this is the 164th in my series of forgotten or seldom read book posts
A Six-Letter Word for Death by Patricia Moyes, Henry Holt (Owl), 1983, paperback, mystery, Chief Superintendent Henry Tibbett
Every time I pick up and begin reading a book by Patricia Moyes – one of her splendid Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett books – I am reminded of two things: how much I like them and that I always wonder why I don’t just sit down and read the lot of them, straight through. Instead I seem to go months, or years, between them. But another book catches my eye, and another, and you know how that goes.
I implore you, read at least one of these.
I’m not managing to read the books in order. Of course I could look up the series order, but I never seem to do it, instead just pulling one off the shelf. No matter. they’re all good. For anyone keeping track, A Six-Letter Word for Death is listed as #16 (of 19).
Though many Moyes books and short stories are “typical” Scotland Yard CID cases, equally as many seem not to be. This tale isn’t actually a case at all, and Tibbett is not the officer in charge of any formal investigation. He gets some cooperation from local police – and some non-cooperation as well – but primarily he investigates this one because he sees something wrong and his curiosity and desire for justice won’t allow him to let it go.
The Guess Who Club is composed of several authors, mystery writers all, who share as their publisher Oppenshaw & Trilby, chaired by Sir Robert Oppenshaw. Each member of the club is an author who writes under a vigorously protected pen name. Each summer these writers are the guests of Sir Robert at his Carnworth Manor on the Isle of Wight. They meet for a week, and on the last Saturday of this time they have a guest speaker, someone to speak for an hour or two on a topic of mutual interest and also to justify writing off the entire week for tax purposes. This summer the guest speaker is Henry Tibbett.
The club decides to twist Tibbett’s tail a bit by creating a crossword puzzle for him to solve, the answers of which will supposedly point to a crime or crimes which he may then solve. This isn’t usual procedure, but it is suggested by one member of the group and the others agree. All in fun, don’t you know.
The fact is, there is little fun after the first hour of Henry’s speech. He has, with the help of a friend’s brother, easily solved the puzzle, and he has done his homework on the answers, but the whole idea falls apart when a young man, betrothed to Sir Robert’s daughter, is killed. It may be an accident, a fall from a cliff onto jagged rocks, possibly thrown from his horse, but there are just one or two things that don’t add up…
Thus we are drawn into a web of personality, history and deceit. Moyes pulls things together with the help of a gentle coincidence or two, but they are adequately justified. The story goes on, the mystery is solved, justice served. I’m not sure what I like best about Moyes books; the writing, the people, the puzzle or the sense of place, but I enjoy them quite a lot. If you haven’t read any of Moyes books, you’re in for a treat.