Thursday, May 17, 2012

Patricia Wentworth - Wicked Uncle

Twenty year old Dorinda Brown takes on a job in post-WWII Britain as secretary to the fragile and rather useless Linnet Oakley, who can't seem to do much but lounge around in a filmy negligee.  In her capacity as secretary, Dorinda is invited to a house party of the Oakleys' neighbor, Gregory Porlock, who is also a business partner of Linnet Oakley's husband, Martin.  Greg Porlock turns out to be none other than Glen Porteous, Dorinda's "Wicked Uncle", who abused her aunt and ran off with all her money.  Dorinda last saw him some seven years ago, and the aunt had since passed away (from other causes).

Greg Porlock has decided to invite all the people he's in the process of blackmailing to the house party.  This includes not only Linnet Oakley, but a handful of others.  What's surprising is that Greg Porlock managed to not win the Darwin Award years ago.  Still, it's an opportunity for the house guests to all become suspects in a murder case.

The incomparable Maud Silver, a private enquiry agent and consummate knitter, who managed to save Dorinda from one of the Wicked Uncle's nefarious schemes, is invited by Dorinda to help solve the murder, which she does with her usual aplomb.

There's some great characters in this one, including the truly horrible Marty Oakley, the six year old progeny of Linnet and Martin Oakley, and the literally crooked "entertainer" and traitor to the Crown, Leonard Carroll.  I wondered while I was reading the book who or what inspired this particular character; he was different than her typical stand-bys.

There's also a charming love story interwoven in it, between Dorinda and her elegant older cousin, Justin Leigh, though this gets put on hold after the preliminaries in order to focus on the murder plot line.

In all, I thought Wicked Uncle standard Patricia Wentworth fare, a rather fun, light read.  If anything, it was a bit more complex than some of her other stories, as the different suspects all have their own backdrop stories and motivations for wanting to murder their blackmailer.

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