The Catherine-Wheel by Patrcia Wentworth was first published in 1951 and it’s a Miss Silver mystery.
Jacob Taverner is getting on in years and despite the fact that he resembles a tramp in looks he is in fact rather well off. He has no children of his own and his family is not a close one as a generation ago there had been a big family split over money, with the result that the cousins are all strangers to each other. Jacob decides to put an advert in a newspaper asking for descendants of his grandfather to come forward, and several do.
It’s arranged that they will all meet up in an old inn called The Catherine-Wheel which had been owned by Taverners in the past, in fact it still is owned by Jacob, he had leased it out over the years and the lease had recently run out. The inn had been a well known haunt of smugglers in the past and it seems that Jacob is hoping to glean information from his cousins about the location of a secret passage. He’s hoping that their grandparents will have talked to them about it.
Jacob’s advert has drawn the interest of the police and they manage to place Miss Silver in the inn as a guest, if there’s anything shady going on she’ll sniff it out. Sure enough it’s not too long before a murder is committed and Miss Silver is in her element solving the puzzle before the detectives do. Of course she manages to blithely sort it all out whilst knitting a blue dress and matching knickers for her two year old great niece Josephine.
This was a good mystery which kept me guessing. For some reason Wentworth has Miss Silver coughing before she spoke, in fact there were so many ‘Miss Silver coughed’s in the book that I began to wish that someone would give her some Benylin or Covonia, or better still honey and lemon.
All of the men in this book are ghastly in some way, bullying, domineering control freaks who seem to think that it’s their business to order the womenfolk around, be they wives, cousins or sisters. If I had been Miss Silver I would definitely have been thinking – thank goodness I never bothered to get married.