While it is true that Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver mysteries tend to run on a certain formula--someone dies; either it's mistakenly called suicide or an innocent person is fingered as the culprit (sometimes both happen in quick succession in the same story); former client or former charge of the governess suggests bringing in Miss Silver; there is a young romantic couple (or two) who need things straightened out so they can live happily ever after; and the police repeatedly go down blind alleys while Miss Silver whips clues out of her knitting bag faster than she can knit one of her endless supply of socks, baby layettes, etc.--she has a knack of description and a grasp of character that make each outing seem fresh and new. She also has quite few tricks in her own bag. I changed my mind repeatedly on who the culprit was and just barely managed to settle on the correct one before Miss Silver did. It's always pleasant to be fooled for most of the book and then edge out the detective by a nose at the finish line.
This particular outing begins like a spy thriller--and there is always the possibility of enemy agents seeking to gain control of Harsch's discovery--but Wentworth never really takes us out of the cozy realm. The events are firmly lodged in the typical British villages with all the trappings and Miss Silver plays the part of the talkative older lady to the hilt. It's amazing how she shrewdly leads witnesses to produce evidence that the police would never be able to pry out of them with a crowbar. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to war-era Britain. A satisfying read and nicely plotted mystery for four stars.
If men knew how very foolish they appear when they allow a silly young woman to twist them round her little finger, it would at any rate preserve them from exposing themselves to ridicule in company. [Miss Doncaster] (p. 77)
Poor dear Medora! And she won't tell me anything--not anything at all. She doesn't even cry. You know, it really does you a great deal of good to cry when you are feeling unhappy. [Miss Sophy] (109)
And what call have you got to go bringing down the London police after that? Let them stay at home and mind their own murders, I say, and not come ferreting and worriting where nobody wants them. [Mrs. Bush] (134)
...you know what men are--it's no good talking , they just go their own way. [Mrs. Bush] (136)
Very correct--aren't you? When you start saying sir every time you open your mouth, I begin to look out for what you've been up to. [Chief Inspector Lamb] (139)
When something has happened it is no use trying to remain in the past, or to refuse to accept what the present demands of us. [Miss Silver] (142)
Miss Silver looked at him reprovingly. Her manner indicated that discourtesy relegated one mentally and morally to either the nursery or the slum. (196)