18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2003
Personally I feel this is her best work. Romance (of course) brilliantly depicted, classic blackmail, Miss Silver, murder in a manor house by the sea wonderfully written. And a good unmasking of the murderer at the end what more could you possibly want? It is a good old fashioned 'clean' read.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2006
Here we have one of the rare instances in which Maud Silver's favourite niece, Ethel Burkett, actually appears on stage; they're staying together at the seaside since Ethel has just recovered from a serious illness. Their hostess, Darsie Anning, has had a lot of trouble in her life, all of it stemming from getting involved with the wrong man: Alan Field. Not that he's the *right* man for anybody...
In keeping with the title, this book has a prologue set a couple of years before the main action begins in the first chapter. James Hardwick fell in love with Carmona Leigh at first sight on her 21st birthday, but through bad luck he couldn't wangle an introduction through her guardian that night before being posted to the Middle East. Her guardian, Colonel Trevor, disapproved of Alan Field, Carmona's would-be fiancee - good looks and the ability to charm women didn't cut any ice compared with Field having been kicked out of the Army. Nevertheless, when Hardwick returned, he learned that Carmona was to marry Field within a week - but she looked desperately unhappy.
But when the main action of the novel picks up at that point, we learn that Field literally jilted Carmona at the altar and left for South America (London was getting too hot to hold him anyway), so Carmona had married Hardwick on the rebound after a 3-month courtship. If you're thinking "AHA! Field was really murdered and somebody faked the trip!", well, join the club of People Conned by Wentworth. :)
In the present, Carmona's at her husband's place at Cliff Edge by the sea with Esther Field (Alan's soft-hearted stepmother who isn't soft-headed about him), Esther's old school friend, the formidable Lady Castleton; her own old friend, the party-girl Pippa Maybury; and the Trevors. James Hardwick is about to return from a business trip, so they're pretty well crammed to the rafters when an uninvited guest appears: Alan Field, who first has the nerve to try to stay with the Hardwicks, then in even worse taste goes to Darsie Anning, who has better reason than Carmona to resent him. Naturally, he's come to wangle some capital out of Esther for some get-rich-quick scheme, but he's done that once too often - and when she refuses, he tries his hand at blackmailing just about every member of the party. (Various confrontations with potential victims happen on-stage; Wentworth plays fair.) When he's found dead, the only surprises are that the murder weapon has disappeared, and that somebody didn't do it years ago.
All in all, good riddance; catching the killer is desirable mainly so that at least the innocent (well, innocent of this mess) don't suffer. Pippa Maybury, who was being blackmailed and panicked when she found the body, wants Maud Silver to clear it up quickly and quietly, rather than having a police investigation expose her particular guilty secret. One unusual feature of this case (given that it's a Silver investigation) are that the typical tangle of relationships between lovers and/or spouses are - or seem to be - much less emotionally charged on this occasion. But that might just be Wentworth's cunning, mightn't it? :)
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2003
If you like a nice romance by-line (all her books usually have one) then you will love this, believable characters and good plot and excellent narrative make this her best work. Set on a house by the sea with deliciously bad and 'annoying' family thrown in, keeps you hooked from the 1st till last line. I hope you enjoy this wonderful book, as much as I did!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Alan Field left Carmona at the altar and James Hardwick married her a few months later. Three years have passed and Alan Field has walked back into their lives and is demanding money - with or without menaces. He is a particularly unpleasant man and no one - including the reader - is really sorry when he is found stabbed to death in a beach hut. But is Carmona's friend, Pippa, who is staying with her responsible for the death? Carmona thinks not even though she found her covered in blood and very distressed.
Miss Maud Silver is staying in the nearby town with her niece, Ethel Burkett, and soon finds her services requested to work out which of the many possible suspects is the murderer. This is a complex story with many strands to unravel before the solution is found. Frank Abbot - Scotland Yard detective - is as puzzled as the local force and hopes his friend Miss Silver can find the culprit.
I enjoyed this story with its interesting characters - Carmona herself, her Aunt Esther Field, Alan's stepmother, her friends the Trevors and Adela Castleton an old school friend of Esther's. I liked the background of the story which is set by the sea - especially the seaside boarding house where Miss Silver is staying at the start of the story. The writing is vintage Patricia Wentworth and the dialogue is excellent as is the plot. If you want a crime novel which doesn't contain graphic violence and swearing then Patricia Wentworth would be a good author to read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
Miss Silver's seaside holiday is interrupted by the murder of a blackmailer who's been hounding the family in the local mansion. After the disappointing 'Ladies Bane' Wentworth seems to be back on form with this entertaining whodunnit. There's plenty of seething lusts, secret hatreds underneath the placid masks most of the characters wear. Miss Silver sorts it all out with her usual tact and empathy. The only downside is that Wentworth, seems to tip the wink to the reader too soon as to the identity of the murderer, whom I'd spotted before the murder takes place. Still, an enjoyable time passer, the characters have a bit more flesh on them than you might expect.
'Out of the Past' is the 23rd Miss Silver novel, published in the early 1950s. On any sensible reckoning - if Miss Silver was around 60 in the first story - she is about 83 now and she goes on sleuthing until she is around 93! Inspector Frank Abbott, her ex-pupil and friend, must also be moving towards retirement age. They do age slowly, though!
James and Carmona Hardwick are entertaining a large number of friends and relatives in their ugly old family residence near the sea, over the course of the summer. James fell in love with Carmona on her 21st birthday and theirs is a happy union. Then Alan Field arrives. He is handsome and charming and was once a rival for her affections, but he is not a good man. Things begin to go wrong, the relaxed atmosphere is destroyed - and then there is a murder.
Miss Silver is staying with her niece, Ethel Burkett, at the seaside; Ethel is recovering from an illness. Ethel's landlady, Darsie, has also had heartbreaking problems with Alan Field. Pippa Maybury, Carmona's friend, calls in Miss Silver when she finds the body and fears being thought the murderer.
This book follows Wentworth's usual formula - lots of people in a large house, a tormented pair of lovers, secrets, blackmail and possible doom to the relationship of the lovers (who, unusually, in this book are married) should Miss Silver (centre stage) and Frank Abbott (slightly off-centre and only theoretically in charge of the investigation) not solve the mystery. Which, of course, they do.
Patricia Wentworth is very good at writing character and engaging us with them. Her plotting does not have the originality and ingenuity of Agatha Christie's, but she has a better writing style, in my opinion, and she conveys the small, claustrophobic middle-class world of her characters very well. I love the world which she creates, with its old-fashioned atmosphere and emphasis on honourable conduct and self-restraint, and I enjoy the chance to escape into it. Her books are charming and absorbing and the identity of the murderer usually comes as a surprise.