The Journeying Boy (Inspector Appleby Mystery S.) Paperback – 23 Sep 2008
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
The plot is in two (later three) view-points, and deals with the assassination of a public school tutor in a situation strongly reminiscent of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Hitchcock, not Chesterton), this relataed to impersonation in order to kidnap the boy hero, a physicist's son. The boy and the replacement tutor ar seen from one angle (action / adventure), while the mystery of the tutor's death is undertaken by Inspector Cadover, who also appeared in WHAT HAPPENED AT HAZELWOOD and A PRIVATE VIEW. The shift in viewpoints keeps the reader from being bored, and so adds to rather than detracts from the whole. Irish dialogue is also good - although nowhere near as good as the Scottish in Innes' masterpiece, LAMENT FOR A MAKER.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The setting of `Journeying Boy' (1949) is a product of the two years Innes spent at Queen's University in Belfast. I believe it is the only one of his mysteries to take place in Ireland. It is also notable in that it does not feature his most famous detective, Sir John Appleby, but rather Appleby's successor at New Scotland Yard, Detective-Inspector Thomas Cadover. The new Inspector is a bit of a dry stick compared to the irrepressible Appleby---he refers to his predecessor as `the wayward Appleby'---but Cadover detects with the best of his literary kin (Appleby, Lord Peter, Professor Fen, etc.) All of the characters are introspective (remember that year in Vienna) and finely drawn. No caricatures are to be found in `Journeying Boy'---not even the nuclear physicist.
Not even the Irish.
The narrative duties are divided between three main characters: Inspector Cadover; Humphrey Paxton, the adolescent son of a famous nuclear physicist; and Richard Thewless, the middle-aged and somewhat unimaginative tutor who is hired to take Humphrey on a vacation to Ireland. As always with Innes, the mystery is a mixture of high drama and low farce. `Journeying Boy' doesn't quite venture into the surreal depths of some of the Appleby novels. However, Innes displays his talent for hallucinatory description in several places, including a scene where the tutor, Mr. Thewless is stumbling through the dark halls of a draughty, decaying Irish country house. Just as he becomes certain that he is being followed, his candle gutters out:
"All of the objects...that lined the broad corridors of the house were swathed in a white sheeting...It was as if, in addition to the [mansion's family and servants], the place owned another body of inhabitants, who waited, shrouded and silent in the gathering dusk."
Even though `Journeying Boy' mentions Appleby only in passing, it is one of Innes's best, most intricate mysteries. This author can switch from farce to horror better and faster than any of his contemporaries. You'll be laughing while your hair is still standing straight up on the back of your neck. If you don't believe me, read the chapter that takes place in a labyrinth of sea caves, where the boy Humphrey attempts to escape from his enemies.
Michael Innes is one of the finest, most unjustly neglected authors from the British Golden Age of Mystery. If you haven't already discovered him, a good place to start is "The Journeying Boy," or his very literate Appleby mystery, "Hamlet, Revenge!"
Innes's plot is - as usual - both well constructed and absurd. I laughed out loud at the Irish dialogue, and the interaction between Humphrey, the boy in question, and his tutor is marvellously well done, however ridiculous it may be.
Innes requires a suspension of disbelief and the possession of his particular kind of humour - I look forward to more of the same on my Kindle in future.
Although I could see how Innes was running parallel stories that would eventually pull together, he never made me care what would happen to any of the people involved. I got about halfway through and gave up. The title was relevant but a bit too cutesy.