Have you met Miss Silver? Miss Maud Silver?
Some people think Miss Silver and Miss Jane Marple have a lot in common.
Well, there are a few similarities. They are both old-fashioned unmarried ladies of what used to be called A Certain Age. They both are expert at knitting small items of clothing for an apparently limitless assortment of child relatives. They both have a keen appreciation of the unattractive side of human nature. They both have some experience in solving serious crimes.
That's pretty much where the similarities end. Miss Marple is, always, an amateur. Miss Silver is a professional - a private inquiry agent, a role she has taken to supplement her limited retirement income. She is, to be blunt, a private eye, and a very successful one, in part because wrongdoers who would be very careful about speaking out in front of a police officer are far less careful in the presence of a little old lady sitting in a corner doing her knitting.
Miss Silver is the delightful creation of Patricia Wentworth. After her first appearance in 1928, Miss Silver starred in dozens of mysteries, including "The Brading Collection," also known as "Mr. Brading's Collection," first published in 1950. It is the subject of today's audio book review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
"The Brading Collection" is pretty typical for Miss Silver. It begins when Lewis Brading comes to visit Miss Silver, hoping to hire her. He is worried that his collection of fabulous and valuable jewelry may be threatened by robbers. It is a collection he has amassed through both honest and less-than-honest means. He also boasts to Miss Brading of some of the ways he controls members of his family and staff. Miss Silver refuses to work for him and sends him away with a warning that he is putting himself at considerable risk.
Soon afterwards, Miss Silver receives an urgent message from Brading, asking her to come down to his estate - he says there have been "developments." But that same morning's newspaper reports that Brading has been shot to death. Now, Miss Silver must work with the police and help guide them through a pretty complex plot involving robbery and murder.
Regular readers of Patricia Wentworth will find many of her usual plot twists here. There is a young couple, separated by serious misunderstandings (and some malicious relatives) who will find themselves under suspicion. There will be greedy relatives and associates. But Miss Silver will come through with a satisfactory answer to the mysteries surrounding Mr. Brading and his collection.
Maud Silver is a delight.I am always surprised when some modern readers sneer at her - she seems so very old-school, with her rather Edwardian modes of speech and dress and her fondness for the poetry of Tennyson. But most will come to admire Miss Silver, who is quite thoroughly captivating. If you haven't met her yet, "The Brading Collection" is a good way to do so. While there is a hardcover version available, I think it's a bit on the expensive side, so it's worth noting that there is also an edition for the Amazon Kindle.