The Girl in the Cellar, by Patricia Wentworth

4 Sep
THREE out of FIVE stars

THREE out of FIVE stars

OK, this was a pleasant little “cozy mystery”, the last one written by Patricia Wentworth before she died at 83 (1961). I think it’s supposed to take place in the 1950s, but the characters behave more like turn of the century or earlier. Everyone is very prim and proper, the women don’t appear to have a lot of strengths or rights (even for the 1950s), and the men are very much in control.

The story is about a young woman who awakens from a faint in a dark basement but doesn’t know who she is or remember the dead girl on the floor or how she got there.

Pluses: Very heavy on female characters, and a nice variety of the good, bad, helpless and strong women. Most of the women go out of their way to help out our amnesiac, and Miss Silver is full of sense and connections – though she doesn’t do much but sit calmly by and knit.

Minuses: There is a lot of repetition of lines, and I mean a LOT of repetition over and over and over. If there was no repetition the book would be less than a third of its already short length. Also, when poor Anne finally gets her memory back and we come to understand the whole story, it turns out to be a collection of the most cockamamie, improbable and coincidental events I’ve ever read. The suspension of disbelief required here cannot be overstated.

But I took the end with good humor. It was a fast read, and I enjoyed, for the most part, trying to figure out the mystery. I wouldn’t recommend it outright, but I wouldn’t advise anyone against reading it either.

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