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review 2018-10-16 17:14
The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

This is the 7th of the Miss Silver mysteries, which I read for the #1944 club on my blog. It is my favorite of the Miss Silver mysteries to date, better even than Latter End, which I also really liked. In fact, this is my sixth Patricia Wentworth - I've read fiveof the Miss Silvers (Grey Mask, Latter End, Poison in the Pen, The Eternity Ring, this one) and one stand-alone (The Dower House Mystery) - and it's my favorite of all of them. Grey Mask is still the weakest, and I wonder how many people have been put off Patricia Wentworth forever by reading that one first. Tragic, really.

 

For me, this was a near perfect Golden Age mystery. It had the closed circle, and the country house feel. The entire mystery takes place over a couple of days, from New Years Eve, where it all begins, to a few days later, when the mystery is solved and the murderer is revealed. We start with a brief interaction between James Paradine, patriarch of the family, and Elliot Wray, when James summons Elliot to the Paradine house over some stolen aircraft plans. He informs Elliot that one of the family has taken them, he knows who it is, and requires that Elliot remain in the home for the evening so he can put his plan into motion.

 

The plan is to announce at News Year Eve dinner that he knows that someone in the family has been disloyal, he is not going to expose them at dinner, but he will be in his study until midnight, and the guilty party must come and confess their misdeed to him or suffer the consequences. At the dinner we have all of the members of the Paradine family: Aunt Grace, the spinster sister, Phyllida, Grace's adopted daughter and Elliot's estranged wife, Elliot, Frank & Irene Ambrose (son of James's first wife & his spouse), Mark Paradine, the heir, Richard, a cousin, Lydia, Irene's sister and Andrew, the odd man out, who is a shirt-tail relative of some sort and is also James's secretary. The characterizations were really well-done. James himself is a bit of a Simeon Lee /Penhallow type patriarch, but he was much nicer than either of them. 

 

As a sometime romance reader, I've become convinced that Wentworth actually walks that line between romance and mystery better than any of the other golden age women - better, even, than Christie. She creates convincing romantic subplots that work with the mystery but don't subvert it. Heyer loses the mystery for the romance and Christie loses the romance for the mystery, but Wentworth balances them almost perfectly. The only issue with this is that it does make her mysteries a bit easier to solve, because the primary romantic coupling is pretty well removed from suspicion - part of the solution always involves moving the obstacle out of the way for their happiness.

 

I've definitely concluded at this point that it isn't necessary to read Miss Silver in order, and I would advocate for skipping Grey Mask altogether. I'm just pleased as punch that, since I've read about 90% of Christie's full length mysteries, and all of Sayers, that I have at least 50 more Wentworths before I've read them all.

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review 2018-10-16 03:31
Finished!
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

Oh, my, this was so delightful. I'll put together a real review tomorrow, but I just loved everything about this book. Miss Silver is fabulous.

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text 2018-10-16 01:05
Reading progress update: I've read 148 out of 315 pages.
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

I am making a guess here. Don't look under the spoiler tag unless you have read it!

 

 

I don't think it is either Elliott or Phyllida, because Patricia Wentworth enjoys her matchmaking and putting marriages back together way too much. I am leaning against Mark & Lydia for much the same reason. 

 

I'm going to go with Aunt Grace, for reasons which I can't really explain. Maybe because she is angry at her brother for interfering and trying to get Elliott and Phyllida back together. 

(spoiler show)

 

 

We'll see!

 

Aaaah! I'm already second guessing myself!

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text 2018-10-16 00:44
Reading progress update: I've read 131 out of 315 pages.
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

Miss Silver has arrived in the narrative!

 

MISS MAUD SILVER was shopping. Even in wartime, and with all the difficulty about coupons, children must be warmly clothed.

 

It's a very cheering moment when Maud shows up!

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text 2018-10-15 23:52
Reading progress update: I've read 94 out of 315 pages.
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

On the extreme right of the terrace a flight of steps led down to a little lawn from whose farther side a rustic path wound to the river’s edge, sometimes running straight for a yard or two, sometimes breaking into wooden steps, slippery now with the wet. He came down it with accustomed feet. It was a path to tread in sunny weather, going down to the boathouse on a summer afternoon—not like this, not in the dark of a January morning. He remembered that it was New Year’s Day.

 

And then he came out on the river path and focused the torch on that dark, sprawled shape. It was James Paradine, and he was dead.

 

Oh, this is just sooo good! No sign of Miss Silver yet, but this is a delicious family mystery with the overbearing patriarch and the familial hangers-on, in the vein of Penhallow and Simeon Lee from Hercule Poirot's Christmas- although James Paradine wasn't as despicable a person as either of the above.

 

 

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