I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
Appleby’s Answer – Micheal Innes
Like Nicholas Blake, Cyril Hare, Mary Fitt and Josephine Tey, Michael Innes wrote mysteries with bookish people in mind. His vocabulary makes readers run to their dictionary: weedy, embrocation, and inamorato. His grammar will become intricate too. Being a scholar of Conrad, Kipling, Hardy, and Shakespeare, his copious and learned allusions dazzle and intimidate. His Dickensianism depends on farce, satire, faux pas, and zany characters in bizarre situations. All in all, a pleasure for hard-core readers, the kind of people who read Anthony Trollope for fun, the reader who doesn't expect to take all novels seriously.
This one opens with Innes’ poking gentle fun at mystery writers who write cozies like Murder in the Cathedral and Vengeance at the Vicarage. Authoress Priscilla Pringle is gratified to spy a fellow train passenger reading one of her whodunnits. Her curiosity is quickened when the fellow passenger seeks her advice on how to commit murder, blackmail, and arson. She gets the feeling that the passenger indeed has nefarious plans. As the plot unfolds, lucky coincidence takes a hand and enter our series hero John Appleby.
Now a 60-year-old retiree of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Sir John and sculptress wife Judith investigate what may be a complex criminal plot or silly damn malice. Published in 1973, this is very much a late entry in the canon, which began in 1936 with Seven Suspects (aka Death at the President’s Lodging). Appleby’s Answer is a novelette, which is okay with me. With age, I grow impatient with mysteries that seem more wearying and otiose the longer they are. New readers of Michael Innes would do better to test the early ones such as Hamlet, Revenge!, Lament for a Maker or Stop Press; fans of Innes – readers like me – will like regardless.