The one with the Loch Ness monster as a guest star

Patricia Wentworth, Fear by Night (1934)

The name of Patricia Wentworth features high in the lists of what Miss Marple’s fans are supposed to enjoy, so I had to try it sooner or later. Mr. S. borrowed this mystery at the library at random, and I understand that this book is not the typical Patricia Wentworth’s fare. Let’s just say it was a bad pick.

Do we need to tell more? I guess so, but I’ll be brief.

The plot in a nutshell: girl without money and connections cannot marry boy without money. Girl seeks job, boy disapproves. (this being the 1930s, girl still does what she wants, but the bottom line still proves that she’d better listen to boy). Girl actually is an heiress, but doesn’t know. Job proves to be a treacherous trap to prevent girl from getting inheritance money. Boy finds out and rescues girl. Baddies are punished. Girl and boy marry. The end. Setting = Scotland, its fog, islands, deserted cottages, old women with a heavy accent and… lake monster.

I’m sorry for the spoiler, but I foremost want to warn you against a rather dull book that will waste a few precious hours of your time. I’m sure there are better Patricia Wentworth’s books out there. The interactions between the girl and the boy are rather sweet, but also awfully bourgeois. The girl is supposed to be scared by the eerie atmosphere, but for me it didn’t work because she wasn’t consistent and the fear was simply not there. She is plucky and decisive at the beginning of the book, but in the end she still needs her prince charming. It definitely helped to imagine a black-and-white movie star of the 1920s like Mary Pickford with exaggerated eye-rolls and expressive hand gestures in a silent movie. But when you think of the heroines of the 1930s, little Ann Harding is a pale comparison to the likes of Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, or Norma Shearer, who were a lot more assertive and seductive.


3 thoughts on “The one with the Loch Ness monster as a guest star

  1. EVERY SINGLE TIME, literally every single time someone talks about a Patricia Wentworth book, I have some period of time in which I think they’re talking about Patricia Highsmith, and I feel that I have totally misunderstood what Patricia Highsmith is even about. NOPE. Two different ladies.

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