The Traveller Returns by Patricia Wentworth

The Traveller Returns cover

The Traveller Returns by Patricia Wentworth is a Miss Silver mystery and it was first published in 1948. As has often been said by many people – you can’t beat a vintage crime read when you’re in need of a respite from your own world. Not that there’s anything desperately wrong here at Pining but I’m just so fed up with the weather and this never ending winter. Snow again – and although that isn’t unusual at Easter in Scotland, it is unusual when we’ve had so much snow on and off since October.

Anyway, back to the book. The Traveller Returns cheered me up despite the weather. The setting is Britain in wartime. Philip Jocelyn’s wife Anne had died in the dark on a beach in Brittany while trying to escape Nazi France early in the war. Three years have passed since then and Philip has fallen in love with Lyndall who had been one of Anne’s bridesmaids.

But Anne turns up back in England and walks into her home – mink coat, pearls and all, she says that it was her cousin Annie Joyce who had died on the beach. Annie and Anne did look remarkably alike apparently but Philip isn’t convinced although everyone else is. He’s sure it was his wife Anne that he had had to bury quickly.

Enter Miss Silver, retired governess and now successful private detective, although you wouldn’t know that from her shabby appearance. All is well as she gets to the bottom of it all, whilst knitting up stockings and socks for Ethel’s husband and three little boys. A very enjoyable read.

The Watersplash by Patricia Wentworth

 The Watersplashcover

The Watersplash by Patricia Wentworth was first published in 1954 and it’s a Miss Silver mystery. Wentworth is so skilled at conjuring up the atmosphere of a small English village, and the way that so many of the inhabitants are linked to each other – by blood, marriage and extended family friendships. Throw in a local telephone system where everybody has a party line and can listen in to their neighbour’s conversations and a huge capacity for gossip as a way of brightening up what is generally a boringly quiet life and you have a good recipe for a mystery.

Edward Random has just returned home to Greenings after a five year absence during which time his father (the local squire) believed him to be dead. Edward’s father had changed his will in favour of his brother Arnold, so his nose was very much out of joint when he realised his nephew was still alive. Everyone expects Arnold to give up his inheritance to Edward, but he has no intention of doing that, in fact he won’t have anything to do with his nephew.

Rumours abound – what has Edward been up to during his five years of absence? When there’s a murder in the village Miss Silver is asked to investigate. Luckily she had already been invited to stay at Greenings by the daughter of an old friend and it’s not long before she’s getting submerged in everybody’s business.

Whilst she knits a succession of pale pink baby vests she gets to the bottom of it all satisfactorily. I had a fair idea who the perpetrator was but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I really think I prefer Miss Silver to Miss Marple. I believe the two characters were ‘born’ in the same year. Patricia Wentworth just seems to have been unfortunate that Agatha Christie’s books were much more of a commercial success. Maybe Patricia Wentworth should have indulged herself with some sort of adventure that was taken up by the tabloid newspapers the way Christie did!

The Gazebo by Patricia Wentworth

The Gazebo cover

The Gazebo by Patricia Wentworth was first published in 1958 and my copy was published that year and even has the dust jacket – what a find!

I really enjoyed this one although the murder does take quite a while to take place. Althea Graham is a woman in her mid twenties and she is at her ghastly mother’s beck and call all day every day. Her mother is supremely self-centred and is determined to keep her daughter at home running around after her mother who has a ‘heart attack’ every time it looks like she might not get her way about something.

Five years previously Althea had been all set to get married but her mother had put a stop to it. Now her ex-fiance is back, but it looks like life is never going to be easy for them, with murder and mystery blighting their future.

Luckily Althea is able to contact Miss Silver, they are connected loosely through an old friend. She’s the equivalent of the cavalry riding to your aid! AND she does it all whilst knitting a pink vest for a baby girl.

The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth

The Clock Strikes Twelve is a Miss Silver mystery, first published in 1945 but when the story begins it’s New Year’s Eve, 1940. The Paradine family has gathered at the family home for the celebrations. James Paradine, a widower and the head of his family, makes a speech to the effect that someone in the family has been disloyal, and some documents have gone missing.

He expects the culprit to visit him in his study before midnight.
But he doesn’t survive the night, and he must have been murdered by one of his relatives. Miss Silver is called in to investigate.

I enjoyed this one, it’s a typical big house whodunnit, and the various family members are well written, with their various dislikes and suspicions of each other.

On the surface, Miss Maud Silver seems so similar to Miss Marple that you would think that Agatha Christie would have had grounds for complaint because Miss Marple first appears in 1926 whereas Miss Silver comes to life in 1928. But although they are both elderly ladies, and spinsters who have a penchant for crime solving as well as knitting, they are in fact quite different.

Miss Silver is a retired governess who is very professional, unlike Miss Marple who is far more airy fairy in personality, whether actual or cultivated. Even Miss Silver’s knitting is more convincing, we are told that she is knitting a suit for young Roger, a three year old of her acquaintance, the colour of her wool and the design and she finishes the leggings just as the book comes to an end. As a knitter myself, I like to know what people are knitting, just as much as I enjoy hearing about the books that people are reading. Mind you, I like Miss Marple too.