Miss Silver visits the country to keep an eye on a friend who may be in perilIt is time for Judy to get out of London. Her sister and brother-in-law have just perished in an air raid, leaving her in charge of their four-year-old daughter, and Judy wants no more to do with death. She arranges for work in a piece of the countryside untouched by the war: a charming manor called Pilgrim's Rest. But it may be that she has more to fear than the Blitz. When she tells Frank Abbott of her plans, he warns her that strange things have been happening at Pilgrim's Rest. The family patriarch is recently dead of mysterious circumstances, and his heir has just suffered a series of near-fatal accidents. He cannot sway Judy, for she needs the work. But he does convince the governess-turned-detective Maud Silver to follow Judy to the village, to be on hand in case country living turns dangerous.
Dark Threat, in tone and plot (and types of characters), reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. It’s got a little old lady who solves a murder mystery set in a country estate with a limited cast! There’s a somewhat ineffective police detective, disbelieving clients, and mysterious servants.
Instead of being a Miss Marple, however, Miss Silver is more of a Miss Climpson kind of character. She’s not anybody’s aunt. She’s not fussy or intrusive. Miss Silver is nosy, but in a genteel way. She also knits the entire time, but she also used to be a governess and knows lots of people and things. She’s good with figuring out motives and almost intuitively figures out the solution about five chapters before anybody else. And she gets on my nerves a lot less than Miss Marple does, basically.
The writing was TOP NOTCH. Patricia Wentworth is/was VERY good at ending chapters with wham lines. There I was, reading merrily along, and then suddenly BAM! Another person’s dead and I’m frantically turning the page to the next chapter.
The mystery, admittedly, dug itself into a corner when practically everyone BUT the murderer was killed. When half your cast is dead, it’s easier to figure out who’s doing it, y’know? But you don’t know HOW they did it, so the last third was more about Miss Silver and co. trying to do just that (and to gather enough evidence to arrest the murderer).
Unfortunately, I super hated the ending sequence! The killer kidnaps another character and explains everything. How they did the murders, why they did it, how they’re going to get away with it, etc. I intensely dislike gloating murderers, tbh.
So the solution to the mystery was handled in a somewhat unsatisfying way. However, I DID like that the romance subplot didn’t end the way it traditionally would, and that just because the case was solved doesn’t mean that anyone gets a happy ending out of it. Dark Threat has a good balance between traditional mystery plot points and unusual twists, and I very much enjoyed the whole thing.
Read: October 21-23, 2014
Apparently this was originally called Pilgrim’s Rest (after the name of the country house).