On Our Bookshelves – Grey Mask

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NOVEL: Grey Mask

AUTHOR: Patricia Wentworth

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1928

REVIEW:

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So, I was in search of comfort reading.  Everything around here is shut down: schools, parks, businesses, libraries, restaurants.  As an escape from COVID-19 I was hoping for something to put me in a better head space. I was in the mood for something like Dorothy Sayers, but as I’ve already read all of her mysteries multiple times, something new, at least new to me.  Solution: the Global Network of Discovery’s Literature Map. Just enter in an author, and you get some ideas: people who like that author, like these other ones as well. I’ve read much of (but not all of) Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey, and Ngaio Marsh, but there was another author nearby on the map whom I hadn’t read at all, so I thought I’d give Patricia Wentworth a try.

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She’s most well-known for her Miss Silver novels, so I thought I’d start with the first one.  Absolutely an excellent choice for my mood. Miss Silver has often been compared to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and they made their debuts around the same time, but Miss Silver is a professional private investigator, not an amateur.  Here, she is solving a massive criminal conspiracy involving kidnapping and other sordid crimes. Grey Mask has plenty of imperfections. Miss Silver’s sleuthing mostly takes place off-stage; she seems to be rather omniscient, just showing up knowing all kinds of useful information and setting things to rights.  The main characters could have easily solved many of their problems by simply being honest with each other. But there are also some amusing points: one of the damsels in distress here (referred to as a “flapper”) is too dimwitted to remember that she’s in distress most of the time. And there’s a satisfying ending in which lovers are united and justice is done.

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It’s completely formulaic and rather silly but it absolutely did the trick, and kept my mind free of existential dread for a few happy hours: comfort reading at its best.  The good news is that if you enjoy this particular formula, there is plenty of Miss Silver to go around (even if we’re practicing social isolation for a long time): 32 books in total, the last one published in 1961.  I’ve read the next three: The Case is Closed, about attempting to exonerate a convicted criminal; Lonesome Road, about an heiress in danger–possibly due to a family member; and Danger Point, about an innocent young (and extremely wealthy) wife in peril.  This sort of thing may be just what you need while waiting out a pandemic.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Book Cover Courtesy of Open Road Media

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