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By Constance on 08-19-14
Unlistenable Dud from Usually Wonderful Writer
What disappointed you about The Catherine Wheel?
I usually love Patricia Wentworth and I usually rate her books 5 stars. I consider her as good as Agatha Christie--an intelligent, interesting writer of Golden Age mysteries. Unfortunately, this story opens with long, agonizing lists and descriptions of complicated family relationships. A central character is tracing his many relatives and choosing some of them to come spend the weekend. The relationships are quite labored and unless you are insanely into genaology (not your own) you may find this deadly dull. I tried and tried but could not get past this indigestible clump of relationships. ANY of her other books are vastly better than this one. Latter End is a particular favorite of mine...The Fingerprint, Lonesome Road, Through the Wall---you can't go wrong with these wonderful titles if you like an old fashioned classic British mystery, but I cannot possibly recommend The Catherine Wheel. The usual reader reads this one and she is great. But not enough to save this dud of a tale. So sorry!
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
By Kathi on 08-11-14
A bit tedious but good mystery
Patricia Wentworth's series (written around the same time as Agatha Christie and other classic crime-writers) stars the quiet, self-effacing Miss Maud Silver. Miss Silver has been a governess in her earlier years, and now in her retirement, she knits and solves mysteries (has her own modest little detective service). She often takes a place in the background of wherever she is--almost so people will scarcely notice her, but one always knows she is about to issue a profound thought by her prefacing polite little cough. I suppose it is easy to compare her to Christie's Miss Marple, and they do have some things in common, but they remain very separate individuals. Miss Marple is sent for because people just know she has an instinct for solving crimes, whereas Miss Silver is deliberately hired as the detective.
In this book, Jacob Taverner, is sole inheritor of an estate that might have been divided among many siblings (Jeremiah, jr, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and Mary and Joanna)--but wasn't. Subsequently the family has scattered, new generation born, and Jacob sends out an ad in the paper stating he is looking for long lost relatives. In reality, he is looking for specific ones, whom he asks to join him at Catherine's Wheel, a lodge long known for it's early (and perhaps current) smuggling connections with his own secret intentions. Jane Heron and Jeremy Taverner (two of the cousins) travel there together. Most of the others arrive in various stages, and Miss Silver is coincidentally sent there by the police at just the same time--to quietly observe the goings on, in search of possible smuggling.
Of course murder happens--and all of the book is dedicated to solving that. But just a word about the style. To me, this one seemed a bit stiffly written. There were so very many people to keep up with (the original siblings in the Taverner family, followed by all the various descendents) which made quite a lot of people to sort out. At first I had the sense that it was like one of those logic puzzles where you have to fill in the blanks based on separate, sequential pieces of information (Jane is taller than Sam, but Sam lives in a red house next to Jane's best friend who is shorter than Sam...). It was very challenging to get all the family lines and relationships arranged (and finally, I resorted to pen and paper--which was why it felt like a puzzle :-)
I think it was quite an ambitious story to have written. I believe a reader who could easily check back pages to keep up with it all might have had a far easier time of it. This is a good listen if you are good at remembering a lot of connections and relationships--but I found it to be easier to simply start out in the first 1/2 hour or so with pen and paper, writing names and relationships down. It really did help to keep people's stories separate, to be able to follow the detecting and solving of the crime. It's a good book--Miss Silver stories generally are, and I believe Diana Bishop did the best she could with a book that was heavy on trails to follow, and light on interludes that might have made it less of a straight-forward puzzle. I am only giving the story 3 stars because it is challenging to listen to (without having to write down names). I think to read it would have been much easier.
6 of 10 people found this review helpful