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Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth
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Grey Mask (original 1928; edition 1979)

by Patricia Wentworth

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296937,920 (3.43)18
Member:miss_read
Title:Grey Mask
Authors:Patricia Wentworth
Info:Coronet Books (1979), paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:tbr, fiction, mystery, suspense, murder, detective, thriller, UK, England, 1920s

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Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth (1928)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I've read this as part of the 2014 Vintage Mystery Challenge. I'm sure I have read a Miss Silver novel before, maybe even several (see these posts about forgotten books), but have not reviewed any on this blog, so a long time ago. Although the first in the Miss Silver series, this was far from Patricia Wentworth's first novel. There would eventually be over 30 titles in this series, which she kept publishing until 1961. However the second title in the series does not appear for another nine years.

It is probably inevitable that readers compare Miss Silver with Agatha Christie's Jane Marple, who made her first appearance in 1927. In contrast to Miss Marple, Miss Silver had had a previous career as a governess, and seems to be more experienced in the ways of the world, whereas Miss Marple is mainly experienced in village life. While Miss Silver appears to be attempting to be make a living as a private detective and sleuth, Miss Marple gets her cases from the things that happen around her.

Miss Silver does not appear to be as old as Miss Marple, but at the same time is rather more non-descript. Both are spinsters, and both seem rather small and harmless. Both do a lot of knitting. The author stresses how colourless and drab Miss Silver is. In fact the plot seems to bear that out for there are long passages between her appearances, and the reader could be forgiven for forgetting that she is "on the job" at all. But she has the knack of turning up when you least expect her, and she certainly is a shrewd observer. And in the long run it is Miss Silver who initiates the decisive action that brings everything to a satisfactory resolution and saves the day.

So how well has GREY MASK weathered? The plot is passable but I think perhaps the language of the novel is a bit dated. It seems set in a world of inheritances and a social structure that even by 1929 was rapidly disappearing. ( )
  smik | Jun 22, 2014 |
Good story, lots of twists, didn't really get the Miss Silver character. Maybe I need to try another. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
The very first Miss Maud Silver mystery, written in and set in 1928. Decent mystery, interesting to see Miss Silver in the early days before the character was fully developed ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jan 4, 2012 |
Grey Mask isn't a new novel, it was originally published in 1928 and is the first in Wentworth's series of whodunit mysteries featuring Miss Silver as the amateur sleuth. It's easy to start comparing Miss Silver to Christie's Miss Marple, after all they're both elderly spinsters solving crimes in England in the best traditions of cozy mystery, but that's where the similarities end.
There's more energy to Wentworth's writing, you get to know her characters' quirks and she does a great job of getting to the bottom of people in dialogue. The point of view changes every once in a while and this not only makes the narrative more multi-dimensional but also gives the story a greater degree of intimacy - we actually know first-hand what different characters are doing and how they think and feel about the latest events instead of someone sitting us down at the end and telling us about it in the "great reveal" sort of way. I really enjoyed learning things gradually and having the satisfaction of discovering the identities of minor players as the story progressed. It was also great fun to read Grey Mask because while I figured out part of the mystery from the very beginning there were a number of secrets the answers to which caught me completely off guard. Oh, and there was mortal danger. And people fell in love. And I laughed out loud more than once.
A couple of things threw me off balance in the beginning of the book. One is the language. It is often very specific to the time period, some expressions I wasn't familiar with at all and it took me a bit to figure out what was actually being said. This tends to date the writing but if you're ready for it it's not that big of a deal. Another was that Chapter 2 introduces all kinds of villains but with so little description of them that several chapters later I felt like I missed something and had to go back and make sure that I didn't. Once the "character dump" was over I was able to enjoy the book without any discomfort. And the third thing, now that I'm thinking about it, is how much Miss Silver managed to accomplish in a short amount of time - she actually has an office where she sees potential clients but she also was personally present for all kinds of significant events. The little lady must've been in possession of a time machine! Or she's cloned herself. Wait, that's a different genre.
All in all this is a very enjoyable book that I'm sure will entertain lovers of cozy mysteries who are looking for a bit of light reading. ( )
  bolgai | Dec 20, 2011 |
Good old-fashioned mystery, written in 1928. Sleuth, Miss Silver is a knitter, old-fashioned and industrious. Miss Silver is featured in 32 books, the last being The Girl in the Cellar (1961). I am going to read them in sequence, like Janet Evanovich's books. She draws the story together though it is the other characters and the crime that form the nucleus. Read about her in Piecework (knitting/textile magazine) in a story of her as a detective/knitter. ( )
  bogopea | Aug 30, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia Wentworthprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bliek, Rosemarie deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chaulin, Marie-LouiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vincent, SophieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mr Packer dangled the heavy bunch of keys for a moment before laying it on the table.
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Four years ago Charles Moray had been jilted at the altar by Margaret Langton. Four years later he returns to London to find his ex-fiancee mixed up in a vicious plot involving kidnap and worse.
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Furious at being jilted by Margaret Langton, Charles Moray left England behind him. Four years later, he returns only to discover that a criminal gang has been using his house to plan a vicious crime. The target is the beautiful Margot Standing, who stands to inherit a considerable fortune. But the gang has other plans for her. Charles is appalled to discover that Margaret Langton is one of the conspirators. The indomitable Miss Silver is called in to investigate how and why Margaret's life has taken such a drastic turn.… (more)

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