Danger Point

A review of Danger Point by Patricia Wentworth

My love-hate relationship with Camberley’s finest, Patricia Wentworth, continues. Danger Point, which also goes by the alternative title of In The Balance, is the fourth in her Miss Silver series, first published in 1941, is a curious affair, more of a psychological thriller than a whodunit and one in which her amateur sleuth, Miss Silver, adopts a very low key role.

True enough, she appears right at the start of the story and makes intermittent appearances throughout the book, but her sleuthing is minimal, allowing events to play out as they will. Miss Silver does offer advice and dire warnings as what is to come, although she does little to either stop a tragedy playing out or bringing the culprit to book.

In comparison with Wentworth’s contemporaries, the plot is wafer-thin, with little in the way of complexity. It is easy to see what is going to happen and, frankly, who the culprit is. Charitably, Wentworth does maintain the fiction that it could be one of two to the book’s finale, but my money was always on the one who turned out to have done it. All that said, Wentworth’s strength is in her storytelling, her ability to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, and her ability to deliver an entertaining, if undemanding, tale, and her understanding of the position that her heroine, Lisle Jerningham, found herself in.

To survive one life-threatening escapade is fortunate, but when you seem to attract danger, perhaps someone is really out to get you. Initially, Lisle is almost drowned, out swimming with her husband, Dale, and Dale’s cousins, Rafe and Alicia. They do not hear her cries for help – or were they deliberately ignored? – and it was left to a stranger to fish her out. The book opens with her on a train in a state of shock, after overhearing a conversation at a country house she was staying at, that Dale’s former wife had met with an accident and her money had saved the family pile and that as Dale had married another woman with money, Lisle, perhaps she too would meet with an accident.

Sharing her carriage is Miss Silver who lends a sympathetic ear and proffers her business card, if Lisle wanted any assistance. Lisle’s position is precarious. Her family was in America, and she was on her own in Blighty with no one to turn to. Her money is in trust, Dale wants to get his hands on it to save the family home from having to be sold, and Lisle cannot persuade the trustee to open the coffers.

Inevitably, she meets with more danger. The steering on the car she is driving snaps and it smashes into a brick wall. Fortunately, Lisle has the sense to jump out and is rescued by Rafe who is near the scene. Then, she gives a coat to a maid, who is pushed over a cliff edge while wearing it. Dale, Alicia, and Rafe were all near the scene at the time, but the police, led by Inspector March, arrest her boyfriend as he had had an argument with her at the scene of the crime.

A cancelled appointment puts Miss Silver on high alert. She goes down to see what is happening, but the headstrong Lisle ignores her advice. Inspector March, in charge of investigations of the murder, receives some helpful guidance, but her role is reduced to that of an interested observer. The book’s denouement sees Lisle pushed over a cliff. The identity of her assailant is clear, but the excitement is whether she will survive. The culprit does away with themselves in a novel and thoroughly modern fashion.

Love interest is a stock ingredient of Wentworth’s and appears in this book. Her characters are sharply drawn and are believable, as is Lisle’s predicament, although a stronger woman would have just cut her losses. All in all, it is a harmless piece of entertainment and good enough to persevere with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.