RogerBW's Blog

Falling Star, Patricia Moyes 02 March 2021

1964 mystery, fifth in the series about Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett. When the film's leading man stumbles across the platform and dies under the wheels of an Underground train, it's clearly an accident. But then the continuity girl falls to her death from her flat…

A change from the Tibbett pattern, here: the book is narrated in the first person by one of the principals of the film company – "Pudge" the money man, despised by the "artists" who are the rest of the board, and as a fat man feeling that he can only be pompous or comic, and choosing the former. He's tedious and irksome even (perhaps especially) when he has a point. (And of course Moyes will have read That Book by Christie, and may be choosing to use Pudge's elision of things that make him look bad to make him the murderer too; he soon fixes his recorded suspicions upon one person in particular.)

The actual technicalities of the deaths are frankly baroque. Vs gur ntrvat yrnqvat zna qbrfa'g jnag nalbar gb xabj uvf fvtug vf tbvat, naq pna jrne pbagnpg yrafrf va bgure ebyrf, jul qbrfa'g ur whfg jrne gurz urer gbb, engure guna (sbe guvf bar ebyr va juvpu ur unf gb jrne tynffrf) abg jrnevat gur yrafrf ohg trggvat n frpbaq frg bs cebc fcrpgnpyrf znqr hc va uvf cerfpevcgvba? Naq pbhyq n pnaqyrjnk frny ernyyl ubyq n jvaqbj pybfrq ntnvafg gur jrvtug bs na hapbafpvbhf obql hagvy gur fgbir jnezrq hc gur xvgpura naq znqr vg zryg, jvgubhg oheavat gur obql gung vf ba gur yrqtr orgjrra fgbir naq jvaqbj?

But this isn't really a book about cunning ways of committing a nearly-unsolvable murder; it's much more an observation of the people, all of whom are of course horrible. But while that's a common problem especially in post-war mysteries Moyes manages to keep this reader's interest in spite of that, in spite even of the tediously clichéd Italian leading lady.

"I defy you," I said, "to mention anything which could harm Fiametta. She's written newspaper articles about how she was arrested for stealing in Naples when she was thirteen, and seduced by her uncle when she was fourteen, and set up in a love nest by this film director when she was sixteen. The only hold Margery might possibly have had over her would have been a threat to expose that in fact she was perfectly respectable and had been reared in a convent."

It shouldn't work, but it does. The more I read of Moyes the more impressed I am.

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Previous in series: Murder a la Mode | Series: Henry Tibbett | Next in series: Johnny Under Ground

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