Thursday, March 8, 2012

book review - The Chinese Shawl

Yup, I've written a book review of Patricia Wentworth's The Chinese Shawl.  I posted it on and Powell's Books' website and of course, to be utterly repetitious, I'm posting it here, too.  In the very least, I thought it would be good practice to try and summarize the plot (for query synopses) and my accompanying commentary.

Here it is:

4/5 stars
An enjoyable, nostalgic read.

Set in WWII England, young heiress, Laura Fane, meets her ambitious femme fatale cousin, Tanis, and finds herself tangled in a web of Tanis' intrigues as well as old family grievances.  When Tanis is found murdered, the list of possible suspects is long, for Tanis has left a long list of jilted and jealous enemies, perhaps Laura among them.  But there's more to her murder than meets the eye.  Luckily, Miss Silver, our knitting, Tennyson-quoting private enquiry agent, is there to untangle the mystery and save the day.

I've tended to consider Wentworth's detective fiction as enjoyable but second tier in the British Golden Age detective fiction genre.  Her characters are more stereotypic and the plots fairly predictable.  The novels are definitely "dated" (The Chinese Shawl was originally published in 1943).  The Chinese Shawl is true to this form, but a solid work for Wentworth.  Overlooking its shortcomings, it's a fun read with a charming bit of romance complicated by dastardly characters and murder.  I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy Golden Age mysteries who've exhausted their supply of Christie and Sayers.

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