Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road, by Patricia Wentworth (1878–1961)

In this newly re-published collection of three of her earliest novels, Patricia Wentworth transports us to the very stylish British Art Deco world of the 1920s and 1930s, where the women are elegant and worried, and the men are monsters, or exceedingly dreary, or handsome heroes. One of the leading writers of the Golden Age of detective fiction, Wentworth draws a clear line between evil and good, and she makes sure that we know that her "private enquiry agent," retired governess Miss Maud Silver, is no innocent, sweet old lady. Miss Silver has looked evil in the eye, and prevailed, and she has been changed by it.

In her first novel, "The Grey Mask," published in 1928, Charles Moray returns from a self-imposed four-year exile upon learning of his father's death. His first night back, he stumbles upon a strange meeting of conspirators taking place in his vacant family home. He doesn't summon the police because his former fiancee, Margaret Langton, is at the meeting, the same woman whose rejection of him caused his long absence. Alarmed at the dangerous, rough company she appeared to be involved with, Moray seeks out the elderly Maude Silver, a female sleuth famous for her terrifying ability to gather information and ferret out falsehoods.

In "The Case is Closed," first published in 1937, Wentworth takes on an unjust murder conviction. Gregory Grey has been convicted of murdering his uncle and sent to prison for 50 years. His wife Marion has lost the baby she was carrying and is living a frozen, colorless, soulless life, working as a "mannequin" modeling chic dresses, while she grieves for her lost marriage, husband and baby. Her younger cousin Helen is determined to seek justice for Gregory and Marion. Helen's ex-fiancee, Captain Henry Cunningham, is worried about Helen's activities and, on the recommendation of his distant cousin, Charles Moray (of "The Grey Mask" mystery), he hires Maude Silver to investigate. As Helen and Miss Silver close in on the truth, they must travel in a London, an Edinburgh and on rural country lanes that no longer exist in reality but will forever exist in Wentworth's mysteries.

In the third mystery, "Lonesome Road," first published in 1939, unmarried heiress Rachel Treherne seeks out Miss Silver because someone is trying to kill her. The likely suspects are her family members who spend much time at her lonely mansion on a cliff overlooking the sea. A wealthy woman who inherited much from her father, Treherne is also tasked with finding the heirs of his former business partner, and rectifying an old wrong by giving them a portion of her wealth. This beautifully written mystery climaxes in a breath-taking, terror-filled scene where Miss Silver unmasks the would-be murderer.

(In return for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Print Length: 701 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller (June 28, 2016)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

(Undated photo of Patricia Wentworth)