Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rereading Patricia Wentworth's mysteries starring Miss Silver

I had the most awful headache and upset stomach for about three days, so I mostly flopped on the sofa and let the dog flop on me, and read. I have a large stockpile of the Miss Silver mysteries by Patricia Wentworth; they're all out on Kindle now, and a few of them have been on super-sale at various points.

I have a great residual fondness for mysteries from the "Golden Age" of British mystery writing. Agatha Christie is possibly my least-favorite of the women who wrote then, although she's definitely the most famous. I like Ngaio Marsh and Marjory Allingham, and I adore Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers. For me, Patricia Wentworth falls somewhere between liking and adoring. I think that her best works are very good, indeed, although not at the level of art described by Gaudy Night or The Daughter of Time.

However, reading all her works at once (a challenge, as she wrote over 60 mysteries) quickly reveals some of her weaknesses. Certain stock characters seem to reappear. Certain motives also get deployed too frequently. Many of the resolutions depend on unbelievable coincidence. The classism, racism, and sexism of the period does not charm me.

To be honest, I did not read all of them. I set out to do so, but realized I would be sick and tired of them long before I finished. (Also, buying almost 50 books at roughly $6 per, would be prohibitively expensive.)

The best two I've read are Through the Wall and The Clock Strikes Twelve.

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