A review of The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth
Say what you will about Patricia Wentworth, and I have been known to say a bit, but Camberley’s finest certainly know how to write a page turner. It is what is contained within the pages that can be a bit of a letdown. This is the second in Wentworth’s acclaimed Miss Silver series and was originally published in 1937, nine years after the spinster sleuth’s first outing in Grey Mask. Despite my reservations about her as a writer, I am told that her Miss Silver series contains some of Wentworth’s better work. We will see.
The premise of the book is one that is familiar to readers of the genre, someone who looks to be as guilty as sin but whose innocence someone is determined to prove. Things look black for Geoffrey Grey, already convicted of murdering his uncle, James Everton, after he had been disinherited. A shot was heard and when the servants, the Mercers, enter the room, they find Geoffrey standing over the dead body with a gun in his hand. If that was not enough, the only two other plausible suspects, Bertie and Frank Everton, have impeccable alibis. Hilary Carew, Geoffrey’s relative by marriage, is convinced of his innocence, despite the case being closed.
Of course, the murder is not as simple as it seems and not only is justice served but Hilary gets her man, Henry from whom she has split up at the beginning of the book. All live happily ever after.
Miss Silver makes an appearance around the halfway mark of the book, engaged by Henry on the recommendation of Charles Moray, whom she had helped in her first outing, Grey Mask. Miss Silver is an infuriating character, operating from a desk, knitting away, jotting down a few notes, suggesting some areas of enquiry and making intuitive deductions, based on her observations of human nature. She may get the credit for solving which really is a fairly simple case that involves breaking the alibis and a red wig, but much of the legwork is done by Hilary and Henry.
Hilary is a headstrong, determined woman on a mission, willing to pawn her aunt’s ring to finance a journey to aid the investigation, but for all her positive traits, Wentworth portrays her as a weak, silly woman who needs the protection and love of a man. Hilary gets into a number of scrapes, but they all follow the same essential pattern. She goes off to somewhere she is unfamiliar with in search of something and, astonishingly, bumps into the same people who put her in danger – there are least two attempts on her life – but each time Henry is there on his white charger to rescue her. It is as if Wentworth is writing to a set template and it is hard to understand why henry keeps bailing her out. It must be love.
The plot revolves round too many coincidences for my liking, even at the outset when Hilary, having got on the wrong train, finds herself in the very same compartment of a railway carriage as a distraught Mrs Mercer, the servant who found Geoffrey with the gun. Imagine that. After surviving an attempt to mow her down, Hilary follows a rutted track which takes her to a cottage, the very one that Mrs Mercer is staying in temporarily. When up in Glasgow, waiting for Henry outside a tenement, Hilary spots Mrs Mercer at the window, and so it goes on.
It is all a bit of fun if you do not take it too seriously, a light read where you can disengage the brain. Like Miss Silver, Patricia Wentworth still remains an enigma to me.