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The Mysterious Commission (Honeybath) Paperback – 23 Sep 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: House of Stratus; New edition edition (23 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842327461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842327463
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,078,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Born in Edinburgh in 1906, the son of the city's Director of Education, John Innes Mackintosh Stewart wrote a highly successful series of mystery stories under the pseudonym Michael Innes. Innes was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, where he was presented with the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize and named a Bishop Frazer's scholar. After graduation he went to Vienna, to study Freudian psychoanalysis for a year and following his first book, an edition of Florio's translation of Montaigne, was offered a lectureship at the University of Leeds. In 1932 he married Margaret Hardwick, a doctor, and they subsequently had five children including Angus, also a novelist. The year 1936 saw Innes as Professor of English at the University of Adelaide, during which tenure he wrote his first mystery story, 'Death at the President's Lodging'. With his second, 'Hamlet Revenge', Innes firmly established his reputation as a highly entertaining and cultivated writer. After the end of World War II, Innes returned to the UK and spent two years at Queen's University, Belfast where in 1949 he wrote the 'Journeying Boy', a novel notable for the richly comedic use of an Irish setting. He then settled down as a Reader in English Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, from which he retired in 1973. His most famous character is 'John Appleby', who inspired a penchant for donnish detective fiction that lasts to this day. Innes's other well-known character is 'Honeybath', the painter and rather reluctant detective, who first appeared in 1975 in 'The Mysterious Commission'. The last novel, 'Appleby and the Ospreys', was published in 1986, some eight years before his death in 1994. 'A master - he constructs a plot that twists and turns like an electric eel: it gives you shock upon shock and you cannot let go.' - Times Literary Supplement.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Polly on 29 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
The cover states mistakenly that this is an Inspector Appleby mystery, but Appleby is in fact never even mentioned in it. The protagonist is an ageing portrait painter called Charles Honeybath, whom Innes apparently liked so much here that he went on to devise three further adventures for him (HONEYBATH'S HAVEN, LORD MULLION'S SECRET, APPLEBY AND HONEYBATH). Although one never readily associates the word "psychological" with Innes's mysteries, this time around we are actually given some insight into what makes the main character tick. The result is extremely engaging. John Appleby is a very likable fellow, but - despite thirty-plus books written about him - he comes out in the end more or less a blank. We are given a few privileged glimpses of his domestic arrangements, but as to his inner life, all we basically know is that he likes solving mysteries and can quote much of English literature by heart. Not so with Honeybath. This is a character we actually get to know. He is both plausible and surprising in a number of delightful ways (his most peculiar trait is the ability for lightning-speed improvisation when faced with a crisis, while being at the same time quite shy of physical danger). The story engages from the word go and proceeds at a lively pace; the writing is the mellow vintage Innes of his best later work. The only liability is a laboured conclusion, which misfires in more ways than one. But, as usual with Innes, it is the travelling that matters, not the arrival.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Honeybath, the artist, becomes caught up in one of Michael Innes' silly, but oh so well written and delightful, adventures.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Innes' version of "The Red-Headed League" 31 Aug. 2012
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on
Format: Paperback
In spite of this book's subtitle, this is NOT an 'Inspector Appleby' mystery. "The Mysterious Commission" stars Charles Honeybath, a mild-mannered portrait painter. I've read all of Michael Innes' Inspector Appleby mysteries, and decided to branch out and follow the adventures of Honeybath, another one of Innes' highly literate, comfortably well-off English sleuths, although this character is not a professional policeman.

(Note: Appleby and Honeybath actually work together in the aptly named "Appleby and Honeybath" to solve the murder of Squire Grinton, who was done away with in his own (locked) library.)

Honeybath is a gentler version of Scotland Yard's Inspector Appleby. He has never learned to fire a gun, and is sometimes persuaded by strong-minded clients to paint their portraits in surroundings not quite to his liking. Such is the case in "The Mysterious Commission" where Honeybath accepts a generous commission to paint the mysterious 'Mister X,' who turns out to be an old man who believes himself to be Napoleon Bonaparte. Not only is the identity of his client shrouded in mystery, Honeybath was drugged on his journey to the old man's mansion, so he doesn't even know where he is.

A month later, when the portrait of 'Mister X' is complete Honeybath returns to his London studio, after a series of misadventures, and discovers that someone has tunneled through his floor into the bank next door (shades of Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League!) and stolen half-a-million pounds.

Now this mild-mannered portrait painter's blood is up and he is determined to assist the police with their inquiries. Not only that, he also wants his newly painted portrait (which was quite a good one) back.

I usually have to read the Innes novels at least twice before I really understand the plot and the subtleties of conversation, but his mysteries are certainly worth rereading. If you are a fan of the British Golden Age of Mystery, I can almost guarantee that Michael Innes (J.I.M. Stewart) will insinuate himself somewhere near the top of your list of favorite authors.
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