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The Ivory Dagger
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Escaping to novelist Patricia Wentworth's world is fraught with danger. You'll probably find yourself at a week-end house party. At these parties, it is always the case that by Sunday morning someone is found murdered.

In this novel, the ivory dagger of the title is thought to be the murder weapon. Host Herbert Whittall had shown this prized possession to his guests the previous night. Now, the bloody dagger is in the blood stained hands of the girl found beside the murdered host, the girl who had been unwillingly betrothed to him. This is the blood-soaked tableau that postpones Sunday morning's breakfast.

A precedent for this situation is found in the Donizetti opera "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Bride of Lammermoor" upon which it is based. Patricia Wentworth weaves illusions to these works into her own novel. For example, the guests pass their Saturday evening listening to gramophone records of excerpts from the Donizetti opera.

Mostly through dialogue, Patricia Wentworth provides the murder investigation. Motives and opportunities for murder abound. There is an incredibly long chain of witnesses who were themselves witnessed. Almost everybody does a bit or eavesdropping indoors and prowling around the garden outdoors in the wee small hours. Even Miss Silver has a stint of this, listening and seeing in at a partially open French window.

If all of this keeps you well-entertained until a confession is offered in Chapter 39, don't fail to read on until the last page. Patricia Wentworth has also contrived a long chain of confessions.

I hope this indicates the sort of enjoyment and escapism Patricia Wentworth's crime novels offer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A collector of ivory is found stabbed in his study appropriately enough with a dagger from his collection. It is soon clear that most of the people present in the house at the time have a reason to wish him dead - from his future mother-in-law to his future reluctant bride, Lila. Miss Maud Silver is called in by Lady Dryden - the future mother -in-law. It is soon clear to here that most of the residents of Sir Herbert Withall's country house - Vineyards - have secrets they really do not want to reveal to the police.

Frank Abbot is sent to investigate the case as he is now an Inspector having been promoted from Sergeant but he has a hard time convincing his boss that the obvious person is not always the perpetrator. This is an excellent example of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver crime stories with Miss Silver's very human qualities much to the fore. The characters are well drawn - from the dislikeable corpse to the two young women, Lila and her cousin Ray.

If you haven't yet tried Patricia Wentworth's books then you could do worse than start with this one. They do not need to be read in order and each stands alone. If you like your crime stories from the Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers mould then these books are for you.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2005
In what I think of as the classic Silver format, we would have a chapter or two of character development wherein the problem that will eventually spawn a murder is followed by one of the star-crossed lovers appearing at Montague Mansions to engage Maud Silver, governess-turned-PI (if she isn't already in the neighbourhood on other business). This book stretches that format; Maudie doesn't appear until chapter 17 of 45, after the murder has taken place, which might contribute to the book's unpopularity, although it's not the deciding factor. The fact that one of the female leads is a spineless clinging vine probably holds that honor, when coupled with the notion that she's supposed to be a sympathetic character - unlike, say, Sylvia in MR. ZERO, who was an exasperating responsibility to the heroine without playing one of the romantic roles. She *is* more sympathetic than her counterpart in MR. ZERO, but aggravating at the same time.
Bill Waring, collecting his wits in hospital after a train crash, received only one letter from Lila Dryden, his fiancee. The next thing he knows, Lady Dryden, Lila's guardian, has pressured her into an engagement with Herbert Whitall, and she's on the brink of marrying him. As with Sylvia in MR. ZERO, this spineless person has a good friend, her bridesmaid and first cousin Ray - but unlike Sylvia, Lila's been steamrollered into this position rather than deliberately seeking a well-feathered nest, and both Lila and Ray have other romantic interests - Ray really cares about Bill Waring, and it's she who eventually calls in Miss Silver.
Herbert Whitall quickly emerges as the victim-in-waiting. He's aggressive, with a cold-hearted possessiveness that expands past the bounds of his ivory collection: he can't bear to lose. Millicent, his secretary and sometime mistress, planned to leave when he married, but he's kept a hold on her via a forged check. Lila is terrified of him, and the one person devoted to Lila - Whitall's architect, Adrian Grey - wants to protect her. Lady Dryden appears to have more than one motive for wanting her ward to marry well. Whitall even seems to have a hold on the butler. When a dagger in his collection becomes a murder weapon, one is spoilt for choice in terms of motive. Maud Silver - Edwardian gentlewoman with a soul of steel - must see that justice is done, not to avenge the guilty, but to protect the innocent.
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on 25 September 2014
Quite a good plot with an unexpected twist at the end. The usual resolution of the love interest.

Unfortunately, Wentworth has an annoying habit of apparently forgetting to tie up loose ends at the finish. This may be true of real life, but we expect better in escapist literature! She creates the ominous - and omnipresent - figure of Lady Dryden at the beginning of the book - and then, as the plot develops, seems to simply forget her! Irritating. Whodunnit readers like to see people get their comeuppance, after all!
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on 28 July 2013
Great story well worked out. I love the period as well particularly the description of Miss Silver herself and her surroundings
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on 8 November 2014
Love her books so very pleased
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2009
The 'heroinwe' is without doubt one of Patricia Wentworth's most tiresome characters - could any girl, even in the 1930s, be that stupid and spineless? The other characters are lively and often convincing and the plot is great fun with lots of twists and turns. Although this book, like many of her others, was written in the early 1950s, the flavour is as always convincingly pre-Second World War.
The critics' reviews published inside the back covers of this series speak of Patricia Wentworth's 'well written' books; to me at least her style is often stilted and sometimes clumsy.
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on 29 December 2014
excellent
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