Author: Patricia Wentworth
Setting: England between the WarsDescription: Hugo Ross is down on his luck - unemployed, no university degree, and has only £5 when he hears about a job as secretary to a well-known inventor, Ambrose Minstrel. He decides to show up at Minstrel’s home to preempt other applicants and travels down on a foggy evening, literally running into a breathless young woman. She warns him about the job before dashing off on the London train. Hugo wishes she had explained and Minstrel is rude and condescending in the interview, but he gets the job. Almost immediately, however, he begins to be suspicious about Minstrel and Minstrel’s assistant Hacker. And when the young woman, Loveday Leigh, telephones and asks him to meet her, the woman who shows up is an impostor. Puzzled and worried, Hugo seeks advice from his brother-in-law’s knowledgeable uncle, Mr. Benbow Collingwood Horatio Smith. Smith takes Hugo’s concerns seriously, agrees he is probably being set up, but asks him to do his patriotic duty by returning to Minstrel to find out what is going on.
My Impression: This is the first in a loosely connected four-book series with an espionage theme, and Wentworth’s best-known sleuth, Miss Silver, does not appear. Mr. Smith, an expert on European and domestic politics who has mysterious government connections, and his parrot Ananias often entertain troubled guests who have nowhere else to turn. His dry manner is intimidating but Hugo is reassured to have his suspicions validated and, although worried, realizes it will help that Minstrel and Hacker think he is “an absolute m-m-mug” because they won’t suspect him of spying on them. Or will they?
Mr. Hacker grew impatient.The disappointing aspect of this book is Hugo’s love interest, Loveday Leigh. She is incredibly ditzy and Hugo deserves better. Most of Wentworth’s heroines are determined and loyal. Loveday is an annoying giggly character who seems brainless and self-centered, although she does come through when necessary. Not one of Wentworth’s best but there is plenty of suspense as the two naive protagonists take on a network of villains.Source: Personal copy. This is my twenty-first book for Carol's 2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge. I am happy to report it is now available from Dean Street Press. I had read this for the 1929 Club but ran out of time to review it last month. Check out the review from She Reads Novels.
“Don’t talk such nonsense! Who wants to be innocent? The point is – is he a fool or isn’t he? And is it safe to bank on his being just the fool he seems?”
“He’s not a fool – he’s a boy.”
“The same thing.”
“You mean it will serve you as well.” Her voice was a little scornful.
Other Books in the Series: Danger Calling, Walk With Care, Down Under