Death on the Agenda by Patricia Moyes


published 1962




Death on the Agenda 1




[Henry and Emmy Tibbett have been invited to a very fancy party during a trip to Geneva]


The Villa Trounex was en fete. Every downstairs window of the great, beautiful house glowed and glittered with the dancing light of crystal chandeliers.

Paul and Natasha Hampton were famous for their parties, so their heavily embossed invitation cards were prized trophies on the mantelpieces of Geneva. The lucky recipient of such a card could look forward confidently to an evening of unostentatious luxury, of impeccable service, of elegance without stiffness, and of stimulating company…

Natasha Hampton was the sort of woman who turns heads wherever she goes – tiny and blonde, with a face whose exquisite bone structure takes the breath. This evening she was wearing a short, slim dress of pale grey sating, utterly simple and quite faultless. The diamonds at her wrist and the pearls at her neck seemed to have grown there naturally…

Emmy let her attention wander over the general scene. It was, she reflected, exactly like an episode from a film: an early Orson Welles or a middle-period Fellini, where, in a setting of great opulence, the camera moves leisurely but with deadly observation, picking up a gesture here, a snatch of conversation there, a smile, a moment of anger. Pleased with this conceit, Emmy set her own eye to roving at random, like a searchlight beam. It was rewarding.

 
commentary: Patricia Moyes started her series about Henry Tibbett in 1958, and continued for another 35 years: this is an early entry – and comes just before Murder a La Mode, a mystery set in the fashion world which we greatly enjoyed on the blog last year.

Death on the Agenda has an intriguing and authentic setting: policeman Henry has been sent to Geneva for an international conference on the drugs trade, and takes his wife Emmy with him. Moyes herself was married to someone deeply involved in the world of European international organizations, and obviously knew Geneva well. The plot concerns a leak at the conference – vital info is being passed to the drug smugglers – and when a murder happens, the number of possible suspects is tiny, and the time constraints important. I kept hoping the answer to the time problem wasn’t going to be quite as simple as it seemed to be.

Henry is viewed as a suspect for a time (though the reader is never in any doubt of his innocence) and behaves in a very unexpected way in another area as well, and I was quite taken aback.

But I enjoyed the book anyway – such a great description of a certain way of life and milieu.

I liked the backstory of Natasha (above) – after WW2, living in aching poverty, she gets herself to a smart party:
A girl friend of mine worked for a couturier, and she sneaked a dress and a mink stole out of the collection for me to wear. I spent the whole evening in a state of panic in case somebody spilled wine on the dress or burned a cigarette hole in the mink. When Paul asked me to lunch with him the next day, I nearly cried… I couldn’t tell him that I couldn’t accept because I had nothing to wear.
And there’s a wonderfully-1962-moment where Henry says to a young woman out and about ‘put your gloves on and put this back’ and she says ‘I haven’t got any. I never wear them in the summer.’ We are on the cusp between a world where a respectable young woman can be assumed to have gloves, and one where she no longer needs to…

Crime writer and expert Martin Edwards, a big fan of Patricia Moyes, reviewed this one on his Do You Write Under Your Own Name blog here.

The picture is of a Ball in 1961, from Kristine’s photostream.












Comments

  1. Not familiar with this author, but this sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's a very reliable, old-fashioned kind of author: if you like those old style mysteries (and I sound as though I'm being rude but I'm not) then you'd like these.

      Delete
  2. Gloves and hats ceased to be obligatory circa 1965, but had a kind of late flowering as "fun" versions of themselves: leather gloves with cutouts (topless gloves?) in all colours of the rainbow, and huge floppy hats (which almost immediately morphed back into bright green felt stetsons - the "hats for matrons" of the 70s).

    Did I ever tell you how I cut up mum's hats-for-matrons with nail scissors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No you didn't, what did you do with them? This whole thing is sounding like a blogpost, if you're not doing it for your blog, do it for me as a guest post - I love the theory about the gloves and hats.

      Delete
  3. I have to admit to a soft spot for this series, Moira. I like the fact that Tibbett has a good, solid marriage and a solid character for a wife - so refreshing :-). And although this one may not be Moyes' best, she did some intriguing mysteries, too, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree with you Margot, it makes a pleasant change that he's a nice man with a happy marriage. Moyes created a very successful series.

      Delete
  4. I will be rereading books in this series. I enjoyed them a lot on the first read. Now you have made me curious about this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you can probably tell, I liked it as much for the interest of the setting and the details of the era... the murder was an addition....

      Delete
  5. Moira, I'm not familiar with the author or the series but I like the character of Henry Tibbett; maybe because of his sound marital status and the fact that he takes his wife to the convention, if I could put it that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes a nice change doesn't it Prashant? Henry and Emmy are a nice couple.

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. I love the way 'in the tubs' & 'not in the tubs' sound SIMULTANEOUSLY like a great honour and a form of torture or recrimination....

      Delete

Post a Comment