Friday, September 1, 2017

Honeybath's Haven: Review

Honeybath's Haven (1977) features one of Michael Innes's less prominent recurring characters, the portrait painter Charles Honeybath. Honeybath used to be quite close with fellow artist Edwin Lightfoot, by as time passed they saw less and less of each other until he runs across Lightfoot's brother-in-law Ambrose Prout at the Savage Club. Prout is quite concerned about Lightfoot and thinks it will do him a world of good if Honeybath would drop in and see him.Charles understands Prout's concern when he finds Lightfoot playing "charades"--pretending to be be a long-dead housebreaker who went under the name of "Flannel Foot." 

Is his friend really dotty? Honeybath sees glimmers of the old Lightfoot peeking out and when he discovers that Lightfoot's wife is packing her bags to leave him, Charles convinces the artist to take his spot at Hanwell Court, an exclusive home for the elderly. But when Lightfoot's body is found tangled in the seaweeds growing in a saline pool on the grounds, Charles begins to wonder if something more sinister had been going on all along at Lightfoot's house. Especially, when you take into consideration the sudden discovery of "missing' Lightfoot paintings that the brother-in-law is buying up like hotcakes. You wouldn't think that a mystery in the British countryside would involve gangsters, red Indians, and a statue of Poseidon....but it does.

Okay...this has got to be the most convoluted of all the bizarre Michael Innes books I've read. Every once in a while Innes takes his reader on a trip through a murderous Wonderland where anything can happen and things don't always seem to be right-side-up. I'm normally pretty okay with that--I loved The Open House, for instance. But this time, Innes took me up the garden path on the other side of the Looking Glass and lost me. I distinctly remember liking Charles Honeybath the last time I met him (long ago and far away when I first discovered Innes), but this time I found him rather irritating. The best moment in the book is when Honeybath is on the train and has a rather weird conversation with an inmate from Hanwell Court. Innes does do dialogue well on the whole. But I can't say that I recommend this particular book.

[Finished on 8/30/17]
Counts for "Statue" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

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