Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Clock Strikes Twelve

by Patricia Wentworth
Open Road Media - 2011
Miss Silver #7

Why that book

It was proposed in the NetGalley catalog in the Mystery & Thrillers category and as I had never read a book by Patricia Wentworth - but I had heard of her - I took the opportunity to discover this author and especially her heroine Miss Silver. Thanks Open Road Media for this book!


Miss Silver investigates the murder of a great British industrialist. 

Though they share a manor house, the Paradines are not close, and their patriarch does nothing to discourage the petty jealousies that divide wealthy families. A cold figure, James Paradine prefers work to his relations, but on New Year’s Eve he convenes the household. Valuable plans have been stolen from his office, and only one person could be to blame. He knows the culprit’s name, and gives the thief until midnight to come forward. By midnight, James Paradine is dead.

Was it the thief who killed him, or could it have been someone else, acting on different motives entirely? The local constables are baffled, and it is left to prim detective Maud Silver to out the murderer.

What I think of it

I confess to having a soft spot for GA novels, even if they are not the ones I read the most. My first steps in the world of investigation were done with Agatha Christie - Poirot especially, but also Miss Marple - and I find and enjoy here the same spirit and the same kind of character.

Talking characters, Miss Silver is a very nice old lady despite her very schoolteacher side - a very useful side however to get people talking. She is a true romantic judging by her penchant to help lovers. I like the fact that Miss Silver is knitting when she wants to question a person, it puts people at ease and gives them the impression they're having a mundane discussion even though she worms the truth out of them! As for the other characters, they are very well written, briefly described but very realistic, even if they are sometimes on the edge of caricature (especially the constables). 

Like any good Golden Age novel, the decor is very cheesy, very... red. Gold decorations, curtains and all that ostentation give a decor in which I won't live but, for me, it's like a guilty pleasure: yes, I love these old-fashioned decor! The bombastic and pompous relations are also a strong point of these novels and  Wentworth plays excellently this card. The strength of this book is the impression that one has to be in the house, to live this mystery at the heart of the investigation, to be part of the family. If you like Downton Abbey (ah... the decor, the famous British phlegm and the formal relationships ...), you'll love this book. 

As to the investigation itself, it is a classic whodunit. Namely, you can discover the culprit for yourself because the clues are revealed throughout the investigation. There is therefore no great surprise at the end - unless taken in the pleasure of the story, you have forgotten to guess! But what's the purpose of a thriller if we know the end before the end? But simply, dear reader, because the pleasure is not ONLY in the discovery of the culprit - even if it's always enjoyable to have found whodunit! - but in the relationships between the characters, in the humor distilled in the book, in the background, in social conventions, dialogues and characters. To read such a novel, it's like looking through the hole in the little mouse's house and see how the investigation is going, it's to be at the heart of the action without actually being in it and have the chance to find the culprit before Miss Silver - and that part is not won!

In a nutshell 

A great book, very well written with engaging characters. Miss Silver is unquestionably a "armchair detective" to know. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to spend a little time in good company and, as icing on the cake, the chance to find a culprit by yourself ... from your chair (who says that Miss Silver does not sleep in you?) I've given it 4/5 on Goodreads.

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