Miss Silver Intervenes by Patricia Wentworth (1943)

The opening of this book – number 6 of the 32 recorded cases of  Miss Maude Silver – is a lovely example of the things that Patricia Wentworth does best.

It is night-time in London, in the early years of the war, and Meade Underwood is wide awake. The cause was a vivid dream of the young man she had fallen in love with after a whirlwind romance calling her, the young man who had been lost at sea just after they had begun to make plans for their future together. Trying to steady herself she began to count the residents of the house where she was staying with her aunt. It was a very old house that had proved impractical and expensive to run in the middle of the twentieth century, and so it had been converted into flats.

Meade was a classic Wentworth heroine, her situation was beautifully drawn, and I found that I was concerned for her and very interested to see how her story would play out. The residents of the house were nicely diverse, I saw a good deal of story potential, and I remembered how very good Patricia Wentworth was at populating her stories with engaging and believable characters. The setting was interesting, and nicely different from the settings of earlier mysteries.

Miss Silver IntervenesMy hopes of a crime story without the usual romance were quickly dashed. Meade was to learn that her young man had survived but that his journey home had been a long one, as he had suffered a serious head injury and lost much of his memory of the few months before. He didn’t remember Meade, but he was drawn to her and pleased that she knew him and was more than ready to help with his recovery.

There was just one complication – and it was pertinent to the crime story. The young lady who occupied a top floor flat in Meade’s house appeared to have a claim on her young man. He couldn’t believe it, she wasn’t the type of girl he would have been involved with, but she seemed to have compelling evidence to support her claim.

I was drawn into that story, but it wasn’t the main event.

Meade didn’t know that her aunt was being blackmailed, or that when she had seen something that made her suspect that her blackmailer was one of her neighbours she had gone to consult a lady detective she had met at a dinner party – Miss Maud Silver.

Miss Silver’s investigation was at a very early stage when she learned that one of the neighbours her client had spoken about had been murdered. She suspected that the blackmail and the murder would be linked, and so she suggested that she became her client’s house guest. That allowed her to meet all of the residents, and she found that there was a lot going on in the different flats.

A married couple was under a great deal of strain. A young woman so wanted to break away from her domineering mother. A young man was keeping a great deal under his hat. An elderly lady who lived along was behaving rather oddly ….

Each of their stories caught my interest.

The human drama was wonderful and the mystery was intriguing. There were many suspects but no obvious solution.

It was lovely to see Miss Silver drawing information out of different people she met. She did particularly well with the cleaning lady, and the set-up of this particular story made me see how effectively she had transferred the skills of her previous career – as a governess – to her new career.

I was pleased to find that the murder case was being investigated by Inspector Lamb and Frank Abbott. The former appears in a few mystery stories of his own that I have yet to read, and I know that the latter reappears in many of Miss Silver’s cases. I was pleased to note that he was able to recall the words of Miss Silver’s beloved Tennyson at exactly the right moment, and I loved the relationship between Miss Silver and the police detectives. They treated each other as professionals who could bring different things to the investigation. The residents told Miss Silver things they would never have told a policewoman ….

The story was entertaining and engaging, there was always something going on, but I have to say that this is not Miss Silver’s finest hour or one of Patricia Wentworth’s best books.

It doesn’t play fair – particularly when Miss Silver goes off on a jaunt and nothing abut it is explained to the reader – and there are a couple of elements of the story that are rather too improbable.

So this is a book to be enjoyed, rather than a book to be analysed.

Now that I’ve finished it I am very curious to learn more about Miss Silver’s next case ….

16 thoughts on “Miss Silver Intervenes by Patricia Wentworth (1943)

  1. Wonderful review Jane! I love the plot outline. I have never read Patricia Wentworth, but your reviews are convincing me more and more that I should get started on her soon!


    1. This is entertaining but not her best. My picks from those I’ve read would be ‘Danger Point’ and ‘The Chinese Shawl’ from the Miss Silver stories and ‘Silence in Court’ from the others.


  2. FYI- the US title for this book seems to be Miss Silver Deals with Death.

    As for the best place to start, that may vary with the reader, but I find the very first Miss Silver novel, Grey Mask, to be the weakest by far. It was years later before she wrote the next Miss Silver book and started the series proper. I enjoy the rest of them, and most of the non-Miss Silver Patricia Wentworth I have read, but also recommend don’t read TOO many in a row. Somewhat formula driven, but relaxing and enjoyable page turning entertainment.


  3. I read Grey Mask for your birthday book, Jane, though I wasn’t able to post about it. I knew it to be the weakest but it seemed sensible to begin at the beginning. And I did enjoy it. If that was the weakest, I’m looking forward to reading more of Miss Silver’s cases. Although you mention that this book isn’t one of her best either, it still sounds fun!


  4. Lovely review, Jane. Even if it isn’t Miss Silver’s best mystery, you certainly make it sound like one of those books you won’t be able to put down because you just have to find out what happens. I really must try these books!


  5. I know I’ve read this one, but it doesn’t stand out in my memory. I need to dig my copy out again.

    I haven’t read one of her stories yet that didn’t have a love affair running through it.


  6. It is sort of a shame that Patricia Wentworth concentrated on writing mysteries because they require skill at creating plausible plots, and her strength was developing characters.


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