Latter End by Patricia Wentworth (thoughts)
I first heard about Patricia Wentworth and her Miss Silver mystery series from Jenn. As I love traditional mysteries and am always looking for new series to try, I decided to request Latter End pretty much at random from my library’s catalogue.
Miss Silver is an amateur sleuth, as well as being a spinster and retired governness. She first appeared in 1928, and Wentworth continued writing novels featuring her until 1961! My library only has five of series, and since Latter End was written in 1947, it falls in the middle of Wentworth’s writing career. It is definitely a classic mystery: a murder occurs in an old family house, there’s a limited pool of suspects, all of whom have motives, and Miss Silver uses deduction and her fine attention to detail to solve the crime. She also knits throughout, which I enjoyed: I suspect Wentworth herself was a knitter because the knitting is somehow more solid and practical than Miss Marple’s, if that makes sense.
Anyway, I loved spending time with Miss Silver and the puzzle that Wentworth constructed. It took me a bit longer than usual to figure it out, which is always fun! Wentworth’s prose is more serviceable and straightforward than flowery, but that’s fine for mysteries. I will say that gender roles in the book frustrated me a bit: even the apparently strong-willed and independent young woman going to pieces and needing a manly shoulder to cry on. On the other hand I imagine the psychological burden of having a murder committed in your house, being considered a suspect yourself, and knowing it must be one of your family that is the killer would be quite harrowing. Wentworth doesn’t focus on psychology a la P.D. James, but her acknowledgment of it does humanise her characters.
All in all, I will be reading more Miss Silvers in the future. I’ve always wished Christie wrote more Miss Marples, so I’m thrilled to have learned about Wentworth! The prospect of a whole new series of comfort reads is quite satisfying indeed.