Miss Silver Intervenes by Patricia Wentworth

A blend of blackmail, murder and romance makes for an intriguing mystery

Miss Silver Intervenes is
the sixth Miss Silver mystery
We learn more about the character of Miss Silver in this sixth book by Patricia Wentworth featuring the ex-governess turned private investigator.

She is no longer just a little old lady sitting in the background knitting, but is shown to be well respected by the police, who treat her as an equal and give her full access to their investigation in this story.

The mystery involves residents who live in eight flats in Vandeleur House, an old converted mansion in Putney. The characters are beautifully drawn by Patricia Wentworth and I found myself enticed into their world and wanting to keep turning the pages of the novel to find out more about them.

Miss Silver comes into the story when one of the residents, Mrs Underwood, who she has met once through mutual friends, calls on her unexpectedly at her flat. Although Mrs Underwood is reluctant to admit why she has come to see Miss Silver, she eventually reveals that she is being blackmailed and needs help.

Mrs Underwood can't bring herself to tell Miss Silver the full details of what has been happening to her, but later, when Miss Silver reads that another resident living in the same block of flats has been murdered, she decides to take matters into her own hands and manages to get herself invited to stay at Vandeleur House.

Mrs Underwood is living there with her niece by marriage, Meade, who is recovering from the shock of being in a shipwreck in which her fiancé, Giles, was drowned. Then one day while she is out shopping, Meade encounters Giles, who was rescued from the sea but has now lost his memory.

Patricia Wentworth (above) again spins an intriguing mystery
Patricia Wentworth (above) again
spins an intriguing mystery
Miss Silver wastes no time in getting to know the other residents in the flats and finding out about their relationships with each other using her considerable skills as a conversationalist.

There is a middle aged couple whose marriage has been put under strain by the husband’s obsession with the attractive young woman who lives in the flat above them. A pleasant young woman is clearly being bullied by the domineering mother she lives with. An elderly spinster is struggling to survive financially because of her income being affected by the wartime economy. An elderly woman is being cared for by her maid and a companion, and there is a single man who keeps himself to himself so that no one knows what his occupation is.

When the police investigating the murder find out that Miss Silver is staying with her friend, Mrs Underwood, they invite her to join forces with them but the relationship becomes somewhat strained when they opt for a simpler explanation for the murder than the theory Miss Silver has put forward.

However, they eventually have to admit they were wrong when the old lady, with a fondness for the poetry of Tennyson, manages to unravel what has been going on at Vandeleur House while simultaneously knitting a pair of socks for her relative in the air force.

During the story, Miss Silver also makes a new friend in one of the investigating officers, Sergeant Frank Abbott, who is invited to the celebratory tea party in her flat at the end of the novel.

I would say the only weak point in the plot is that Miss Silver uses her knowledge of a previous blackmailing case to help her identify the murderer, which gives her an advantage over the police and the reader. But nevertheless, I found Miss Silver Intervenes, first published in 1944, to be extremely well written and enjoyable.

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