Friday, 21 December 2012

Forgotten Book - Who Saw Her Die?

It's a very long time since I read a book by the late Patricia Moyes. Yet the last time I read her, I really enjoyed the story- Who Is Simon Warwick? - so I was glad to receive a review copy of Who Saw Her Die?, now reprinted as an Arcturus Crime Classic, which is my Forgotten Book for today. Moyes is one of those writers - like D.M.Devine, whom I featured a while back - who was once a mainstay of the Collins Crime Club, but whose work has rather faded out of view since her death just over a decade ago.

Her regular detective is Detective Superintendent Henry Tibbett, whose wife Emmy often plays a significant part in the stories. This novel, first published in 1970, is squarely in the Golden Age tradition, elaborately plotted and boasting a country house murder with assorted family members as suspects. Ageing socialite Crystal Balaclava is celebrating her 70th birthday with a party to be attended by her three daughters and their husbands, as well as her long-time companion. But Crystal believes someone is out to kill her, and Henry and Emmy join the party in a somewhat unlikely attempt to assuage her concerns. Unlikely and also extremely unsuccessful, since Crystal duly meets her end. Has she been poisoned? There is reason to believe that her death might just have been a bizarre accident, but the seasoned crime fan will be sceptical about that...

The story is told very entertainingly, and with flashes of genuine wit; Moyes wrote well. She was clearly very well travelled, and some key scenes are set in overseas locations. Henry vows to resign if he cannot solve the mystery (I'm not sure I found this convincing, despite his failure to save Crystal's life) and matters are complicated when the companion also falls victim to an apparent murder attempt.

There are numerous plot twists which I thought were extremely well handled. With this type of book, you have to accept some improbabilities, but the way suspicion shifts around is cleverly done. There was, though, one concealed relationship which I didn't think was fairly clued. That quibble aside, I felt that this was a first class example of the traditional whodunit. I'll definitely read Moyes again..

6 comments:

Lesley Cookman said...

Love her. I only have a few, so I shall have to keep an eye out for more reprints. Also Patricia Wentworth, whom I'm sure you've featured before.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Moyes is one of my favorites.

J said...

It's interesting: I just won a nice reprint of this title on eBay a few weeks ago!

Richard R. said...

Moyes is one of my favorites, too. Time to reread one of her books.

Kacper said...

I loved this one, too, but oddly I haven't been able to get into any of her other novels. Over the past few years I've acquired five other novels by her and somehow I had a hard time with the two or three I attempted to start. Some of her earlier books are a little on the wordier side, I think, but I'm sure I'll enjoy her many more times.

Interestingly, I stumbled upon Who Saw Her Die? (or, as it was released in the US, Many Deadly Returns) as part of my university library's lesbiana collection, presumably because of the relationship between Crystal and her companion Dolly. I'm not sure whether I read the relationship to be a lesbian one, though Dolly was definitely at least ambiguous.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm glad to find there are other Moyes fans out there. I've just heard that Arcturus are going to reprint another of her books next year.
Kacper, it didn't seem to have a lesbian sub-text to me, either.