by Patricia Moyes
I read a book by Patricia Moyes some time back, before starting this site. If memory serves, it was Twice in a Blue Moon and it was okay but it didn't knock me out of my socks. Many Deadly Returns, which was published almost a quarter of a century earlier, came close to doing just that.
There's nothing in this book that brings anything new or revolutionary to the whodunit - which would have been quite a feat for anyone writing such a work in 1970. But for my money Moyes succeeded in taking some of the time-honored conventions of the form and shaping them into an eminently satisfying whole.
As the story is getting underway, the children of Lady Crystal Balaclava - Primrose, Violet, and Daffodil - and their spouses are preparing to make their annual pilgrimage from various locations around Europe to her English country house to celebrate her birthday. As per custom, one daughter will bring a fancy custom-made cake, another a case of fine champagne and another a bouquet of exquisite roses.
As the celebration is going strong Lady Balaclava proceeds to keel over. Detective Inspector Henry Tibbet (Moyes' regular series character) happens to be on hand because of Lady Balaclava's (well-founded) fear that she was about to be snuffed out and he is rather distraught that the victim was taken out - apparently by poison - right under his own nose.
It's hard to give much more in the way of specifics from here on without spoiling things so I'll just reiterate that Moyes went on to weave a skillfully told tale that kept me riffling through the pages. The fact that I was able to identify the killer - something that I don't often do - may be a commentary on the author's skills with plot, but I'd like to fool myself into thinking that I'm getting better at this sort of thing.