Patti Abbott asked if I would contribute to her series, Friday’s Forgotten Books.
I’m not sure if Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver books can really be considered as “forgotten books”, especially as I found The Brading Collection on the library shelves. At any rate I wasn’t familiar with her books so I thought maybe it would fit the bill.
I knew nothing about Patricia Wentworth, except the little that was stated in the book itself. She was born in India in 1878 and wrote dozens of best-selling mysteries being recognised as one of the “mistresses of classic crime.” She died in 1961 and was as popular in the 1940s as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. Miss Silver “was her finest creation”.
In The Brading Collection a worried Lewis Brading asks Miss Silver for help. He is obsessed by a feeling that something is going on behind his back, that whilst he is asleep someone is entering the annex to Warne House where he keeps his collection of jewellery, most of which has some connection with crime. Miss Silver, who has been compared by some to Miss Marple, is a former governess, now a private investigator takes a dislike to him and refuses to take on his case. However when, a fortnight later, he is shot she helps the police to discover his murderer.
As you would expect there are several suspects and the sequence of events leading up to the murder are carefully scrutinised by Miss Silver, described as a
… dowdy little governess out of a family out of a family photograph … her hair very neat, her oldfashioned hat a little crooked, her hands in their black thread gloves folded primly upon a shabby bag with a tarnished clasp.
Behind her appearance, however, she has
… an intelligence which commanded respect … an integrity, a kindness, a sort of benign authority.
It all hinges on the timing of events, when people visited Lewis in the annex, whether the door was locked and who had a key. The suspects include Lewis’s secretary, James Moberley, reluctantly working for him under threat of exposure as a criminal, and his cousin and heir Charles Forrest, suspected by Stacy his ex-wife of stealing the Brading family necklace to fund the conversion of his family home into flats. Then there are Myra Constantine, who looks like a toad, ugly and venomous with flashing black eyes and her daughters, Milly and Hester, insignificant and bullied by her mother. Why does Hester enter the annex late at night? Is Lilias Gray, Charles’s cousin a reliable witness? It all builds up to a climax with a dramatic ending, involving a car chase, reminding me of cops and robbers films, as the culprit drives off in a police car, chased by the furious Inspector Crisp.
All in all this is a satisfying book, with believable characters and plenty of surprises, although I had worked out who did before the dÃ©nouement. I’m glad I found Patricia Wentworth and as there is a long list of her books there are plenty more to read.