(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

The more than seventy novels of Patricia Wentworth, more than half of which feature Miss Silver, Inspector Lamb, or both, have been variously judged anodyne, dependable, and engaging—solid praise for such an extensive canon. Often compared to Jane Marple, Wentworth’s heroine, Miss Silver, is enriched with much detail, making her one of the most successfully and clearly drawn private detectives in the genre. She inevitably brings a happy solution to varied maidens-in-distress who have been wrongly accused of crime and stripped of their good names and reputations. Wentworth’s style, though in no way poetic or memorable, is sufficient to tell the story, and is, at times, mildly witty. Her plots play fair with the reader, even though they are at times highly unrealistic. They are successful, however, because they create considerable suspense by placing ordinary, decent people from comfortable English settings into extreme danger, a plot device that Wentworth helped to initiate. Like other prolific mystery writers, notably Agatha Christie, Wentworth wrote novels that are uneven in quality, with the least successful written at the end of her career. Yet her charming, rational heroine, Miss Silver, and her skill in creating suspense ensure Wentworth’s lasting popularity as a writer of detective fiction.

Patricia Wentworth Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Amelin, Michael. “Patricia Wentworth.” Enigmatika 25 (November, 1983): 3-9. Brief but useful discussion of Wentworth’s career and her contribution to detective fiction.

Dresner, Lisa M. The Female Investigator in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2007. Study of the figure of the female detective and her role in popular culture. Provides context for understanding Wentworth’s writings. Bibliographic references and index.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Wentworth is compared with other successful and notable female writers of detective fiction.

Kungl, Carla T. Creating the Fictional Female Detective: The Sleuth Heroines of British Women Writers, 1890-1940. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. Study of the fifty years immediately preceding the primary beginning of Wentworth’s career; details the evolution of the conventions that Wentworth worked with and the state of the female detective subgenre when she inherited it.

Malmgren, Carl D. Anatomy of Murder: Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2001. Includes analysis of Wentworth’s The Gazebo. Bibliographic references and index.

Reynolds, Moira Davison. Women Authors of Detective Series: Twenty-one American and British Authors, 1900-2000. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. Examines the life and work of major female mystery writers, including Wentworth.