Patricia Wentworth was a wonderful spinner of stories, and in this book she spins a story of high drama and romantic suspense with a cast of quintessentially English ‘Bright Young Things’.
It’s a confection – no more and no less!
The opening was wonderfully attention-grabbing.
Our hero, James, worked for a high class London car dealership, and he was fetching a new car for an important customer. Thick fog descended as he was driving through unfamiliar country, and it wasn’t long before he had to admit that he was lost. He caught a glimpse of a big house, and so he set off to ask for help.
He didn’t find help, but he did find trouble.
There were no lights on, there was no sign of life, but the front door was ajar. James went in, hoping to find a telephone, but seeing only a girl whose face is white, whose eyes are wide with horror, and who looks as if she is about to scream. She doesn’t, but she yells ‘RUN!’ and before he as time to react he hears sound of a shot and he feels the breeze as a bullet flies past him. James doesn’t need telling twice. He runs, and between them he and the charming but scatty girl manage make their escape.
Back at work in London he ponders on the puzzle of a girl who was clearly terrified, but completely unwilling to explain any part of the reason why to the young man who helped her. He is still thinking when he bumps into her again, and discovers that he went to school with her brother and that they have enough friends in common to make it surprising that they had never met before; though that isn’t enough to make her tell him any more or to stop her from insisting that it is better for him not to know and that he should stay away from her.
Sally has good reason to be scared, and for speaking and acting as she does, because she is an heiress, someone is after her inheritance and willing to go to any lengths to get their hands on it, and she fears that even her beloved guardian is involved. James won’t be told though, because he is very taken with Sally and because, when one of his colleagues has what looks like a nasty accident, he realizes that whoever fired that gun is trying to get him out of the way too.
There is much intrigue – and a good dash of romance – before a grand finale back at the country house where the story began.
There were moments in the early part of the story, when James didn’t know what was going on and Sally wasn’t going to tell him, when I wished that Miss Silver would put in an appearance. She would have had no trouble working out what was going on and sorting everything out, but of course that would have made this a very short book and it wasn’t long at all before I felt very fond of both James and Sally.
The perspective with James as the protagonist who was concerned about Sally was interesting, particularly when I had figured out what was going; but I think that Patricia Wentworth does best with female protagonists, and while he was eminently likeable he wasn’t as interesting as many of the young women I have met in her books.
(And that reminds me to say the young woman on the cover and what she is doing bear no relation at all to this story.)
I loved the young lady who worked at James’s car dealership, and I couldn’t help thinking that if Miss Silver ever wanted to hire an assistant they would work together rather well.
It wasn’t at all difficult to identify the villains and to understand their motives, and that made me realize what a terrible situation Sally was in and why it was quite reasonable for her to act what she did.
The building blocks of the story were all ones I’d come across before, but the structure that they built was sound. The story was entertaining, it was engaging, and it was suspenseful to the very end.
There was a certain amount of silliness and much that was a little too unlikely – especially towards the end of the story – but there was enough substance and enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages to the very end.
Patricia Wentworth wrote much better books – of the books I’ve read, Danger Point/In the Balance is my favourite investigation with Miss Silver and Kingdom Lost is my favourite stand-alone story – but I did enjoy my time with this confection of romance and suspense.