Walk with Care by Patricia Wentworth (Benbow Smith #2)
Rosalind Denny is a sorrowful young widow, still in mourning for her husband, Gilbert, formerly Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with a promising career ahead of him. Eighteen months ago Gilbert committed suicide and Rosalind does not know why but she is certain he was blackmailed. She is unaware that other young men in similar political positions have been disgraced in similar ways, but when Gilbert’s former assistant, Jeremy Ware, is targeted by an unknown enemy Rosalind is forced out of her depression to help him clear his name.
Patricia Wentworth is best known for her elderly sleuth, Miss Silver, a retired governess turned private detective, and her standalone mysteries were reprinted less frequently so I had never come across this one. Because Rosalind still depressed from the loss of her husband she is not a fun or lively heroine, which casts a cloud over the novel. As it turns out, the plot is fairly predictable but enjoyable as are all Wentworth's books. In addition, this book is notable because of two recurring characters.
Mr. Smith (Benbow Collingwood Horatio Smith) is an eccentric older gentleman who lives in London at 11b Caradoc Mansions with his outspoken parrot, Ananias. Ostensibly, he is the author of a book called The European Problem, and he is renowned for his expertise on the issues facing post WWI Europe.* In reality, he is connected to the Foreign Office and is often consulted on issues related to Britain’s national security. He appears in several Wentworth titles, including Rolling Stone, which I read earlier this month, and Danger Calling#. Both Mr. Smith and his parrot are astute judges of character, luckily, in this instance, for Jeremy.
There is also a recurring villainess, Maud Simpson. She has two very useful talents for a criminal – an ability to mimic voices so well that even their nearest and dearest are fooled and an incredible ability to disguise herself. She also appears in Rolling Stone and others.
This extremely rare Patricia Wentworth title, published in 1933 by J.B. Lippincott, came from the library and is really too fragile and valuable to be in circulation, although I was delighted to read it for the first time and recommend it to fans of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
# Copies available range from $60 to $500.
*As Encyclopedia Brown would remind you, there had only been one World War when this book was written, so naturally references are to “the war” not to WWI.