Michael Innes’s major contribution to English mystery fiction was his wonderfully tongue-in-cheek propensity for turns of phrase that prove more intriguing and delightful than his contrivances of plot. The observations of his two principal sleuths, Sir John Appleby and Charles Honeybath, offer Jamesian dialogue, extraordinary erudition, and a gently critical portrait of the English upper class. Innes’s brand of country-house skulduggery revealed his predilection for the intellectual with the sheer joy of excess. Although Innes’s mysteries incorporate elements of many subgenres, including the police procedural, amateur detection, the thriller, and the inverted mystery, they were designed first and foremost for readers who have a greater appreciation for a tour de force of words replete with scores of literary allusions than for exciting twists and turns in the action.
In a career that spanned more than a half century, Innes constantly sought to expand the boundaries of detective fiction for his readers.