23 June 2014

Review: GREY MASK, Patricia Wentworth - audio book

  • first published 1928
  • #1 in the Miss Silver series
  • Narrated by: Diana Bishop
  • Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins 
  • Format: Unabridged
  • audio book from Audible.com
Synopsis (Publisher)

The first of the classic mysteries featuring governess-turned-detective Miss Silver, who investigates a deadly conspiratorial ring.

Charles Moray has come home to England to collect his inheritance. After four years wandering the jungles of India and South America, the hardy young man returns to the manor of his birth, where generations of Morays have lived and died. Strangely, he finds the house unlocked, and sees a light on in one of its abandoned rooms. Eavesdropping, he learns of a conspiracy to commit a fearsome crime.

Never one for the heroic, Charles’ first instinct is to let the police settle it. But then he hears her voice. Margaret, his long-lost love, is part of the gang. To unravel their diabolical plot, he contacts Miss Silver, a onetime governess who applies her reason to solve crimes and face the dangers of London’s underworld.

My Take

I've read this as part of the 2014 Vintage Mystery Challenge. I'm sure I have read a Miss Silver novel before, maybe even several (see these posts about forgotten books), but have not reviewed any on this blog, so a long time ago. Although the first in the Miss Silver series, this was far from Patricia Wentworth's first novel. There would eventually be over 30 titles in this series, which she kept publishing until 1961. However the second title in the series does not appear for another nine years.

It is probably inevitable that readers compare Miss Silver with Agatha Christie's Jane Marple, who made her first appearance in 1927. In contrast to Miss Marple, Miss Silver had had a previous career as a governess, and seems to be more experienced in the ways of the world, whereas Miss Marple is mainly experienced in village life. While Miss Silver appears to be attempting to be make a living as a private detective and sleuth, Miss Marple gets her cases from the things that happen around her.

Miss Silver does not appear to be as old as Miss Marple, but at the same time is rather more non-descript. Both are spinsters, and both seem rather small and harmless. Both do a lot of knitting. The author stresses how colourless and drab Miss Silver is. In fact the plot seems to bear that out for there are long passages between her appearances, and the reader could be forgiven for forgetting that she is "on the job" at all. But she has the knack of turning up when you least expect her, and she certainly is a shrewd observer. And in the long run it is Miss Silver who initiates the decisive action that brings everything to a satisfactory resolution and saves the day.

So how well has GREY MASK weathered? The plot is passable but I think perhaps the language of the novel is a bit dated. It seems set in a world of inheritances and a social structure that even by 1929 was rapidly disappearing.

My rating: 4.1


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - I think you make a well-taken point about the language in the novel. And there are some parts of the plot that are a bit stilted. But I do think it's a decent enough story.

skiourophile said...

I don't think this one has weathered particularly well -- it has that sort of overwrought pre-Golden Age feel to it: too sensational, perhaps? A bit Mary Roberts Rinehart? It is a series I really enjoy a lot though, and have recently re-read many of them -- this first one has quite a different literary 'feel' to the rest. Perhaps she was attempting to find her voice. (My favourites are Lonesome Road and The Case of William Smith).

Ryan said...

I have only read two of her books, of which one was a Miss Silver book. I'd be interested in reading her first appearance.

I will say, I adore Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Anonymous said...

I've never read this author but from this review, I think I will.

p.s. I would like to email you about doing a book review but can't pick up your email address from this site for some reason. I'm at christinekeleny@yahoo.com if you care to contact me.
Thank you.


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