Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Girl in the Cellar: Review

In The Girl in the Cellar (1961) by Patricia Wentworth, a young woman regains consciousness in the dark on what she soon realizes are the steps of a cellar. She doesn't know where she is or how she got there....In fact, she's not even sure of who she is. All she knows is her name is Anne (but Anne what?) and that if goes to the bottom of the staircase she will find a dead body. She finds a flashlight in what she believes is her handbag and discovers that she's right. But her bout of amnesia doesn't allow her to identify the girl (who has been shot) or remember anything at all before coming to herself on the steps. She knows she must get away quickly--but where should she go? 

In a daze, she leaves the house and gets on a bus where fate intervenes. Miss Silver, that former governess turned detective, notices the dazed young woman and invites her to join her for tea. Through her gentle leading, Anne finds a letter in the handbag that indicates that she is Mrs. James Fancourt and she was on her way to stay with her new husband's relatives. But how did she get in the cellar? Was she involved in the girl's death. What happened to cause her to lose her memory? And is she really who the letter says she is? 

Miss Silver urges her to go the relatives as planned, but the house isn't the expected haven. Jim Fancourt's relatives have never met his wife, so they can't help her remember. And the feeling of dread which gripped her in the cellar isn't shaken--it takes on reality when a strange, threatening man appears. Fortunately, Jim Fancourt seems to be an ally and Miss Silver hasn't abandoned her. The three will work on the problem in their separate ways--bringing an end to Anne's fears (and light on her past) and unraveling the mystery of the girl in the cellar.

This is Wentworth's final book with Miss Silver. Using a favorite stratagem (amnesia), she weaves a convincing tale of fear and mystery. Anne's gradual recovery of her memory is plausible and the suspense is built up quite nicely. Admittedly, there are quite a few coincidences along the way--from the identity of the murdered girl (and Anne's real identity) to the strangers who happen along to help Anne at all the right moments. But the story is solid and even at her advanced age, Wentworth spins a good tale. ★★

This fulfills the "Any Sort of Jewelry" category on the Silver Scavenger Hunt card (Russian beaded necklace) as well as the "Gun/Shot" category in the Mystery Reporter Challenge.

Complete List of Challenges fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, Outdo Yourself, Monthly Key Word, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, Charity Challenge, Triple Dog Dare, European Reading Challenge, Travel the World, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge, Mystery Reporter, Women Challenge, Lady Detective, Cloak & Dagger


fredamans said...

Sounds like a solid ending.

Stacie said...

Interesting story. I quit reading mysteries for awhile and now I'm reading them again. I like the cover too.