Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vintage Mystery #7

I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2015. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written between 1960 and 1989 inclusive and be from the mystery category.

I read this for the category “L-1 Set in the Entertainment World.”

Falling Star – Patricia Moyes, 1964

The death of a famous actor on the set for a movie looks like an accident. The death of the continuity girl looks like suicide. But motivated by the complaints of the cunning Mrs. Arbuthnot, the girl’s mother, the series hero, Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett, investigates and becomes convinced that these two deaths are in fact suspicious.

Patricia Moyes wrote 19 mysteries featuring Tibbett and his wife Emmy. Critics and readers often opine that this mystery is not her best. For instance, with the pool of suspects so small, it’s fairly easy to spot the perp.

I think, however, it has its strong points. Moyes had worked as a PA to actor/director Peter Ustinov, so she knows about the production and business of movie making. Her knowledge and experience strengthen the authenticity of the novel. The motive and the method of murder are pure golden age, so implausible and silly that I wonder if Moyes was parodying traditional whodunnits.

The characterization is quite witty. Usually Moyes uses third-person narration, but here she uses first-person. And what a narrator. A child of the land-owning class, he is priggish, smarmy, blustery, pompous, and thick-headed. The series hero is his likeable self, if a little boyish and bland. Also, his helpmeet wife appears only in cameo. The walk-on characters, such as Mrs. Arbuthnot, are hoots, like eccentrics in Henry Cecil’s novels.

From 1964, this was the #4 of 17 Tibbett novels. Readers who like late career Agatha Christie would enjoy this one.

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