Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ampersand Papers: Review

The Ampersand Papers (1978) is another mystery by Michael Innes which stars Sir John Appleby. Sir John is a retired member of Scotland Yard and is on his way to the home of some friends when he decides to take a rest from his travels and take a walk along a likely-looking stretch of beach. He is literally on the spot when the body of Dr. Ambrose Sutch, an archivist, falls to his death down the cliff from the North Tower of Treskinnick Castle. The Castle is the ancestral home of Lord Ampersand and Sutch had been employed to sort out family papers...hopefully to find long-lost correspondence from Shelley and Byron among the papers of Adrian Digitt (one of the family's ancestors). Is this death just an accident? Or was he pushed? Could there be motive in the potentially valuable family documents? Or perhaps there is some truth to the legend of Spanish gold hidden on the estate?

Appleby's investigations take him through a puzzle of speleology and genealogy and reveal bitter family rivalries. There are many twists and turns before Appleby reveals the surprising solution.
I found this mystery to be one of Innes' fairly solid outings. Not one of his best...but the twist at the end does make it a bit better than it might have been. It took rather a while to get to the action and to get Appleby involved. I much prefer the stories where Appleby appears early on. Something about the plot line works much better and I enjoy those stories so much more. Three stars.

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