Grand Dames of Crime: Patricia Wentworth

Patricia Wentworth wrote 66 books. 32 of them featured Miss Maud Silver, a former governess turned private investigator who liked to quote Tennyson and the Bible, and had a keen eye for understanding human frailties. Wentworth was born Dora Amy Elles in India in 1877 and educated in London.

I told you she had an inconsequent mind. That’s putting it much too mildly. When it comes to anything like evidence, she hasn’t really got a mind at all – she just dives into a sort of lumber-room and brings out odds and ends.

The Case of William Smith

Wentworth married young in 1906 and had a daughter, then whilst she was still in her twenties her husband died and she moved to Surrey and lived there till her own death in 1961. Her first book was published under the pseudonym Patricia Wentworth in 1910, a historical fiction romance novel called A Marriage Under the Terror, a tale of love blossoming in the ashes of betrayal that won the Melrose Prize for best first novel. She wrote fifteen more romance novels and a book of verse for children, but her true talent lay in cosy mysteries.

‘I think it is right that you should know I am here in the capacity of a private enquiry agent.’
If she had announced that she was there in the capacity of a Fairy Godmother or of First Murderer, she could hardly have surprised him more. In fact, the Fairy Godmother would have seemed quite appropriate by comparison.

The Silent Pool

She met her second husband, George Oliver Turnbull, and remarried in 1920, producing another daughter. George became her scribe, writing Wentworth’s stories as she dictated them.

Fancy going out into the world under the impression that you can always have your own way! Would anything be more likely to lead to disaster?

Death at the Deep End

Miss Maud Silver’s first appearance was in 1928 in a whodunit called Grey Mask. In this novel Charles turns to Miss Silver for help after he is jilted at the alter and discovers his fiancé was mixed up in a kidnapping plot with a shadowy figure in a grey mask. Miss Silver went on many adventures in the subsequent 31 novels, working with Scotland Yard, knitting garments for her nieces and nephews, scribbling in her notebooks – a new one for each case.

Obstinacy is an impediment to the free exercise of thought. It paralyses the intelligence. Conclusions based upon preconceived ideas are valueless

Latter End

Along with the Miss Silver Series, Wentworth wrote three more series. Frank Garrett (a two book series) is the official face of the Foreign Office. Benbow Smith (a four book series) is the behind the scenes man, a spymaster with the British Foreign Office, a kind of James Bond. The series focusses on political intrigue and industrial espionage. Ernest Lamb (a three book series) is a Scotland Yard Inspector who investigates the most perplexing crimes, those embroiled in dark family histories.

The best thing that can happen to anyone who is doing wrong is to be found out. If he is not found out he will do more wrong and earn a heavier punishment.

Lonesome Road


Miss Silver series
• Grey Mask, 1928
• The Case Is Closed, 1937
• Lonesome Road, 1939
• Danger Point (USA: In the Balance), 1941
• The Chinese Shawl, 1943
• Miss Silver Intervenes (USA: Miss Silver Deals with Death), 1943
• The Clock Strikes Twelve, 1944
• The Key, 1944
• The Traveller Returns (USA: She Came Back), 1945
• Pilgrim’s Rest (or: Dark Threat), 1946
• Latter End, 1947
• Spotlight (USA: Wicked Uncle), 1947
• The Case of William Smith, 1948
• Eternity Ring, 1948
• The Catherine Wheel, 1949
• Miss Silver Comes to Stay, 1949
• The Brading Collection (or: Mr Brading’s Collection), 1950
• The Ivory Dagger, 1951
• Through the Wall, 1950
• Anna, Where Are You? (or: Death At Deep End), 1951
• The Watersplash, 1951
• Ladies’ Bane, 1952
• Out of the Past, 1953
• The Silent Pool, 1954
• Vanishing Point, 1953
• The Benevent Treasure, 1953
• The Gazebo (or: The Summerhouse), 1955
• The Listening Eye, 1955
• Poison in the Pen, 1955
• The Fingerprint, 1956
• The Alington Inheritance, 1958
• The Girl in the Cellar, 1961
Frank Garrett series
• Dead or Alive, 1936
• Rolling Stone, 1940
Ernest Lamb series
• The Blind Side, 1939
• Who Pays the Piper? (USA: Account Rendered), 1940
• Pursuit of a Parcel, 1942
Benbow Smith
• Fool Errant, 1929
• Danger Calling, 1931
• Walk with Care, 1933
• Down Under, 1937
• A Marriage under the Terror, 1910
• A Child’s Rhyme Book, 1910
• A Little More Than Kin (or: More Than Kin), 1911
• The Devil’s Wind, 1912
• The Fire Within, 1913
• Simon Heriot, 1914
• Queen Anne Is Dead, 1915
• Earl or Chieftain?, 1919
• The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith, 1923. Serialised, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1925
• The Red Lacquer Case, 1924. Serialised, Leicester Mail, 1926
• The Annam Jewel, 1924
• The Black Cabinet, 1925
• The Dower House Mystery, 1925
• The Amazing Chance, 1926. Serialised, Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1927
• Hue and Cry, 1927
• Anne Belinda, 1927
• Will-o’-the-Wisp, 1928
• Beggar’s Choice, 1930
• The Coldstone, 1930
• Kingdom Lost, 1931
• Nothing Venture, 1932. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• What Became of Anne, 1926. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• Red Danger (USA: Red Shadow), 1932
• Seven Green Stones (USA: Outrageous Fortune), 1933
• Devil-in-the-Dark (USA: Touch And Go), 1934
• Fear by Night, 1934
• Red Stefan, 1935
• Blindfold, 1935
• Hole and Corner, 1936
• Mr Zero, 1938
• Afraid to Love, 1938. Serialised, Dundee Courier, 1932
• Run!, 1938
• Unlawful Occasions (USA: Weekend with Death), 1941
• Beneath the Hunter’s Moon, 1945
• Silence in Court, 1947
• The Pool of Dreams: Poems, 1953

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