[Three separate extracts, featuring three different characters and their clothes]
...She wore a printed linen dress in shades of grey and blue, and nothing on her head except a good deal of really pretty brown hair. Brown hair can be very pretty indeed. Stacy’s had lights in it and glints, and it curled because it was curly. It was, in fact, her one undeniable beauty.
...Lady Minstrell went off with a book into the garden. It would be nice in that old summerhouse up the hill. Her favourite place, that was. You could see over the sea for miles and a nice cool breeze off the water. The white dress with its large black spots went out of the shaded hall and took the bright glare of the sun outside. Very good clothes Lady Minstrell had – kind of quiet but with a sort of look about them you never got unless you paid the earth.
...However hot it was, she would have to wear her black coat and skirt, because she had nothing else that would be suitable. Fortunately it wasn’t very thick, but it was wool – and in this weather! But she would have to wear it – and at the inquest too… The room would be crowded, and everyone would be looking at her. The black coat and skirt was becoming. It threw up her fair hair. She could wear the little black hat which hardly hid it at all – just that flattering tilt over the eyes, and the scrap of veil to soften the brim. She had a comforting picture of herself standing there, rather pathetically slim and fair, doing her best to be brave.
commentary: I read this book because of the clothes: my friend Daniel Milford Cottam recommended it because of the three page section where an employee, Edna, mulls over all the outfits of the women as they pass her (as in the second excerpt above). It is indeed a tour de force of clothes descriptions and I could easily have done four or five entries. Daniel was commenting on my entry on Miss Silver Intervenes (woollen vests) – and I said then that as I read through Wentworth’s oeuvre I will be ‘looking for pics of nice supper frocks for entries till the end of time’. I’m sure there will be plenty more…
Anyway, the crime content of the book: it is splendid stuff, I really enjoyed this one, much more than the recently-read Benevent Treasure from a few years later. There is a not-very-nice man who likes to have a hold over people, and who also owns a priceless collection of jewels, held in a secure annexe. There are various women in lovely 1950 clothes, and there’s a divorced couple forced into proximity. Someone is shot, and just about everyone has a motive, though the opportunities are harder to work out – Edna is counting them all out and counting them all back. (But an experienced crime reader won’t have too much difficulty.)
Early on we visit Miss Silver’s flat, and look at the photographs scattered around:
The photographs were for the most part quite modern pictures of babies…Every photograph was an offering of gratitude from someone who stood in safety or lived in happiness and contentment because Miss Maud Silver had fought a successful battle for justice. If the battle had been lost, most of these babies would never have been born.I amused myself by contrasting that with Miss Marple (who on the surface can seem comparable with Miss Silver) – far too prone to finding solutions that blow apart families and couples, with little sympathy for, or interest in, those left behind. The lost boyfriends, the conmen, the dead maids – no lovely pictures of them, and no offspring to come.
Miss Silver is made of gentler stuff, and very enjoyable it is too in its own way.
Spotted dress from Kristine. Print dress same source.
Black outfit, Dior, 1952 . The bereaved woman’s consideration of her black outfit is very similar to that in another Wentworth book, Poison in the Pen: the scene features in the blogpost here.