RogerBW's Blog

Death and the Dutch Uncle, Patricia Moyes 13 September 2022

1968 mystery, eighth in the series about Chief Inspector, now Superintendent, Henry Tibbett. A minor criminal is shot in a pub toilet; nobody in the private bar next door saw anything, particularly not his fancy girlfriend. But there's more to it than a falling-out among thieves.

It seems at first as though it'll have to be written off as an unsolved tawdry gangland murder, since nobody's saying anything; but then Tibbett runs into the brother of someone from a previous book, a bumptious young man working for a minor international bureaucracy, and he mentions how funny it is that two of the people working on a particular border dispute happen to have died lately. Completely accidental of course. But it doesn't seem to be entirely unconnected…

She laid the papers down on the desk and went back to her own office, closing the door behind her.

Henry looked at Trapp and they both smiled. "She is, isn't she?" said Gordon. "Funnily enough, she is also very nice and very bright, an astonishing combination. I think I shall probably marry her."

"Shall you, indeed? Have you mentioned it to her yet?"

"Dear me, no. My technique is to keep them guessing."

There's a fair bit of investigative footwork, one of the strengths of this series on the rare occasions when it allows Tibbett to be in his native London. The crooks – and it's clear who at least some of them are – make only very minor mistakes, but Tibbett is there to pounce on them. Then it becomes clear that a particular person will become a target, and the action moves to rural Friesland; Moyes is certainly writing with affection and from the life, but it's still a bit of a wrench as everything slows down and the exotic foreign setting is clearly an important element.

At the open door of the plane, Henry and Emmy were surprised to find themselves stepping directly into a long, upward-sloping tunnel, for their plane had taxied into position at the end of one of the giant tentacles which radiate from the main airport building.

(Yes, it's 1969 and this is new and exciting.)

Tibbett uses his wife Emmy as bait again, and once more she seems happy to go along with it. (She doesn't even manage to rescue herself once she is inevitably captured, though she does help to leave a trail.) That left a bit of a bad taste for me, but in all this is another worthy addition to a remarkably varied series.

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Previous in series: Murder Fantastical | Series: Henry Tibbett | Next in series: Who Saw Her Die?

  1. Posted by Gus at 12:57am on 17 September 2022

    I didn't find the move to Friesland so much a slowing of the pace as a ratcheting of such tension as there is: it does introduce a whole new set of obstacles, logistic and linguistic. As to using wives as bait: chivalry's all very well, but possibly more annoying for the object of it than being the willing worm...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:37am on 17 September 2022

    Perhaps it's that outside life is slowing down round them while they want to get on with the police work? A dissonance for me, anyway.

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