Monday, October 30, 2017

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: Murder a la Mode by Patricia Moyes

The Classic Mysteries blog reports that Felony & Mayhem will begin reprinting the mysteries of Patricia Moyes in January. This news is cause for celebration. Between 1958 and 1993 Moyes published 19 traditional British detective stories featuring Henry Tibbett, a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard, and his wife Emmy. Moyes died in 2000 and her most excellent books have become largely unknown to an entire generation of mystery readers. The late lamented Rue Morgue Press released some of the titles a few years ago, and now it seems that Felony & Mayhem will resume the work.


The books are distinguished by meticulous plots and a lack of violence; their focus is on the process of solving the murder rather than the psychology of committing it. Some of them, most notably Murder Fantastical, contain scenes with great comedic dialogue and timing. Tibbett himself is quite ordinary and does not stand out in any particular way except for his “nose”, his intuitive sense about the cases he works. His wife Emmy, quite likable on her own account, often supports his investigations. Unlike other British detectives who tend to stay at home on their own patch, Henry and Emmy Tibbett are globe-trotters, undertaking murder cases all over the world, capitalizing on Moyes’ own travelling experiences.


One of my favorites in the series is an early title, Murder a la Mode (Collins Crime Club, 1963), in which Emmy’s niece Veronica comes to London from quiet Devonshire to try her luck as a model. She finds herself at a high-fashion magazine where one of the writers is killed during the all-night slog to ready the semi-annual issue featuring the latest designs from Paris for publication. The first chapter is a colorful description of the behind-the-scenes frantic scramble to select and compile into layouts the most important photos and accompanying information gathered in Paris at the spring style shows that day and flown into London that night for delivery to the printers early the next morning.


The ensuing investigation is undertaken amid photography shoots and copy rewrites. It’s complicated by rumors of affairs among the magazine staff and by gossip about designs from Parisian ateliers showing up in places where they shouldn’t be. When Veronica disappears, the case comes far too close to home for Inspector Tibbett, Emmy, and Veronica’s panicked parents.


Finding these books will take a bit of effort. While most public libraries have discarded their well-worn copies, interlibrary loan is always an option. Reasonably priced print versions are available in the usual online venues. They appear occasionally at thrift stores or library book sales. There seem to be no ebook or audiobook versions. Whatever labor expended to locate these books will be repaid in hours of reading enjoyment.



·         Paperback: 223 pages
·         Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (P) (November 1987)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0805007067
·         ISBN-13: 978-2702416952

Aubrey Hamilton © 2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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