Since I started following the Clothes in Books blog, I've become more aware of the descriptions of dress in different books. When we first meet Ray, she is wearing "her new autumn suit,"
because nothing gives you so much confidence as to feel that you are looking your best. The suit was a success, and so was the little off-the-face hat that went with it. They were perfectly matched, and they were just two shades lighter than her dark brown hair. There was a spray of autumn leaves and berries on her hat, repeating the gay lipstick which went so well with the clear brown of her skin.I was not prepared however for the first glimpse of Miss Silver in this book. Ray has rung her up on the morning after the murder and is on her way over. Miss Silver's devoted maid Emma has just brought her in a cup of tea.
Removing her new bright blue dressing-gown with the practically indestructible hand-made crochet trimming skillfully transferred from its crimson flannel predecessor, Miss Silver stood revealed in a slip petticoat of grey artificial silk and a neat white spencer whose high neck and long sleeves had also been adorned with a narrow crochet edging.I do not need to meet Miss Silver in her bedroom, let alone "three parts dressed"! I cannot think that Miss Silver herself would want us in there. I much prefer to wait with her clients in the drawing room. However, I cannot help wondering what a spencer is in this context. I am only familiar with the Regency-era spencers, which are short-waisted jackets - with long sleeves and high necks, like Miss Silver's, but worn over dresses, not as underclothing.
I did have one quibble with this book, which applies to a lot of the "cozy" mysteries that I've read lately. Generally, the future victim is obvious from the first pages. He or she is clearly marked out as a bad person - rude, selfish, cruel, loud-mouthed, carrying on feuds with family and neighbors, threatening or blackmailing them. Often this person is trying to do something wicked like evicting a widow, tearing down a beloved landmark, or ruining local businesses. She or he might be guilty of kicking stray cats and children. Within a couple of chapters, the reader has a pretty good idea who is going to be killed and why, as well as who has a motive to murder. Sometimes it feels like the author is setting up a straw-man, and these books can start to feel a bit rote. Awful character => motives for murder => murder => investigation of motives, with means and opportunity => solution. I'm starting to find this type of story rather unsatisfying. Patricia Wentworth has written several along these lines, but I find the same thing in recently-published books. I think I like my mystery stories with a little more mystery. What will Peter Wimsey discover at Pym's Publicity, or Robert Blair in the old Franchise house? What will interrupt the Emerson family's archaeological work this season? How will the latest case that Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid are investigating for Scotland Yard unfold? I guess it's about finding the authors that write the kind of mystery stories that I enjoy. I think the library may be the place to carry out this kind of investigation, rather than spending money on books that I find so unsatisfying. Which isn't to say though that I won't be reading more of Miss Silver!