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review 2018-04-04 00:31
90 years on, Miss Silver still amuses
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth

Rating: 3* of five In the 90 years since this was written, I think its central premise...that people will do anything to avoid embarrassment...has proved an evergreen turned inside out. Reality TV takes everyone's dirtiest and smelliest laundry public. The characters in this book would have expired in smallish heaps of the honour-vapours at their great-grandchildren's idea of entertainment. Miss Silver is clearly carrying the pertussis bacterium. Her cough is ever-present. I remember from reading these books in the 1980s how irritating I found it. The identity of Grey Mask was pretty obvious to me from the first time they appear in mufti, so to speak. One amusing piece of retrospective theater is enough to make my day, and it takes place in the very first scene. There are over 30 of these little marvies. They are all, au fond, the same book. Either you like that book or you don't. Don't read this one and think, "oh well, maybe the others are better" because they really aren't. I like them. They're quiet and peaceful little murder plots for silly and quite overblown stakes. Miss Silver is more of a sleuth than Marple ever was, in that she sallies forth in her colourless shmattes and her mouse-fur coloured hair and those blah gray eyes that see every-goddamned-thing and doesn't seem to rely as much on chitter-chatter from every ladies' maid in 1920s London. Try one. If it's not to your taste, well it didn't cost much.

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review 2017-09-03 02:15
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case is Closed, Lonesome Road
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth



I adore Golden Age mysteries. If it’s got a detective in it and a flapper on the cover, I am predisposed to like it. Consequently, I think I’m more forgiving of them than I otherwise might be. Take Grey Mask, for instance. Some of the characters and situations border on the absurd, some of the plot twists seem out of left field, and some of the villains are just short of mustache-twirling, but that’s all part of the charm for me.


Miss Silver herself almost failed to win me over until the very end. She pulls a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel, having very little page time in her own debut novel. Once she’s introduced, she’s just some sort of Sherlockian investigatory oracle, popping in every now and then to drop little bombshells concerning the case and berate her client for his stubborn reticence whilst managing to make the knitting of baby clothes seem monstrously intimidating. If it hadn’t been for her performance in the final chapters, I can’t say I’d be so enthusiastic to continue the series. Now I’m very much looking forward to getting to know her better.




I’m having trouble rating The Case is Closed. It’s entertaining, it’s charming . . . and it’s really, really similar to the previous book in the series.

Much like Grey Mask, this book has:


  • Hardly any Miss Silver
  • Fog!
  • Quarreling lovers
  • Shady servants
  • A pale, too-thin, tragic damsel in distress who scratches out a living as a fashion model
  • Shenanigans with wills
  • A worthless nephew who collects art and directly benefits from the will shenanigans


I’m not bothered by formulaic patterns in cozy mysteries. That’s part of what makes them cozy. The only thing I found truly annoying was the repetition. As the book starts, it’s nearly a year and a half since the titular murder case was tried. A man was found guilty, and the details of that trial and the evidence given are repeated ad nauseam. And as the characters investigate, looking to clear the convicted man, the details of their discoveries are also repeated ad nauseam. SO. MUCH. REPETITION. Miss Silver, when she does appear, is a mere expositional tool for revealing information the other characters weren’t in a position to discover on their own.


But I found Hilary and Henry far more likable than Margaret and Charles. And the author did a better job creating suspenseful scenes this time around. But if you cut out all that repetition, this book would be a good fifteen chapters shorter and the story wouldn’t suffer for it.




The third Miss Silver mystery features a blessed deviation from the pattern of the previous books. We still have inheritance issues (but no will shenanigans), good-for-nothing relatives (LOTS of those), and (of course) fog. But this time Miss Silver appears in the very first chapter and makes regular appearances throughout. And she does more than swoop in, drop an info dump, and swoop out again. The effect was rather pleasing. After three books, she’s still no Miss Marple, but I’m finally getting a read on her character and I like what I see. The only downside I can see to having more of Miss Silver in her own mysteries is that the more page time she gets, the more Tennyson she quotes.


There’s been a loose connection between each book thus far. The pattern has been that a character from the previous book recommends Miss Silver’s services in the current book. It’s a nice nod to past adventures, but nothing that would be too confusing should you wish to read these books out of order. I’d like to continue this series, but it will probably be through the local library. My wishlist and wallet both quail at the number of books involved.

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text 2017-08-31 08:04
August Reading Colophon
The Informed Gardener - Linda Chalker-Scott
Lowcountry Bonfire - Susan M. Boyer
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) - Betty White
Death in the Vines: A Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal Mystery - M.L. Longworth
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth
Murder on the Ile Sordou - M.L. Longworth
Basket Case - Nancy Haddock

17 books this month with only one 4.5 star read sitting at the top, which is a typical month for me; much more typical than the spectacularly good reading months I had in the first half of 2017.


Six 4 star reads rounded things about and the worse book I read was... really, there weren't any.  Nothing below 3 stars, so really a very average reading month overall.


And now, on to BINGO!

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-22 02:55
Reading progress update: Grey Mask finished
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I’ll be posting a review later. I just wanted to do my back-patting and forehead-slapping in a separate post. Spoilers abound!



The back-patting: I correctly guessed both Margot’s parentage and Grey Mask’s identity. The former I guessed when the near-identical desks with near-identical monograms showed up. The latter I guessed when Margaret told Charles her broken engagement tale of woe. Only one person in her immediate circle was both a member of Grey Mask’s group and ideally placed to come up with such a plausible false confession. First I suspected Freddy of stealing the jewelry himself, and then I realized that Margaret had never seen Freddy and Grey Mask together. Throw in a dash of “It’s always the person you least suspect” and you get a nicely seasoned pot of Overly Complicated Mastermind Stew.


The forehead-slapping: Things I totally did NOT see coming include but are not limited to: #40’s loyalties, the crooked lawyer (I really should've seen that one coming), 2/3 of the dead characters coming back to life, and the super-rushed ending. Since I’m reading a 3-book omnibus, I had pretty much no warning when I turned the page and was confronted by the cover art for the next book. It felt SUPER abrupt.

(spoiler show)


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text 2017-08-20 10:40
Reading progress update: Chapter 32
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

Was anyone else absolutely horrified that Charles let Margot get behind the wheel of an automobile?


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