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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seaside country house party in the 1950s, May 19, 2002
By 
Michele L. Worley (Kingdom of the Mouse, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Out of the Past: A Miss Silver Mystery (Paperback)
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? :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Familiar, yet entertaining, January 16, 2013
This review is from: Out of the Past (Hardcover)
This is the 23rd book in a series of 32, and by now not only are the basic setups the same, some of the plot devices, settings and people are, too. But it's still an entertaining read, and there are enough differences to satisfy a reader who has limited patience for recycled plots. The basic framework for all of Wentworth's cozy mysteries is a large house filled to capacity with people one wishes were elsewhere. Sometimes the setting is London, but large houses are mostly found in the countryside, and in this case it's close to the sea. This isn't the first book in the series to have our intrepid detective, a retired governess reminiscent of the Edwardian era, staying with her niece by the sea. Last time, the niece's daughter was recovering from an illness; this time, it's the niece. But that is just to get Miss Silver on hand for the patchwork of old secrets, jealousy, hostility, blackmail and murder. The amount of blackmail followed by murder in small English country towns is really astonishing...after 23 such books, it's a wonder to me that the English character is continually portrayed as solid, worthy, patriotic and honest. But when you consider that these books were written from 1928 to 1961 and not churned out every other day (as I seem to be reading them) perhaps I've simply overdosed. Unlike the last few tales, where there was some serious suspense, this time I found it a bit funny that not only everyone had a motive for murder, but that everyone turned up at the scene of the crime. Like the fallback crime of blackmail, the default crime scene is one at which, even in the middle of the night, any number of people are sneaking, creeping, walking, running or lurking about. One thing that Wentworth always provides is a couple (or two) with obstacles in the path to Happily Ever After. In this episode, I found it interesting that both troubled couples were married. Usually you can smell the orange blossoms by the end of the story, but not this time. Written in 1953, the author was about 75 and winding down towards the end of a distinguished career. Although most noted for the Miss Silver cozy mysteries, she wrote dozens of other novels, including historicals, and some of the same plot devices are used in those. Well, they work, so what can I say? No matter how many characters show up, the dialogue is always enjoyable, the plots fairly intricate, and the books are fun to read. Miss Silver is always in service to Truth, Justice and Young Love, so it isn't a spoiler to let you know that the ending will satisfy on all counts.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH..., April 3, 2013
This review is from: Out of the Past (Hardcover)
Poor Carmona Leigh was engaged to be married only to be jilted at the altar by her charming bounder of a fiancé, Alan Fields, who decided to flee to South America when things proved to be too hot for him to handle. Luckily for Carmona, James Hardwick has loved her from afar since he first laid eyes on her when she was twenty-one. For him it had been love at first sight. So, three months after her erstwhile groom ran off, she married James Hardwick on the rebound.

Several years later, while Carmona and James are entertaining family and friends at their seaside house, Alan Fields reappears out of the blue and throws everyone into a tizzy. Tensions mount, as Alan has a knack for setting people's teeth on edge. Moreover, he is not above a little blackmailing to try and raise some cash for himself. Needless to say, it is no surprise when he is murdered. The only surprise is that it did not happen sooner. It seems that everyone with whom he has had contact has a reason to want him dead.

Unfortunately for the murderer, Miss Maud Silver, a retired governess turned private inquiry agent, is fortuitously staying nearby and is brought into the case. With her steel trap of a mind and her understanding of human nature, she sorts out the complex web of deceits and lies, as well as the tangle of relationships that seem to be a trademark of these Miss Silver mysteries. This book features an intricate, well-constructed plot, seamless storytelling, and a host of quirky, interesting characters. Those who like cozy mysteries will most certainly enjoy this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miss Silver Extraordinare!, February 22, 2014
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I discovered Miss Silver when the books were re-released in the 90's. I bought as many as I could find then, and have been rereading them, so I began looking for more. Although these books are somewhat dated, the stories ring true, and it is comforting to read an author who sets in the middle between the outright fantasy of a lot of "cozies" and "hardboiled".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out of the Past, December 26, 2012
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Love this book and all the others in this series. I like these books as much as Georgette Heyer's crime novels which I thnks are brilliant.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's more odious than a blackmailer?, April 5, 2005
This review is from: Out of the Past: A Miss Silver Mystery (Paperback)
A murderer, that's who. As much as Miss Maud Silver hates blackmailers, it does not justify murder in her mind. When she is spending a summer holiday at the seaside with her favourite niece, Ethel Burkett, strange happenings are occuring at a neighbourhood house. Miss Silver gets drawn into it when someone is found dead in a beach house. In this case, the murdered victim has more enemies than enough, and there are more motives than enough so it makes it difficult to find the killer. But, never fear, Miss Silver is there to figure it out, but not before there is another death. This is a book with two murder victims that are both very unlikeable people.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good One by an Old Reliable, December 25, 2013
By 
drkhimxz (Freehold, NJ, USA) - See all my reviews
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A large number of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver detective stories have come to Kindle which will be of benefit to those who are fans of the Classic British mystery. Less appealing than the first rank in that genre, these books are none the less appealing and intriguing, they do involve the reader. This one is no exception. A real bad 'un has returned to his native heath in which, among other things, he left a childhood friend and sweetheart waiting at the altar, an explanatory letter arriving the next day. Of course, this return coincides with a gathering of family and family friends at the home of the now wed sweetheart. Trouble is sure to follow. By authorial coincidence, Miss Silver is visiting in the immediate vicinity and is employed (although the financial arrangements are never mentioned) to save the police from arresting the wrong person.There are a handful of suspects, a tangle of misleading clues and Miss Silver to keep Justice from being blind. There are certain weaknesses in the final section of the book, but not sufficiently significant enough to detract from the overall virtues of the effort. It should be a good read for the devotees of this type of story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cozy, yet compelling., August 11, 2012
By 
Timothy Marvin Coplin (Streator, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Out of the Past (Hardcover)
Any fan of Agatha Christie's MISS MARPLE will certainly enjoy Patricia Wentworth's MISS SILVER.

Having been endeared to the local authorities, Miss Silver quietly unravels the tangled ball of yarn that is the past lives of those whom have assembled themselves in and around a quiet country manor.

Cozy, yet compelling. OUT OF THE PAST will keep you guessing until the end.
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Out of the Past: A Miss Silver Mystery
Out of the Past: A Miss Silver Mystery by Patricia Wentworth (Paperback - Mar. 1993)
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