romance and mystery better than any of the other golden age women – better, even, than Christie. She creates convincing romantic subplots that work with the mystery but don’t subvert it. Heyer loses the mystery for the romance and Christie loses the romance for the mystery, but Wentworth balances them almost perfectly. The only issue with this is that it does make her mysteries a bit easier to solve, because the primary romantic coupling is pretty well removed from suspicion – part of the solution always involves moving the obstacle out of the way for their happiness.

I’ve definitely concluded at this point that it isn’t necessary to read Miss Silver in order, and I would advocate for skipping Grey Mask altogether. I’m just pleased as punch that, since I’ve read about 90% of Christie’s full length mysteries, and all of Sayers, that I have at least 50 more Wentworths before I’ve read them all.

#1944 Club: 10/15/18 through 10/21/18

Simon, at Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings are hosting the 1944 Club next week. This will be the first time that I’ve managed to participate in one of their “clubs,” and I’m very excited about it. I haven’t quite settled on a book (or two) yet, but, in keeping with this blog theme, it’s definitely going to be by written a woman. Some of my possible choices:

The Eternity Ring by Patricia Wentworth

The Eternity RingThe Eternity Ring by Patricia Wentworth
Series: Miss Silver #14
Publication Date: September 25, 2021
Pages: 336
Genre: mystery
Project: a century of women

Mary Stokes was walking through Dead Man’s Copse one evening when she saw, in the beam of a torch, the corpse of a young woman dressed in a black coat, black gloves, no hat and an eternity ring set with diamonds in her ear. But when she and Detective Sergeant Frank Abbott went back to the wood, the body had vanished. This would have been mystery enough for Miss Silver…but then a woman reported that her lodger had gone out on Friday dressed in a black coat, black beret, black shoes and large hoop earrings set all around with little diamonds like those eternity rings. She never came back…

I have really started to develop a soft spot for Patricia Wentworth, which is awesome because she wrote so many books that I’ll be busy with her backlist for years. Decades, maybe.

Eternity Ring is nominally a Miss Silver mystery, although she barely appears in the book at all. The main investigator is Frank Abbot, who is a likeable Scotland Yard Inspector. As has been in the case in the two prior Miss Silver mysteries that I’ve read, this one also had a strong romantic subplot, with a young married couple, Cicely and Frank Hathaway who have separated before the murders begin. When the shadow of suspicion begins to fall on Frank, their future is seriously in jeopardy.

I figured out the murderer pretty early in the book by process primarily of elimination. It’s a good mystery, though, and has some tense moments of real danger near the end of the book. I enjoy Wentworth’s romantic subplots more than Georgette Heyer’s romantic subplots (in her mysteries), and wondered that she never wrote straight up romance until I went digging around on the internet and found that, actually, she came to crime writing by way of a few historical novels and mysteries.

Her first novel, A Marriage Under the Terror, was a piece of historical fiction set during the French revolution. It’s available as a kindle book from Open Road. Her second novel, A Little More Than Kin, seems to be entirely out of print at this point, and doesn’t even show up on Goodreads. I don’t know if it was published under another title, which could explain it’s absence, or if its just wholly lost. Her third and fourth novels were romances: The Devil’s Wind and The Fire Within. The Devil’s Wind looks particularly gripping, set in India, which is also where Wentworth was born, during the Cawnpore Massacre. These are both available from Open Road. Her first mystery, The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith, is a bit more difficult to locate, but is still available used.

I still think that I liked Latter End a bit better than this one, and the first one I read, Grey Mask, remains my least favorite of her books. I have a few more on my kindle, and my library has about 25 available, so it’ll be a while before I exhaust my ready supply.